Merck secures US patent for AI/blockchain supply chain security combo

Merck secures US patent for AI/blockchain supply chain security combo
The Merck Innovation Centre where the new technology is being developed

Merck has secured a US patent for a novel security procedure linking artificial intelligence and blockchain which aims to protect the integrity of supply chains and avoid counterfeits.

“This new patent continues to build on momentum gained through earlier patents. Our heritage in the security materials business makes our company an expert in the sector,” said Isabel De Paoli, Chief Strategy Officer at Merck.

“Merck is now spearheading the development of blockchain technologies that focus on a combination of physical objects and digital security.

“This will have implications for all industries that depend on reliable product authenticity, such as safety-critical supply chains in the pharma and food sector.”

The new technology uses machine learning to link physical objects to a blockchain through their own unique identifiers or ‘fingerprints‘. Any unique feature can be used as a fingerprint, such as a chemical signature, DNA, or image patterns.

The patented technology paves the way for established identification processes (for example barcode scanners or mass spectrometry) to be combined with blockchain and machine-learning technologies to provide a novel, integrated security approach and thus certainty and defence to businesses.

To date, Machine-to-Machine readability has been the standard approach to connecting objects to digital supply chain workflows. Now, the new patented concept makes Machine-to-Object readability possible by linking AI and blockchain technology.

Securing the supply chain

The need for enhanced supply chain integrity through new technologies has become increasingly important, as highlighted by a recent report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 50% of medicines purchased on illegal websites are fake.

Not only healthcare, but also other industries face similar challenges from the growing counterfeit trade. For example, nearly one in five mobile phones shipped internationally is fake

“This novel technology of combining physical products with blockchain will support the security interests of businesses and their products by offering them new methods of tracking their supply chain through blockchain, Internet of Things and connected workflow environments. It is also likely to eliminate inefficiencies in their existing systems,” De Paoli said.