TED conferences use security technology inspired by butterflies

blue butterfly
CC BY-SA 3.0 Steven G. Johnson

The TED2014 conference kicks off today in Vancouver, marking the 30th anniversary of the event. The theme of this year's conference is "the next chapter," and each attendee will receive a sample of what could be the next chapter in anti-counterfeit technology.

The TED2014 ID badges feature a small iridescent panel with a "30 years TED" logo. The image isn't a hologram, but is created by billions of nano-scale holes. The technology is inspired by the wings of the Morpho butterfly, and this is one of its first major real-world applications. The super-tiny holes reflect and transmit light in a distinctive way, making the logo easy to identify and hard to copy.

nanotech security© Nanotech Security Corp.

TED partnered with Vancouver-based company Nanotech Security Corp., which has been developing this anti-counterfeit technique that doesn't use any inks or dyes.

The TED tags feature the KolourOptik nanotechnology, with a resolution of 50,000 dpi (dots per inch). "That’s 150 times sharper than Apple’s Retina display," said Nanotech CEO Doug Blakeway.

The TEDActive ID badges will also feature a KolourOptik logo. The technology could have a range of other uses, including banknotes, credit cards or passports.

Clearly, making use of this new technology is a branding opportunity for TED, but also make it harder for people to crash the conference. After all, it costs $7,500 to attend the five day event and TED no doubt is concerned about interlopers. The commercial terms of the contract were not announced.

"In keeping with TED's mandate of 'ideas worth spreading,' they are always looking for the most up-to-date level of security to incorporate as part of their event," Blakeway told TreeHugger.

Anyone in Vancouver who doesn't have a ticket can still enjoy a livestream of the event at one of these locations.