Capturing unique signatures

Daphne Allen

December 9, 2015

3 Min Read
Capturing unique signatures

When it comes to most pharmaceutical product identification activities today, companies are focusing on compliance with serialization requirements, observes Darryl Brown, vice president of global strategic marketing at Systech International. Most appear to be using or considering using serialized numeric codes represented by both automatic identification and human-readable codes.

But in addition to using serialized numbering schemes to comply with international regulations and populate shared databases, pharma manufacturers may also want to consider another layer of identification that doesn’t add anything additional to the packaging or labeling, says Brown.

Systech has developed an approach that can capture normal printing variations through vision inspection and turn minute overt differences into unique covert security “signatures” that can support brand protection, patient engagement, and business intelligence.  

Called UniSecure, the system “leverages existing marks” with “no packaging modifications required,” Systech reports.

The process begins with Systech’s UniSign software, which captures images of data carriers (which can be serialized) through in-line vision inspection. Then UniSign analyzes the image of the printed mark and creates the UniSignature. That signature is then turned into a code that is sent to Systech’s UniStore, an on-demand, cloud-based repository.

Systech can interface with a number of hardware vendors supporting serialization on packaging lines. Vision inspection systems must meet the minimum image-capture speeds necessary for creating the signature. “We provide an appliance, and the customer mounts the camera,” says Brown. “Our software can link multiple pieces of hardware and software.”

Systech claims there is no known means to circumvent UniSecure. “It’s impossible to reverse engineer these signatures,” says Brown. “To copy it, you would have to get the exact same paper with the same grain, use the same printer on the same packaging line, and create that code at that unique point in time, thus making it impossible to reverse engineer.”

“According to a study, it would take the creation of 1 billion products to allow for the chance of a duplication or a false positive,” adds James Lee, vice president, product management, Systech. 

Photocopying it wouldn’t work, either, says Brown, because “a photocopy of printed ink on a package would never be the same as the original.” The variations in paper, ink, and printer would be too great.

“The technology’s track-and-trace capability can follow the product through the supply chain to help prevent and detect diversion,” says Lee.

There’s also the opportunity to embed the technology into consumer engagement technology such as QR codes for tracking consumer activity. “Verification could be performed with a standard iPhone,” explains Lee.

Consumers could “pop into CVS and scan packages for feedback and patient engagement and loyalty programs,” says Brown.  Information could be captured when “consumers scan for online instructions or scan when they take a dose,” and it’s “possible when scanning to verify products,” he adds.

And industrial processes could be better visualized. “You can also capture other information during production processes, such as how fast packaging lines are running,” says Lee.

UniSecure is currently in customer trials, says Brown. One question pharmaceutical manufacturers will have to answer is whether they “wish to engage with end-customers or just have inspectors use the technology in the field,” he says. Lee adds that many customers “were not aware of the business intelligence part, but we tell them about the potential.”

Given the insights that could be captured on manufacturing, the supply chain, and consumers, Brown calls UniSecure a “complete game changer.”

Systech will be demonstrating the technology at Pack Expo Las Vegas at Booth C-1730. It will also be hosting a global conference on supply chain security at their headquarters in Princeton in October.

For more details, visit

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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