Award for firm hoping to make banknote counterfeiting thing of past

Among the prize winners at Tuesday’s 2008 Česká hlava (Czech Head) science and technology awards was the company Optaglio, which has created a system aimed at ending the counterfeiting of banknotes. It involves embedding holograms – similar to those you might find on credit cards - in cash, making notes far harder to copy, and fakes far more obvious. I discussed the innovation with Optaglio’s Libor Kotačka.

“We are not doing banknotes, obviously, we are doing the protective system for banknotes, which is based on a holographic or rather defractive solution. There are various kinds of such solutions but what we are developing is a fairly unique feature on banknotes, which is based on a paradox between three-dimensional optical perception and two-dimensional, say, tactility perception.”

I presume they are relatively expensive to produce, these banknotes – is this technology really practical?

“‘Expensive’ is very relative. Obviously the very first master is expensive, but our production is based on the fact that the price of the security element is affordable for any banknote. We have to serve banknotes, we should not be…extremely earning.”

Do you think this banknote really will spell the end of counterfeiting?

“That’s a good question. We wish so, we wish to achieve so. You can counterfeit everything, actually, so we cannot absolutely answer that it would end counterfeiting. But it should be the case that any counterfeit can be recognised by the naked eye – or our feature could help to recognise a counterfeit from a genuine product.”

Do you have any customers? Will we see this banknote really come into existence?

“Because it’s a very delicate business, it’s difficult to say. There are some…very first births on the market. And secondly we do not protect only banknotes – we protect other valuable documents, like passports or tax stamps. We have customers in more than 50 countries worldwide.”

Finally, how big can this banknote technology be? Many people say in the future we’ll have a cashless society, people won’t carry money, they’ll pay for things using a device like a mobile telephone.

“Well, as long as cash is here, and it will be for at least a decade in the sense of your question, I am certain that our product will be well exploited on the market. There are still places like pubs or markets where you will pay by cash for a long time.”