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Invisible glass watermarks will ensure your new watch or smartphone is genuine

I think we’ve all got used to the copycat gadgets that appear on the market with increasing regularity. For example, Apple will release a new iPhone, iPad, or Watch, and sure enough, a white-label Chinese manufacturer will produce a device that looks almost exactly the same, but for a much lower price (and likely running a reskinned version of Android).

You can avoid these genuine-looking fakes by only purchasing gadgets from reputable stores. However, the startup Nanoga has created another way to tell a genuine from a fake: by using a watermark.

Watermarks have been used for decades to tell if bank notes are genuine. You hold a UV light over a note and it will reveal some hidden detail that helps confirm it is real. To do that for the latest gadgets, Nanoga came up with a manufacturing process that can hide a watermark in glass while remaining completely invisible until a UV light it directed at the surface.

It’s called a nanometric image and can be applied to glass, ceramic, or metal as a layer of atoms 10,000x thinner than a human hair. The image can be anything a manufacturer wants, and who knows, one day you might even be able to choose your own unique nanometric image.

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As for the potential for the watermark being copied and used in fakes, Nanoga insists that’s nigh on impossible. Producing the watermarks requires very expensive machinery combined with a mix of chemicals whose recipe is both secret and patent protected. So a counterfeiter would have to try and find an alternative method or somehow go and steal Nanoga’s secret recipe and manufacturing setup.

As the watermark is invisible, it has no impact on the final design of devices. That means a company such as Apple or Samsung would consider it for their mobile gadgets as long as the price wasn’t too high. In fact, it may even help a plethora of companies fighting to stop counterfeit or copycat devices hitting the market. No watermark means no sale.

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For now it looks as though Nanoga is focusing on Swiss luxury watches and offering a “smart labeling solution” under the brand DNAwatch. If it’s as good as it sounds, though, I can see the watermarking system spreading to a wide range of devices (or Nanoga being acquired by someone to make it exclusive).

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