Interview: David McGee on RealTag’s solution


As our digital identities increasingly go mobile, the market is also growing for authentication solutions that use devices’ embedded technology to test for forgery in products or documents.

Start-up RealTag’s approach to the problem has seen them develop a unique tag for products or documents that the firm says is practically impossible to copy but easy to read by a smartphone.

Instead of relying on the QR code or NFC-based solutions developed by other anti-counterfeiting solutions providers, RealTag has developed a unique model using the science of lenticular lens.

Security Document World caught up with commercial director David McGee to learn more about RealTag’s solutions.

Can you give us an overview of the tech used in your solution?

RealTag has invented a solution that embeds a unique coded solution behind the multi view perspectives of a lenticular lens. As an element of the code sits behind each perspective the camera application of a smart phone reads each view. Once each view is collected a small data package is sent to a cloud based server for verification against a secure database.

Verification of the documentation or the ID card is instantly sent down to the user’s smart phone.

The permutations of the code enable multi-billion combinations to be generated and attached to the product. The document owner has the benefit of individualising each product or documentation. Information specific to document can all be stored securely in the cloud and sent down to a smart phone. Security surrounding the process is essential and RealTag is working towards achieving its Cyber Essential certification with Cyber Essential + planned for later this year.

At RealTag we want to do away with specialised readers and enable everyone to use their smartphone to securely verify a document or product.

How is your solution applicable for secure documents?

The solution is simple to apply to secure documents through the application of a label with a RealTag embedded.

There is no need for specialised readers to read RealTag. As it avoids the use of NFC electronics and it is therefore available through the iPhone. Currently NFC developers are currently locked out of Apple’s iOS.

The solution allows for billions of permutations enabling each document to have a unique verification. It also allows for additional data to be held securely in the cloud which can be retrieved through a user’s smart phone.

When RealTag is developed to scale the cost price will make it competitive to NFC.

It is highly secure and practically uncopiable. The technology is similar to that used on a £50 note and so presents a high barrier to anyone wishing to copy the technology.

What inspired you to develop a solution that empowers most people to check if a product or document is genuine?

I became aware of the issue of counterfeit malaria treatments while completing my MBA. Each year thousands of people die through the use of fake goods. I was baffled to discover that the smartphone wasn’t being used to verify the authenticity of drugs.

I compiled his MBA paper on the subject of ‘Do consumers trust technology to verify a product?’. The conclusions were overwhelmingly positive and he decided to establish RealTag with the vision of enabling products to be verified using a smart phone.

Can you chacterise some of the industry responses you have had to RealTag?

Positive. We are in advanced discussions with a number of global security printing solution companies regarding using RealTag within their product portfolio.  The companies like the simplicity of the solution which is practically impossible to copy. Companies recognise that in the future any security solution must engage with a smart phone and RealTag solution provides that utility in a effective solution.

Companies are also attracted to the RealTag’s competitive price point in comparison with NFC and RFID tags.

What do customers find troublesome about Quick Response (QR) codes?

In Europe QR codes have not gained large scale traction. They are ugly and often drive users to a URL which can be cloned by a counterfeiter. In certain use cases they provide value but brand owners are often reluctant to use QR code on their attractive well designed packaging.

QR codes as a security system are easily copied with a counterfeiter with a good quality photocopier. Brand owners RealTag have talked to say QR codes as a printed 2D solution provide little or now security value.

Why are traditional anti-counterfeiting strategies failing?

Counterfeiters are motivated to make money from the brand equity of a product and they can adapt very quickly to developments of anti counterfeiting solutions.

One brand owner in the drinks spirits sector told us their £1.5 million anti counterfeiting solution was successfully copied within a month.

So there is no Holy Grail of solutions, however, brand owners should be looking to keep the counterfeiters on the backfoot.

The rise of the smart phone in everyone’s back pockets can be used as a weapon against the counterfeiter. It’s very difficult replicate a branded app on the Apple AppStore and the Google Play and it’s very easy to have rogue apps pulled.

So it seems sensible to use these two portals as the gate keepers in the future for the application of any technology. That’s going to be highly disruptive to counterfeiters.

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David McGee
David McGee

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