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A Path to the Next Generation of U.S. Banknotes: Keeping Them Real
Image-capture, -processing, and -reproduction technologies, both current and predicted, pose a significant known threat to the security of Federal Reserve notes. The security of FRNs often depends solely on the casual viewing of two-dimensional printed features in reflected light, notwithstanding the deterrence value of the feel of the note, security strip, and watermark.
Future innovations in flatbed scanners and other methods for capturing images are not likely to be an area in which technology will further aid the counterfeiter in the next 5 or 10 years. Scanning quality along with the capture of color features and other image characteristics is already adequate for many counterfeiting activities.
Printer technologies, including low-cost thermal ink-jet printers for home use and other ink-jet printers and electrophotographic printers, produce counterfeits that can be passed, even though the notes are poor reproductions. However, piezoelectric ink-jet printers may prove to be quite useful to counterfeiters as they provide a noticeable improvement in print quality.
Improvements in consumer-grade scanners may occur. These new scanners are likely to further enable the opportunist counterfeiter to close the quality gap with today’s professional criminal counterfeiters.
In the future, substantial improvements in the automation of image-processing algorithms are expected to help the less-skilled user process images like a graphics expert. Automated capabilities such as line-width control, uniform image appearance, and color balance would enable an ordinary user to easily obtain an optical image that is very faithful to the original.
Emerging technologies are targeted at improvements in desktop capabilities; these improvements will continue to limit the ability of any two-dimensional printed image to deter widespread counterfeiting successfully.
The convergence of printing, manufacturing, and advanced materials technology may offer significant new capabilities to professional counterfeiters in the future.