Bulgari or bogus? Ray-Ban or replica? Samsung or sham-sung? These days it can be hard to distinguish genuine brand-name products from counterfeits. However, a team of researchers from New York University may have come up with a way to combat the plague of fake products using machine learning and image recognition technology to distinguish real products from knockoffs.
The researchers have spun their technology out into a startup called Entrupy Inc., which is offering a scanning device and iOS app designed to scan products. Stores and pawn shops that sell used products can use the technology to check the veracity of items marked with brand names. Every item that’s authenticated receives a unique certificate to ensure its legitimacy.
The company’s technology operates based on the principle that microscopic features of a real product have similarities that distinguish them from a facsimile. The Entrupy scanner is a wide-angle microscopy device that can capture an image of a large area of a product. Working with a classification engine, the scanner can find features that reveal a fake product that are invisible to the human eye.
“The underlying principle of our system stems from the idea that microscopic characteristics in a genuine product or a class of products—corresponding to the same larger product line—exhibit inherent similarities that can be used to distinguish these products from their corresponding counterfeit versions,” said New York University Professor Lakshminarayanan Subramanian.
The system works instantaneously and boasts an accuracy rate of more than 96.4 percent, according to Entrupy.
The company’s advanced image recognition system checks products against a dataset of 3 million images of various types of objects. The dataset comprises objects and materials including fabrics, pills, electronics, toys and shoes. For example, Burberry products are made from materials that have unique identifying characteristics at the microscopic level, such as the company’s signature calfskin leather, or its smoked check coated canvas, according to Entrupy.
Counterfeit products represent a massive international criminal issue, costing the global economy up to $250 billion annually, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Some counterfeit products can represent an outright danger, with electronic devices made from sub-standard materials sometimes combusting, exploding or delivering electrical shocks.
While there are methods for testing whether products are genuine, these approaches can damage the goods being examined. In contrast, Entrupy said its approach is non-invasive.
In addition to Burberry, Entrupy currently authenticates handbags from several brands, including Balanciaga, Céline, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Goyard, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada.
The company said it has authenticated $14 million worth of goods so far.
Tyler Schulze is vice president, strategy & development at Veritone. He serves as general manager for developer partnerships, cognitive engine ecosystem, and media ingestion for the Veritone platform. Learn more about our platform and join the Veritone developer ecosystem today.