Watches, industrial goods, baby milk – it's hard to find a product that isn't counterfeited these days. This harms companies and endangers consumers. The Lausanne-based start-up ScanTrust aims to put an end to product piracy.
In 2015, fake products valued at over 1.5 trillion dollars were in circulation; in the future, there will be even more. For producers, the consequences are financial losses and significant damages to brand equity; consumers' health is at risk in the worst case – for example when drugs or foodstuffs are forged.
To tackle this problem, ScanTrust has developed the world's first secure 2D barcode that is copy-proof. The code is affixed to products, giving each item a unique digital identity. By scanning the code with the free ScanTrust app, consumers can find out in a matter of seconds whether the product is genuine.
"Everyone has the right to know whether a product they are buying is genuine or not," says Nathan Anderson, Co-founder and CEO of ScanTrust. This is the vision that drives him and Dr. Justin Picard, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) who invented the cutting-edge technology. But the journey of products in the suppl y chain is also of interest to producers as well as consumers. "There are countless distribution channels," Dr. Picard explains. "Often companies don't know where their products are, who is using them, and whether they are being forged." In addition to mobile authentication, ScanTrust’s cloud-based IoT platform connects products and packaging to the Internet, leveraging its secure code as a unique identifier to enable supply chain visibility right down to the unit-level, and also provides an insight into buyers‘ behavior.
From a "Crazy Idea in Justin's Head" to a Marketable Solution
Justin has been tinkering with ways of distinguishing between genuine and fake goods for years. But it was only the recent advancement of mobile optics on smartphones that made his idea of a quick check viable, because no longer was special equipment required to authenticate a code. The founding of ScanTrust in early 2014 was the next logical step. The start-up has its head office at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Innovation Park, where Justin carried out his post-doctoral research on the subject of image security. Despite its Swiss roots, the company has been operating internationally from the outset. Nathan, who has been based in China for well over a decade, is convinced that "a global problem needs a global solution."
There are over 20 people working for ScanTrust in Lausanne, Shanghai and Bangkok – and the number is expected to increase as ScanTrust is on a growth trajectory. This is made possible thanks to support from Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd. "Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd. supports us not only with capital and financial know-how but also through its first-class network of partners in aspects such as strategic business planning, and much more," the founders point out enthusiastically. "We can make progress with them," they say, adding that the financial support is of great importance too. ScanTrust is ready for the next round in the fight against counterfeiting: Their solution is maturing and can be applied to every conceivable product, from spare parts in the auto industry, to bags of seeds, and infant formula in China. Hard times lie ahead for counterfeiters.