What is a vTag®? FAQ

What is a Tag?


A ‘tag’ is any label attached, printed or fixed to an item that allows it to be tracked. Examples of visible tags include barcodes, QR codes, Direct Part Marking (DPM) and RFID. These labels are added to the part and are considered ‘extrinsic’. They come in a variety of forms, including stickers and markings printed directly on an item.

How is vTag® different?


A vTag® is a ‘virtual tag’. It functions like a tag but without any modification to the part. Like a human fingerprint or iris scan, a vTag® uses intrinsic surface features of an item to uniquely identify it from all other items of its kind. The intrinsic features of an item are micron-scale roughness, formed randomly during the fabrication of the item. They are well known in the scientific literature1 to be completely unique and impossible to replicate.

1. J. Buchanan, R. P. Cowburn, et al, ””Fingerprinting” documents and packaging,” Nature, Vol 436, pp. 475, 2005.

How does vTag® work?

A digital image of an item is acquired. Our proprietary algorithms process the image into a unique digital signature known as vTag® that incorporates the intrinsic surface features of the item. These surface features are a micrometer in size.

Where can I see a vTag® at work?

A vTag® works on any non-perishable item and is not affected by normal wear-and-tear. Processing a vTag® only takes a few milliseconds, is adaptable to any manufacturing work flow, and can be automated.

Developed with funding from the US Army, Defense Logistic Agency, Missile Defense Agency.

How robust is a vTag®? Will it change over time? Is it affected by environmental effects and/or use?

A vTag® is intrinsic to the surface of an item and will always work as long as the surface is not modified. The algorithms that generate a vTag® are extremely robust and have been proven to not be affected by environmental factors to which the item is qualified, such as MIL-STD-883E and JEDEC Standard for Mark Permanency. vTags® work in routine indoor operational environments and are impervious to dust and fingerprints. However, we recommend that an item with a vTag® be kept clean and dry with non-abrasive cleaners. Please contact us with your specific work environment so that we can provide you with more details.

What kind of items and material will a vTag® work on?

A vTag® will work with any rigid item of any size or shape made from any material as long as its surface is not modified between enrollment and authentication. Examples include items made from metals, plastic, rubber and wood that are processed through any existing processes (including additive manufacturing) and have a durable finish (including paints). Please contact us for your specific part and use scenario.