According to an article reported on the TODAY newspaper, there is an app that allows buyers of luxury accessories to be able to distinguish counterfeits from the real product.
The app, made by a New York startup called Entrupy, makes use of a handheld microscope to let a buyer check whether his latest Gucci bag is that or a knockoff, getting rid of guesswork and the very subtle art of counting stitches, feeling the leather’s grain and the poring over print patterns.This is done through its microscope, that magnifies objects 260 times, and exposes features that are otherwise invisible to the human eye: misshapen stamp marks, for instance, or tiny gaps in the leather grain and paint overruns.
Since its launch in 2016, Entrupy reported that its app’s accuracy has improved to over 98% for 11 luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci.
War Against Piracy
Apparel makers are spending big bucks on their wage against piracy. As reported by London-based researcher Visiongain, in 2017 alone, an estimated US$6.5 billion will be spent on anti-counterfeit technologies by fashion labels in order to help establish the authenticity of their products, such as holographic tags, microprinting, and even radio beacons that are woven into fabric. Even so, the anonymity of Internet shopping, along with the growing popularity of second-hand dealers, is making the war against fakes harder.
This issue was highlighted last year when the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition suspended the membership of China’s biggest online retailer, Alibaba Group Holding. This came amid criticism that it, along with other e-commerce marketplaces, weren’t doing enough to cull fakes. Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, didn’t help matters when he said that Chinese-made knock-offs today can offer better quality than the genuine articles.
Second-hand online stores such as RealReal and Vestiaire Collective use experts with years of experience to determine the authenticity of the goods they buy and sell. It’s a painstaking process that isn’t absolutely foolproof, according to some online reviews from customers who complain they’ve been sold counterfeits.
The Birth Of Entrupy
In 2012, there was a breakthrough in algorithms at a science competition. Called ImageNet, it made use of massive data sets to find patterns, thus greatly improving the ability of machines to identify everyday objects in photographs. It was also a watershed moment for deep-learning technologies, that underpinned self-driving cars and better speech recognition software.
With their basis in that, along with assistance from Facebook’s Director of Artifical Intelligence Research and an angel investor, co-founder Mr Vidyuth Srinivisan and his partners – New York University researchers Ashlesh Sharma and Lakshminarayanan Subramanian – banded together with a common hunch that computers could be trained to look at pictures of luxury goods and extract a kind of genome. An essence of, say, a Gucci or an Hermes handbag. Entrupy was formed.
However, almost immediately, they hit a setback: such deep-learning technology required tons of data which they didn’t have – access to designer handbags, fake or otherwise. They had decided then, to take on a two-pronged approach to obtain such data required.
After unsuccessful reconnaisance attempts to the ladies’ sections at department stores, they convinced several New York second-hand shops to grant them access to their inventories, thus giving them the required data for the authentic goods. Getting the data for knock-offs was much easier: one of the co-founders went to China, and returned home with a suitcase full of the counterfeits. All that hard work had led to real results: Entropy has now tens of millions of photographs of 30,000 different handbags and wallets. Users of the app can also contribute to their database by uploading photographs of their own products themselves directly.
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Mr Srinivisan says that Entrupy has no relationships with any of the brands whose products they authenticate; likewise, the makers of luxury goods like LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton Se and others have all preferred to not acknowledge the existence of a second-hand market for their merchandise.
However, the future looks set to be bright for the company: in July, they raised US$2.6 million from investors led by a venture between two Tokyo-based companies: Digital Garage Inc and Daiwa Securities Group Inc. This money, according to Mr Srinivisan, will be used to design a faster and more portable camera and add more brands to Entrupy’s list, along with other uses to further upgrade the software to include optical analysis for materials of a refractive nature.