The Track & Trace Problem

main_track_and_traceHey there! I have to admit, when writing my last post, I thought I was finished with describing Codentify’s technological disadvantages… It seemed to me I’ve told everything there is to say about how the tobacco industry’s promoting a quite lousy digital tax verification (DTV) solution to self-regulate its product. But then I recalled the tobacco companies don’t only promote it as DTV, but also as Track and Trace (T&T). The absurd thing about that, is that Codentify simply isn’t a Track & Trace technology at all. They might as well call it a nuclear reactor, it would not change the fact that Codentify doesn’t track nor trace cigarette packs.

I actually double checked myself by reading the Wikipedia article, to make sure it’s not my misunderstanding of what track & trace means, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the one who’s confused:

I quote: “Track and trace or tracking and tracing, concerns a process of determining the current and past locations (and other information) of a unique item or property.”

Well, as a smoker that bought a Codentify branded product, checking the code definitely doesn’t provide me any way to determine how the product got to my hands, but moreover, the customs, or any other governmental authority or even the tobacco company itself wont learn anything from checking the code, besides the “endpoints” of the supply chain (where it was produced, and to which market was it intended). This is a REALLY obscure way to interpret the track & trace term.

Theoretically speaking, there are two basic approaches to “follow” the product. One of them I’ve described as a possible solution to prevent counterfeiting, which is to verify the Codentify codes at multiple points throughout the supply chain. So if a product was “diverted” to illicit paths, there would be oversight what was the last “legitimate” point it checked in. Another method, is to digitally link (in the code generating process) each Codentify code to pallet-box-container codes, so when a consumer checks the code printed on his pack, he would know in retrospect how it arrived to the point of sale.

Within the industry, Codentify’s well-known flaw is that this linkage between the codes printed to the packs and the codes of cigarette pallets/boxes/containers doesn’t exist.

Therefore, checking a Codentify code reveals only the production information, such as the factory’s name and place, time of production, etc… calling it “track & trace” is a double-insult, for both consumers and industries that do use track & trace solutions to ensure their product was delivered in the proper way. Otherwise, we could call any product mentioning its production place, a “tracked and traced” product (and because stating the production place is obligatory in most countries, it means EVERY product can claim it has implemented a track & trace system when it comes to Codentify’s standards).

In conclusion, when it comes to Digital Tax Verification, even if Codentify’s solution is intentionally weaker than what it is supposed to be, the tobacco companies can at least pretend to try solving the problem. But when it comes to Track & Trace, they simply use technical terminology that has nothing to do with their solution, making-up a name for a feature that doesn’t exist. At all. I would find it quite funny if the joke was not on us.

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