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What The Mob Can Teach Us About Counterfeiting in Global Supply Chains


Supply chains of nearly every product sold in the world are being targeted by criminals. Case in point, earlier this year, 60 Minutes ran a special focusing on the inner workings of the Italian mob’s role in their nation’s food industry. The piece focuses primarily on the extra virgin olive oil market but also details the extent to which organized crime has infiltrated the supply chain of Italy’s most prized, exported foods. The story especially caught the eyes of the Tego team because the same inefficiencies it calls out in the food industry are at the epicenter of the problems we are trying to solve as a company. (If you have not seen it, we suggest you check it out.) As you will see, counterfeiting is a problem that transcends almost every major industry, but the extra-virgin olive oil market paints an especially clear picture how end-consumers are generally unaware of the original source or accuracy of the ingredients in their products. This is a global issue that is becoming continually worse, even in the most established and regulated industries.

Olive Oil Rakes in the Cheddar

Counterfeit Italian delicacies such as olive oil, wine and cheese have become so profitable that Mafia leaders are said to garner $16 billion per year from their exploits, and profits are only going up with innovations designed to infiltrate the entire supply chain, from the farm to the table. The mob hires its own farm workers, facilitates transportation, and can impose its own pricing since it owns the supermarkets themselves. The system has grown so large that it’s earned its own moniker: the “Agromafia.”

The larger issue is that these counterfeit foods do not simply stay within Italy’s borders. These goods make their way overseas to the United States and other first-world, consumer markets. In December of 2015, Italian authorities seized 7,000 tons of olive oil en route to the United States. In fact, it is estimated that a full 70-80 percent of extra virgin olive oil currently sitting on supermarket shelves does not stand up to U.S. standards. In April, 2016, U.S. Congress finally ordered the FDA to begin testing imported oils for labeling accuracy.

Why the focus on extra virgin olive oil? Profitability. It is said the margins on a batch of EVOO cut with canola or sunflower oil can be three times that of cocaine. Think about that next time you’re eating that healthy salad.

It may not seem like a big deal for Americans to pay for lower quality olive oil than packaging claims, but when you consider the implications of someone ingesting a food laced with allergenic or poisonous ingredients the problem becomes, quite literally, tragic. Over the last two years alone, tons of seized meat products have been found to contain solvents and pesticides.

The Big Picture

These problems serve as a great proxy to global supply chain problems that exist in many industries. Everything from children’s toys to medication to car parts is consistently pirated, to the tune of an estimated $461 billion to $1.8 trillion per year market. As mentioned, even the oldest and most regulated industries are susceptible to counterfeiting. In pharmaceutical and manufacturing supply chains, improper ingredients or materials can be even more costly and deadly. Anywhere from 100,000 to one million people die every year due to falsified drugs, where the market for counterfeits is estimated to be a $200 billion a year business. Although counterfeit drugs are still most prevalent in less developed countries with fewer federal regulations, many indeed make their way across United States’ borders without being detected.

So What?

Counterfeiting has been a common trouble spot throughout history, and the trend toward globalization has no doubt made the issue worse. But it does not mean we have to remain at the mercy of globalized blind spots.
Visibility is ultimately a matter of producers finding sustainable ways to track their assets from birth to death, and everywhere in between. In order to meet this level of clarity, global companies need to enable the assets in their supply chain to record a digital history about their journeys in real time. This means recording all of the products’ lifecycle, regulatory and integrity management information, and then, relaying this data to all stakeholders along the asset’s journey to the consumer. Products need to carry this type of authenticity data on the assets themselves and checked at each point in the supply chain if global manufacturers want to truly ensure the validity and safety of their product lines.

Only when you know exactly where an asset has been, who has handled it and when it was handed off, can a supplier ensure that no counterfeit foods, drugs or materials are making their way to the hands of the consumer. Asset Management is a process we have helped successfully implement to some of the world’s major industries such as Aerospace, Healthcare and Rail.

Ask us how, here.

SmartCitiesWorld Special Report on Tego Inc.

Timothy Butler, Chief Executive Officer, Tego, talks about making assets smart and how data from the edge have a vital part to play in creating and running a smart city.

Read the article here.

Tego Announces Open, Multi-Platform Operating System for Powering Things with Intelligence

TegoOS Now Supports Major Mobile OS and RF Gateway Protocols

Boston, MA, September 19, 2016Tego, Inc. announced today the release of its open, multi-platform operating system, TegoOS, adding new capability to Tego’s innovative Asset Intelligence Platform, which provides local intelligence on any asset, anywhere. TegoOS now supports all major mobile and desktop operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows and OS X. The open OS operates across all RF gateway protocols and handheld readers. It also enables distributed data about assets to be easily available to any cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform as well as core enterprise systems such as Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics applications.

