Offset Printing

Koenig & Bauer: Fast and reliable banknote authentication

Tuesday 12. April 2022 - The cooperation between Koenig & Bauer Banknote Solutions and the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT) at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences is making an important contribution to this.

In 2021 the number of counterfeit euro banknotes withdrawn from circulation was at a historically low level. This is partly due to the fact that banknotes are becoming increasingly counterfeit-proof. The cooperation between Koenig & Bauer Banknote Solutions and the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT) at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences is making an important contribution to this. It enables new authentication solutions that work via smartphone. The joint venture coverno has now been integrated into Koenig & Bauer’s core business.
Koenig & Bauer Banknote Solutions and the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT) of the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences (TH OWL) have a long-standing research cooperation in the field of banknote authentication and new digital concepts for banknotes. As part of the cooperation, a joint venture was established with coverno for the machine readability of Intaglio and other printing processes with the unique patented technology “Sound of Intaglio”. The joint venture was recently incorporated into Koenig & Bauer’s core business to establish a completely new authentication platform under the name ValiCash. The parties involved thus demonstrated their successful cooperation in the sense of industrialising research. The research cooperation in the field of industrial image processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to be driven forward in the future.
Unique printing processes
Gravure and other special printing processes have long been used in the production of banknotes and high-security documents. At the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT) of the TH OWL in Lemgo, researchers have developed a procedure to evaluate steel engraving and other printing processes with image processing methods and to reliably authenticate banknotes.
“In the Sound of Intaglio research project, we were able to successfully show that steel engraving, which is easy to feel and see, can also be unambiguously evaluated using methods of image processing and pattern recognition and has thus become a machine-readable security feature,” explains Prof. Volker Lohweg, project manager and institute director at inIT. In the meantime, the scientists have significantly expanded the procedure. Prof. Helene Dörksen, who has been actively involved in the project for many years, adds: “We are now in a position to check other important processes such as simultaneous offset printing for their quality and authenticity.”
Julian Schubert, former managing director of coverno and current head of Data, Vision and Authentication Solutions at Koenig & Bauer, comments: “The close cooperation with TH OWL makes it possible to stay one step ahead with innovative technologies. For example, through the joint cooperation we have succeeded in taking the traditional but highly secure gravure process to a completely new dimension, namely machine readability. This enables new, scalable authentication solutions for everyone, as a banknote can be verified by a simple photo with a smartphone.”
The term intaglio comes from the Italian “intagliare” meaning “to engrave”. In this printing process, a drawing or text is engraved into a printing plate, the ink remains in the indentations and is then transferred to the paper during printing. This process is still the most reliable and safest method of producing money – very fine and in high resolution, even complicated patterns can be printed. In addition to the special look, the printing is three-dimensional, so that, for example, elevations can be felt. This not only makes banknotes unique – counterfeiters have so far been technically unable to imitate this combination of haptic and optical features.
No additional security features
A key advantage of ValiCash and Sound of Intaglio is that the systems analyse a printing process that is already used to produce almost all banknotes. Central banks do not need to apply any new or additional security features. They can apply the technology to banknotes already in circulation as well as to other high-security printed products, such as revenue stamps, product protection labels or birth certificates.
The ValiCash app for authenticating euro banknotes is available free of charge in the Apple App Store.
Banknote authentication with the app
To ensure that counterfeit banknotes can be detected not only by central banks but also by laypeople, the team developed a first research version of an app for smartphones, which was presented at the Optical Document Security Conference in San Francisco in 2012. “The app uses image processing and pattern recognition to determine whether the authenticity of a banknote is questionable. This already works with an average smartphone camera,” says Lohweg. “This could also be a great help for people with visual impairments, for example.” In the meantime, the process has been scaled up so that it can be used on a wide range of smartphones. In addition, the robustness against environmental influences has been significantly improved and the process itself has been largely industrialised. “When a prototype is presented, one often thinks that the system is ready for the market and fully functional. But especially in the field of high-security applications, that is only half the truth,” Schubert emphasises. “A lot of work went into industrialising the prototypes to make them robust and reliable.” Today, ValiCash is firmly integrated into Koenig & Bauer’s portfolio. The company is the only supplier that can offer its customers a complete solution from the design of the banknotes and the printing machines to solutions for quality control and authentication.
ValiCash and other research results on banknotes will be presented at the Optical and Digital Document Security Conference in Vienna from 11 to 13 April 2022. There will also be the opportunity to test the application live.
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