[drpcap]T[/dropcap]hree years ago, Edward Chege established a company that later started dealing in the transport of building materials and brokerage for real estate investors. During that time, people would complain of counterfeits of different building materials, loss of personal items and insecurity mostly at the site.
This, he later realised, was due to lack of proper identification of workers and mixing up of professionals with unskilled workers. “Usually at a building site, people report in the morning to look for jobs. Some claim to have some expertise in housing which they don’t. This leads to theft, loss of materials and even money as they chase brokerage commissions,” says Chege.
With a starting capital of Ksh100,000, he bought a pickup for transport work. It’s from this point that he experienced the real world of counterfeits, insecurity and impersonation. People would send him material only for them to turn out to be fake.
“I also discovered that those given contacts to build a house would purchase fake or sub-standard building materials to minimise the costs and keep their cut. The house owners know nothing about this kind of thievery,” said Chege, a father of two.
Being a business man for many years, Chege had encountered a lot of fake building materials used to swindle investors, fake food stuff, certificates, driving licences and even fake car number plates among other things. “I sat down and thought how I can use my ICT knowledge to do something about it.”
This is how Liberty Heights Investment Ltd, an anti-counterfeit services firm, started by focusing on providing solutions to various sectors including security, finance, healthcare, transport, individuals and commercial clients. With the help of a friend, they came up with a software called Heights Encorder and an application by the name D-Decoder.
Heights Encorder produces an eight-digit special code that contains personal information like names, place of birth, profession and blood group, depending on the usage and the data needed. The H-Decoder app decodes the information from Heights Encoder through a smart phone with internet connection.
“It gives real time information anywhere in the world,” he explains. He says the new software is also useful in fighting insecurity. The encoding and decoding system is able to stem terrorism by capturing essential data at airports and border points.
“The data contains day and time of entry, person’s contacts, destination, next of kin and biometrics. This date is then encoded and code attached to entry documents like passport by this police or any relevant authorities. The officer/police will only use his smart phone installed with the application and in less than 30seconds he can verify the details from the stranger. This can be very helpful in fighting the issue of aliens and potential terrorists,” says Chege.
The system is able to detect fake driving licenses, fake police service numbers, rogue drivers and substandard health products in less than 30 seconds. Counterfeits continues to pose danger to businesses in Kenya and estimates showing the economy loses up to Ksh50 billion to counterfeits every year.
Tracking conniving employees
A study of suspicious drugs collected between 2002 and 2010 in 11 African countries and Asia enroute to Africa, cited Kenya as one of the 11 African countries selling counterfeit anti-malaria drugs. The Kenyan Association of Pharmaceutical Industry estimates that counterfeit pharmaceutical products account for approximately $130 million (Sh12.7 billion) annually in sales in the country. If Chege were to crack this counterfeits market alone, he would be in big business.
He says with the use of the new software, companies and institutions can also track down fraudulent employees who pretend to be whom they are not, and end up colluding with counterfeiters and collection of bribes.
Due to necessity of installing his own server with a bigger database, the company, which currently has about 42 clients in Kenya, is negotiating with the owner of some piece of land along Thika Road to set up its regional headquarters.
“At Liberty our ultimate goal is to have our product deployed across the country and borders. To provide real-time support to our clients and be an entrusted quality service provider in all aspects and cost effective anti-counterfeit and security ICT solutions for Kenya and the whole world,” he said.