“In the age of IoT, businesses need operational intelligence about the state and condition of their physical products, components and assets for better and safer business practices, and the use of open standards in IoT is a critical success factor,” shared Andy Mulholland, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research. “Tego is among the next generation of IoT companies bringing local data connectivity to assets for operational, maintenance and strategic purposes.”

Using TegoOS, assets can tell their story at the point of use by making their origin, authenticity, lifecycle maintenance history, or chain of custody available to authorized users. TegoOS empowers manufacturers, distributors and maintenance organizations across aerospace, life sciences, healthcare and manufacturing sectors to deploy scalable solutions for lifecycle and service management, regulatory and process compliance, and authenticity management. Out of the box, TegoOS provides encryption, compression and flexible and efficient file management. The process of storing data on a physical asset becomes a simple, one push-button activity.

The three main components of the TegoOS include:

  • A comprehensive software library supporting Tego’s Asset Intelligence Platform functionality and extensibility, securely storing and retrieving structured or unstructured data directly on any asset through a wireless communications protocol
  • A mobile application for AIP administrators and users with one common interface to RF gateway devices such as Motorola, ThingMagic, Intermec, Zebra, Impinj, TSL and LLRP gateways.
  • Integration capabilities for cloud-based IoT and enterprise systems

TegoOS powers Tego’s Asset Intelligence Platform (AIP), backed by a comprehensive portfolio of 30 patents. AIP provides the capability to embed digital information directly in the asset itself. From product specification and configuration, maintenance and use history, and intended use and compatibility, to process instructions or images, Tego’s AIP allows distributed data solutions to be installed quickly within small or large environments—providing line employees with critical operating data and ensuring asset data connectivity to devices and systems. TegoOS greatly simplifies the process of storing, recalling and communicating the information embedded in a product, component or asset.

“TegoOS powers data and insights for the T in the IoT,” said Timothy Butler, CEO of Tego. “It provides data connectivity to assets so businesses have the information they need to take the necessary actions to save money, keep users safe, and continue to build new revenue models.”

About Tego

Tego powers assets with intelligence. Tego’s Asset Intelligence Platform makes businesses smarter by embedding digital information in assets and components for the aerospace, life sciences, healthcare and manufacturing industries. Insights about assets’ lifecycle history, regulatory compliance and integrity drive operational excellence and new revenue models. Smart asset data is available for the right people and systems, including IoT, EAM, ERP, and Analytics applications.

Tego is an architect and co-author of the aerospace Spec 2000 Ch9-5, has 30 granted patents, serves dozens of global customers including Honeywell, Parker Aerospace, and B/E Aerospace, and is a healthcare leader with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC).

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Smart Approaches to Smart Assets – Use cases and Immediate Benefits

Tego focuses on the T in IoT as distributed data on assets has significant advantages over constant connectivity approaches. Get acquainted with the immediate quantifiable benefits of a smart asset solution and how it is different from the IoT.

Supply Chain Matters Conversation with Tego- A Different Architectural Approach to Internet of Things Deployment

When this industry analyst attends technology and industry conferences, I attempt as time permits, to seek out what I believe our technology vendors that are providing unique or different technology approaches to business process needs. In our next two Supply Chain Matters postings, I will touch upon two such providers.

Read the complete article on http://www.theferrarigroup.com

Why IoT Devices Need to be Digital Assets Plus Connecting by LoRa and NFC

The difference between ‘has’ and ‘uses’ reflects how efficiently those Assets can be made to work, which in turn reflects on the extent to which those Assets can be managed. IoT simply connects Assets to provide the data and dynamic management to enable business optimization of operations. But what are these ‘Assets’ that can create new competitive capabilities?

Read the article on constellationr.com

A Different Architectural Approach to Internet of Things Deployment

A Different Architectural Approach to Internet of Things Deployment: Supply Chain Matters Conversation with Tego.

Read the full article

Connecting the Unconnected in the IoT

As IoT continues its rapid growth, durable, high-memory tags will be critical for extending connectivity to large market segments not well served by more expensive, active “broadcast” connectivity methods. The tags’ small form factor, low power consumption, and low cost will make it possible to tag a much larger number of “things.” These “edge” things will likely to be the majority of “things” in the IoT.

Read the article

After the Storm. Reflections on Network Connectivity.

