The counterfeiting trade, a global multi-billion dollar affair, is booming in Africa.
Separately, Interpol and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that anywhere between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of the continent’s total drugs – both branded and generic – could be fake, either due to counterfeiting or substandard production. The health implications are bleak. Around 100,000 deaths a year in Africa are linked to the counterfeit drug trade, according to the WHO. Globally, the London-based International Policy Network attributes 700,000 fatalities to bogus malaria and tuberculosis (TB) medicines every year.
It is this dire situation that motivated mPedigree to invent and launch its integrated mobile, web, and stakeholder approach to fighting counterfeits in 2007. That platform, now known as Goldkeys, is today at the heart of a range of non-profit and for-profit strategies being pursued in a dozen countries in Asia and Africa by mPedigree as its contribution to the fight against counterfeit products, such as medicines, cosmetics, agro-inputs, and agro-chemicals, all commodities with substantial health impact.
The technology itself looks and feels simple – products are labelled with a unique, one-time use 12-digit passcode which consumers text to a memorable, toll-free, hotline upon purchase and after scratching off the cover-layer. Instant confirmation is returned as to whether the product is genuine or fake. Other information like the batch number, expiry date and dosage can also be relayed in the same message. To maintain the integrity of the system however, a rather sophisticated bedrock of enterprise technologies are required to integrate the secure labelling process with other industrial processes at the factory level and logistic processes at the warehouse level.
That is why, despite remarkable initial success, scaling up has involved continual refinement and engineering. For instance, it was soon realised that while the service helped consumers to easily detect specific fake product packs at retail level, counterfeiters still appeared capable of evolving their approach by penetrating certain parts of the market where consumer education was low. The weak link was shown to be the absence of coordinated action following counterfeit detection incidents to mop up products that remained on the shelf. An enhancement to the solution was clearly required.
Thus, last year mPedigree added another product to its awarding-winning Goldkeys Suite – EarlySensor, a data-analytics, mass notifications framework that constantly monitors for anomalies in the consumer authentication ecosystem and sends location-based warnings to stakeholders like brand owners, regulatory bodies and consumers that have signed up for the service. Call this an early warning system.
EarlySensor trawls in real-time for actionable intelligence from the mass of authentication data using pattern-recognition algorithms that ensure prompt notifications as soon as certain conditions are breached or incidents occur. For example, when counterfeit replicates of Goldkeys-protected products are detected, the system now goes beyond warning the consumer to reject the pack; it goes further to triangulate similar incidents in the system’s memory, and then fires off updated intelligence immediately to brand owners (who uses the enterprise version of EarlySensor), regulatory bodies, and other authorised partners. This enables proactive clearing out of entire batches of fake products and not just the piecemeal rejection of single packs. Soon, consumers shall receive warnings ahead of purchasing products as soon as suspicious activities are discovered in the supply chain close to them.
EarlySensor represents the next wave of machine learning and computational intelligence deployed in the service of human well-being in the so-called developing world.
Interested in trying out EarlySensor-for-Consumers in beta and providing feedback? Indicate your interest here: http://www.earlysensor.com.