Copying a credit card’s number or even the data out of its magnetic strip is easy. But imagine if all your information were embedded in the very fabric of any piece of plastic in a way that’s invisible to the naked eye.
Gordon Smith, a professor at the University of Warwick, has developed a way for plastic manufacturers to do just that. His new innovation—patent pending—would allow them to embed visible or invisible pictures into the very structure of the plastic. While an object is being made, and the plastic is molten, ”you can manipulate [both] the pigmentation within [the plastic] and the particles within it so that you can form it into images and data,” Smith explained to Quartz in a phone interview. They have also built a scanner to read the images or data.
That could be a boost to security. Many normal credit cards contain radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that allow the cards to be hacked using radio signals. Indeed, experts argue that any circuitry which can send an electromagnetic signalcan be compromised. Since Smith’s technology is just rearranging plastic, it shouldn’t have this problem. ”The image is non-clone-able because if you tried to get the image out [of the plastic] then you’d just destroy it,” he adds.
The technology could be used on any plastic object that’s made by injection molding. ”It’s not a printing or anything on the surface,” says Smith. “It is an image that can be created within the plastic so the plastic can be created in any shape whatsoever.” That could include fingerprints, QR codes, writing—you name it.