Giesecke & Devrient has introduced a security system that relies on cell phones to reduce the risk of receiving bogus bills.

The Munich-based technology firm this week introduced MAGnite, a technology that embeds very small capsules in the pigment of ink used to print bank notes. The capsules rotate when they come in contact with a magnetic field, such as the one produced by magnets found in the loudspeakers of mobile phones.

When a user places a bank note printed with MAGnite over a mobile phone or other magnetic device, the note displays an image in the shape of the magnet.

“A bank note is opaque, but the interesting thing is, every magnet has a field,” says Bernd Kümmerle, head of Giesecke & Devrient’s bank note printing division. “All you need is a magnet, which is in your phone. We make the magnetic field visible by just holding a bank note on top of that magnet.”

Kümmerle compares the capsules that Giesecke & Devrient embeds in the ink to window shades that, depending on their tilt, either block or pass-through light. In the presence of a magnetic field, the capsules turn and thereby change the appearance of currency printed with them. “If you put a bank note with our feature on [a magnet], our capsules will go into a see-through position,” Kümmerle adds.

The technology taps the same micro-encapsulation methods used by scratch-and-sniff perfume samples, according to Kümmerle.

The company says it has designed the service for use by consumers although it works with any magnet, including those inside theft-protection systems used by retailers.

The bank notes themselves must be printed with the company’s display-embedded ink. Kümmerle says central banks can buy bank notes from Giesecke & Devrient – the firm prints currency for roughly 60 countries worldwide – or purchase the ink from Giesecke & Devrient and print the notes themselves.

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