Paper Money

BEP requests information for new security devices

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has posted a request for information, “Sources Sought for Hidden Machine Readable Security,” on the government website The request emphasizes that it is for informational planning purposes only and is not a commitment that it will do anything in the future.

Nonetheless, the information sought is revealing as to the future of anti-counterfeiting technology. The request reads: 

In an effort to prevent counterfeiting, the Treasury Department Bureau of Engraving and Printing put out a request for information seeking never-before-seen ideas for weaving technology into bills that could then be read by special machines, verifying the bill’s authenticity. The solution can either “be incorporated into the banknote or applied to the note,” but must meet four requirements: 

•?Difficult to discover on a banknote even by subject matter experts. 

•?Difficult to explain the functionality or detection mechanism of the feature. 

•?Readable by a highly discriminating standalone detection system.

•?Resistant to simulation or duplication, both in terms of material and response. 

The BEP states that submissions need to be “novel and not commercially available” but also must be lab tested, with prototypes available for Treasury officials to evaluate.

No actions are imminent. Anyone interested in making a submission has until 2 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2020. The government has already announced that no changes to U.S. paper currency are scheduled until 2026 at the earliest.

Current Federal Reserve notes already have devices that meet the requested criteria. Perhaps the most widely known are the deliberately little publicized “Omron Rings.” These are a seemingly random pattern of yellow zeroes that are not random at all. They have been on the bank notes of dozens of countries since 1996. They work with newer versions of photocopiers. When the software in the machine detects the pattern, copying is blocked. Reports are that other undisclosed digital watermarks are being used as well.

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