Last week there was a tornado in Sudbury Mass.  Tornados are a rare occurrence in New England on account of there being so few trailer parks, making this a pretty big event.  High winds, lots of rain, and and even some dime-sized hail.  After work that night I was headed to a gym in the storm area. It ended up taking me close to two hours to make a trip that normally takes about 30 minutes.  Making it to the gym was becoming pointless, so I needed a another option.  With the storm well past it was a good opportunity to do some sprints and pull-ups in the park, but instead I took an entirely different approach: I headed for the bar.

Continue reading…

Driving in our Data Driven World

Last time I addressed some basics of the Internet of Things based on what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding by lots of people. I also ventured into the area of wireless, batteryless devices to consider how they will be deployed in much larger numbers than their heavyweight counterparts that have on-board microprocessors running network stacks. Those concepts will also be applicable this time around as we delve into Big Data. Just like last time, it’s based on some questions I hear a lot. “What’s all this about big data? I get we’re generating tons of data, but what does that do for me? How is big data improving my life?”
Continue reading…

What’s This All About the Internet of Things?

Something interesting has happened to me recently.  On three separate occasions over the past couple weeks, three different people have said to me, “What’s all this about the Internet of Things?”.  These are all people that I consider to be pretty well clued in on current technology, all of them have invested in high-tech startups, and all make their livings in technology businesses of some sort.  And yet each one of them didn’t understand why people are talking about an internet of things.  Sometime late last year the IoT rose to the level of having its own recognizable three letter acronym (TLA) and it seems like media chatter on the topic is everywhere these days, so it came as quite a surprise to keep hearing this drumbeat of confusion.  Now I know regular readers of this blog are all very savvy about the topic.  Right?  Right?  Exactly.  That’s part of the problem.  IoT chatter has ramped up so quickly that people don’t want to admit that they don’t get it.  Well, allow me to be the one to go back to the beginning and cover some basics. Continue reading…

Secret Sauce – Part 4

Alright, this is it – the last of a four-part series on the ins and outs of non-volatile memory and radiation resistance. By now you should feel like an expert on flash memory and the fuse-based Tego memory.  For a tune up check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.  The remaining question to be answered: “where does FRAM fit into all this”?

I often see that careful observers are astute enough to realize that FRAM must be a whole different beast because while it is a huge improvement over flash memory when it comes to radiation resistance, it doesn’t even come close to what the Tego memory can achieve.  In fact FRAM is not at all usable for sterilization applications due to the memory errors that occur.

Let’s first put these performance metrics into perspective.  A good way to approach that is to consider what sort of dose is needed to sterilize an item.  For all of the medical devices we’ve seen, when using either gamma radiation or e-beam radiation, a sterilization dose is right around 25 kilogray.  That level of radiation is enough to be assured that all organics and biologics are killed off.  What does that dose mean to non-volatile memory?  Well, the contents of flash memory are completely wiped out.  The data is completely scrambled.  In fact, flash memory starts to see bit errors in memory at doses as small as 0.1 kilogray, so at 25 kilograys it doesn’t stand a chance.  The Tego memory on the other hand has been tested up to 1000 kilograys and no memory errors have ever been observed.  That means the Tego chip can be subjected to over 40 sterilization doses without concern for memory errors.  Repeated sterilizations may seem like overkill for many applications but the important thing about such a high dose is that it translates to very high reliability for single-dose applications.  You can rest assured that a memory capable of handling over 1000 kilograys will have basically zero failures at 25 kilograys, even when billions of parts are involved.

Then there is FRAM.  FRAM can almost handle one sterilization dose, but not quite.  If we’re talking about indentification-only tags that have just 96 bits of memory, most FRAM tags will survive that first 25 kilogray does, but roughly 20% of the parts will have some bit errors.  If we’re talking about 8 or 64 kilobit memories like in the TegoTags, pretty much every tag  will have at least one bit error at that dose, and many will have lots of errors.  This behavior was documented in an interesting paper by GE Global Research back in 2007, and it exactly bears out the experiences of our customers who’ve tried FRAM tags (you can find the paper here).  Those customers have needed to tag items valued at anywhere from $20 to $20,000, and in every case the prospect of throwing out or reworking 20% of their products due to bad RFID tags has been a non-starter.

Just like the performance of FRAM sits between that of the Tego mechanical and the flash electronic memories, the way FRAM works also sits in between mechanical and electronic.  Because FRAM stands for Ferroelectric Random Access Memory, it is often described as a type of magnetic memory.  This isn’t correct since FRAM structures are not magnets, and what’s really happening is people are confusing ferroelectric with ferromagnetic.  Nevertheless, FRAM does contain polarized structures, and the polarization of the those structures is what is used to represent digital zeros and ones.

