By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Oak Ridge is known as the Secret City, and there’s a new company in town with a focus on ensuring businesses and individuals are not deceived by counterfeiters.
The business, which relocated from Minnesota in late 2016, is named Stealth Mark, and its President and Chief Executive Officer is Rick Howard.
“We had no growth space in our building in Minnesota,” he told us in a recent interview. “My wife and I also desired a smaller town with better climate, but the availability of skilled technology talent was the driving concern. We were considering Kentucky, but after hearing of Oak Ridge, we visited for three days and decided to relocate. The city is in a beautiful area, the people are friendly, but most importantly it has a large technology talent pool allowing for rapid development and growth for this company.”
With the relocation complete, the company has set-up shop in space on Midway Lane next to General Graphene, another Oak Ridge-based technology company.
Howard is an 11-year veteran of Stealth Mark, a producer of anti-counterfeit technologies which, over time, has commercialized and greatly enhanced an authentication and tracing technology originated at 3M. He initially was Vice President of Operations before assuming the top position a little more than three years ago.
“We have two distinct product areas,” Howard says. One is branded as Stealth Mark® Intelligent Microparticles, the other as the ActiveDuty™ System. Both share a common focus on addressing the rising global issue of counterfeit products.
“These are two different but complementary business technologies which provide strategy and insight into counterfeiting and criminal activity,” Howard explains.
The intelligent microparticles area is based on taggant technology which Stealth Mark has exclusively enhanced, creating a proprietary material to mark products which creates a unique, encrypted numeric code and has been preassigned by Stealth Mark’s clients. It is unseen to the human eye and is machine readable without having to use rare earth or chemical tracers.
Howard says the US-made technology is affordable, non-intrusive, and supported by a secured management portal and code verification software which is portable as well as fast and accurate. An app is available for iPhones to better equip clients in protecting their brand.
The ActiviteDuty™ System uses the power of digital sociology to investigate all areas of the global digital realm, providing the company’s clients with a clear picture of the counterfeiting activities that may be occurring against their brand anywhere in the digital space.
To better explain the common logic behind the technology, Howard says that “criminals change their identity but not their patterns or behaviors. We use large data algorithms, cultural overlays, and identification patterns to understand the behavioral patterns as to where and how counterfeiting is occurring and how effective a company’s plans are to thwart it.”
The result is actionable intelligence upon which the company or client can act. Clients can subscribe to an industry dashboard which can show trends in the sector where they operate or they can choose to have a solution tailored to their specific needs.
What sort of companies could benefit from the Stealth Mark innovations? Howard says it would be companies whose products are of high value, mission critical, in the safety sectors, or are unique as well as items such as collectibles, whose value is determined by proof of their authenticity.
“I describe us as a crime prevention company,” Howard says of Stealth Mark. In that manner, he believes the ActiviteDuty™ System may also be used as a possible tool to assist in human trafficking. The company has been introduced to and held meetings with law enforcement officials, government offices, and non-profit organizations and has begun proof-of-concept work in this area.
“We just want to do our part in the community with our technology,” Howard says. “We know we can help others with authenticity of brands, and our technology can identify behavior activities that will likely indicate future criminal activity. In doing so, we can not only succeed as a company, but deliver societal benefits to the community while doing so.”