Licking the virtual envelope

A molecular marker developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico could be used to determine if a sealed cargo container has been tampered with after being loaded on a ship.

The chemical detection system, patented by Dallas-based Isotag Technologies Inc., creates a permanent fingerprint that can authenticate a product as it moves through the supply chain.

The chemical marker is applied to an electronic seal on a cargo container and can alert officials if the seal has been broken or replaced. The marker will appear only when it is highlighted by a detector with a specific wavelength.

"Our types of seals can allow for verification that something was packaged and sealed," said Neil Ivey, an Isotag spokesman. "It also can be used to match up cargo with passengers, and you can monitor the progress of a package until it gets on a plane."

The technology is already being used commercially. Pharmaceutical companies have used it to authenticate packaging to make sure a sealed prescription has not been tampered with. The marker can be placed on a bottle of pills or on the wrapper of an individual pill.

The marker also can be used to detect if someone takes a bill of lading and substitutes a different one or adds something to the document while a container is in transit, Ivey said.

Isotag technology also has been used to authenticate gasoline and diesel fuels. By adding the marker to the product, officials can determine if the fuels have been watered down.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group