Maybe the best way to describe how FRAM works is to look at directly at FRAM itself.  I could craft another analogy like the red Solo cups of water or the fuses, but in this case it doesn’t buy us much.  The FRAM structure itself tells a pretty clear story.

FRAM is built out of lead-zirconate-titanate (PZT) crystals.  Sounds pretty complicated but on a simplified molecular lever it’s really very straightforward.  Have a look at the diagram included here.  PZT crystals come in the form of cubes, with lead (Pb) atoms in the corners and oxygen (O) atoms on the faces.  Within the cube, a zirconium+titanium (Zi/Ti) atom can be moved to the top or the bottom.  Top and bottom are defined by an electric field placed across the cube.  When the electric field is applied with one polarity, the Zi/Ti atom is forced to the top of the cube.  When the electric field is removed, the Zi/Ti atom stays right where it is. If the field is again applied but this time with the opposite polarity, the Zi/Ti atom moves to the bottom of the cube.  So now we have “one” and “zero” represented by “top” and “bottom”.

The only way to move the Zr/Ti molecule is by applying the electric field.  This is pretty significant as it’s what makes FRAM non-volatile – when the power is removed the Zr/Ti molecule doesn’t move, so our zeros and ones are not disturbed.  The makers of FRAM like to refer to it as being bistable, which means it can exist in two states and both of them are “stable”.  This is exactly what we need to form a non-volatile memory, except that it’s not exactly bi-stable.  As you might imagine, the electric field is not “the only way to move the Zr/Ti molecule”.  Other forces can also cause the atoms to move around, and our old friends time and temperature are classic culprits.  One FRAM vendor has told its aerospace customers that FRAM components should be “refreshed” every 5 to 7 years; refreshed meaning that all the memory contents should be read out and then re-written.  A clear indication that over time the stability of the atoms will decay and data values will be corrupted.

As you can imagine, those Zr/Ti atoms are also prime targets for particle radiation like gamma and beta.  It doesn’t happen as readily as with flash memory, but after enough radiation particles beat up on the Zr/Ti atoms, they eventually knock them like billiard balls over to the other side.  As mentioned in the GE paper, this often happens after just one sterilization dose of radiation; around 25 kilogray.

One other thing that can disrupt the contents of FRAM is reading the memory.  That’s right, reading the contents of FRAM is a destructive process.  That’s because the way the location of the Zr/Ti atoms is sensed is to attempt to force them to one side, say the top.  If the atom indeed moved from bottom to top, then a small current pulse will be sensed and the contents is considered to be a zero.  If the atom was already at the top then no movement occurs so no current pulse is sensed and a one is assumed.  Of course, now all the bits are ones so the overall contents of a word is completely lost.  At this point, the contents just read are written back to the same location so that the loss is not permanent.  This adds time and power to the read operation, and more importantly it can have long term reliability impacts on the memory, especially for parts with long lifetimes.

So that’s it, a four-part episode on the inner workings of non-volatile memory.  Hopefully by now you understand how flash and FRAM work and how they are different from the fuse-based Tego memory.  And hopefully the failure mechanisms of each of the memory types makes sense and you understand exactly why the Tego memory is radiation resistant while the others are not. If something doesn’t make sense let me know and I’ll try to help you out.  Or you can always go back and re-read Part 1 through 4.  I recommend filling your red Solo cup to the top before you start.

Secret Sauce Part 1

One question that I get quite often is “How is it that you can make a tag that can withstand crazy amounts of radiation while no one else can even come close? How is that possible?”

It’s that last part that gives away what people are really thinking. “How is that possible?” It’s a reasonable question given that there has been serious demand for radiation-resistant RFID tags for as many years as there’s been RFID, but no one has managed to pull it off. Most people I meet think it’s impossible. So when someone asks how is it possible, what they’re really saying is, they don’t believe it.

But once you understand what’s going on inside the tag, it’s really quite simple. And perfectly believable. So I’m going to explain here just how the Tego tags pull off this technological feat that was once thought impossible.

Continue reading…

Hello? It’s Me, Your Refrigerator…

For some time now, there has been a lot of hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) concept. And for good reason. The interconnectedness of smart assets – products, machines, appliances and even buildings – opens up a world of possibilities.

To date, much of the hype has revolved around consumer applications. We already are starting to see vehicles with networked sensors that can take evasive action to avoid accidents. And one of the most enduring examples of IoT technology remains the vision of a refrigerator that calls to remind you to pick up milk.

But let’s not forget the considerable value that the Internet of Things brings to industrial and commercial applications. As a recent article in Forbes asks, ‘Where does IoT have the greatest potential to create economic value?’ Continue reading…

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