For years biometric technology has been used for identification in corporate offices, airports, border crossings as well as to aid authorities in identifying criminals and terrorists.

Japanese multi-national IT company NEC Corp. has developed an authentication system akin to biometrics that can enable smart phones to take close up photos of objects determine if they are genuine products from the manufacturer or counterfeit goods. It is also a way for NEC to find new business opportunities following a slowing of growth in the biometrics industry, according to an official of the company.

NEC (TYO: 6701) is looking for partners to commercialize the technology by March next year.

The system employs what NEC calls “object fingerprint authentication technology” to identify unique patterns in the grain of materials such as plastic or metal. These patterns that are developed during the production of the goods are invisible to the human eye and can be used as indicators to trace the origin of the product and identify if they originated from a company’s factory or are illegal copies. The technology can also be used to improve maintenance and repair work processes in the industrial space.

The technology is an extension of NEC’s fingerprint recognition research, according to Toshihiko Hiroaki, senior manager at NEC Central Research Laboratories, who demonstrated the technology in Tokyo.

In an interview with online technology publication, he said the biometrics market has “stalled, so we were looking for a new business opportunity.”

The technology involved attaching a proprietary 3D-printed close up lens to standard smart phone or tablet camera lenses. NEC said the attachment can accurately identify objects without special processing. During tests, the system yielded an error rate of less than one in one million.