Steorn was engaged by a start-up company which was looking to develop a number of authentication and anti-counterfeiting technologies for the credit card and optical disc markets. The company had developed a concept utilising machine vision techniques to determine if physical products were real or counterfeit. Steorn was engaged to take the concept and develop a fully functional working prototype around it that would then be put into a trial by key industry organisations. Steorn provided assistance to the company in a number of ways:
- Technical research
- Product specification
- Product development
- Identification and hiring of the necessary technical resources
- Prototyping and testing
- Patent research and preparation
- Project and supplier management
Credit Card Verification
The client's core idea was to use the existing security features already present in plastic card issuing standards to help combat card counterfeiting. The project called for the principal concept to be developed as far as a standalone device, similar in size and operation to a typical credit card terminal.
Holograms, long a feature of major credit cards, had not acted as an effective deterrent to fraud. Although merchants were advised to perform visual checks on card holograms, this was rarely done and even when it was there was an element of subjectivity. Research indicated that the vast majority of counterfeit credit cards featured poor quality holograms.
Another feature of counterfeit credit cards was the frequent disparity between the card number encoded on the magnetic stripe and the number physically embossed on the front of the card. To address this, the project specifications also included a requirement for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of the last 4 digits of the physical card number and comparison with those encoded on the magnetic stripe.
To distinguish real from counterfeit holograms, an optics and lighting jig was designed, built and tested. It illuminated the hologram from a number of different angles, recorded the images and verified the hologram's authenticity using optical analytics. In addition, another subsystem, complete with a camera focussed on the last 4 digits and a magnetic stripe reader performed the OCR check against the magnetic stripe number. Results were presented to the user via an LCD display. The time to perform the checks and present the results was 1 second.
The project required significant prototype and form factor development to develop a robust system which satisfied the size and time constraints imposed by the client.