Paper Money

Understanding modern note security from users’ perspective

Crane Currency’s range of security features available for bank notes printed on its products includes a 3D feature called “TOPO,” for “topographic.”

Origianl images courtesy of Crane Currency.

Crane Currency offered an expansive take on modern bank note security in a website presentation on Feb. 24.

“The Future of Banknote Security — A Professor’s View,” by Jane Raymond, professor of visual cognition at the University of Birmingham in England, not surprisingly indirectly endorsed one of Crane’s products. Her reasoning is informative.

She explains that when people handle cash, they usually look at it for less than a second. Therefore, that is the amount of time bank note designers have to take into account when applying security methods.

Decisions about note security do not involve only technology and materials, she writes. Also involved are natural and human sciences, she writes, with “visual perception and cognition specialists” needed,  “to understand fully how humans use and respond to the complex visual information printed on a banknote.” She indicated that if the bank note industry expects to make real innovations, it needs the involvement of more natural scientists — people who understand how the brain and eyes work.

Her interest in currency stems from her work on product counterfeiting in the private sector, where she learned that while, as a rule, people do not consciously try to identify fake products, their attention is alerted when things are not right. They do not like being tricked. That is what led her to do perception studies of bank notes.

People of various ages from the general public were shown a series of bank notes and were asked some simple and quick questions, such as the note’s denomination and if it was real. The notes were viewed under different conditions, such as high-and low-light levels, to determine if the security features could be easily distinguished. In 2020, her team discovered that the public could spot fake bank notes in a third of a second if the security feature included 3D, regardless of the level of light.

Crane claims this finding is the first independent, scientific study to confirm the effectiveness of micro-optic security features from a user point of view. Crane highlights one of its features called “TOPO,” in which, it says, an object seems to rest on the surface of the bank note; transparent “objects” appear to bend and distort light; viewers see changes of size and acceleration; shading adds dimension and mood. These effects, Crane says, are “scientifically proven to be easy to authenticate at a glance.”

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