There's a new £1 coin headed to your pockets by 2017, and though its twelve-sided, threepence-piece shape evokes a time when a washboard was considered a legitimate musical instrument, it's actually the most high-tech coin of all time. We've now got a look at its reverse-side design, but what's so special about its iSIS security stuff?
iSIS stands for "Integrated Secure Identification Systems", and uses technology that has previously only been available in bank notes. Three years in the making and costing £2 million to develop, it inserts a physical security layer within each coin that allows for thousands of coins to be scanned and verified in a matter of seconds, quickly separating the real coins from the duff ones.
For obvious reasons, the precise details of how iSIS works and the materials it uses remains top secret -- go blabbing about it and counterfeiters could potentially crack it, as nothing is ever 100 per cent secure. But iSIS's placement within the actual coin (using the Royal Mint’s aRMour full-plate technology) should make it exceedingly difficult to replicate. iSIS is just one of the anti-counterfeit measures in the new coin. Even its construction is designed to foil the scammers, with the twelve-sided shape more difficult to replicate, and the use of two different metals adding more complexity to the crafting.
iSIS allows for a "full-plate" coin construction -- in other words, the security layer is embedded in the heart of the coin. Currently, the existing £1 coin is "plated" -- its security layer is external. Over time this degrades (at a rate of one micron a year), so housing this inside the coin will extend the coin's lifespan (in terms of security) significantly. aRMour from The Royal Mint typically has around 25 microns of plate, so that's a coin good for around 25 years. That's as much as thirty times longer than an equivalent-value banknote, according to The Royal Mint.
A secure currency is a dependable currency, and that should resonate with investors and global banks. The introduction of the new coin shows that The Royal Mint and UK government is a step ahead of criminal organisations, and is ready to invest in cutting-edge tech to keep things that way.
Of course, opening up your crisps and chocolate vending machine to find people have been trading in their self-fashioned coinage for your tasty wares is a right pain in the pocket, so a new, more secure system should ensure vendors only ever receive legit coins going forward. However, to take advantage of the added layer of security iSIS brings, vending machines will have to be equipped with electro-magnetic signature detectors, and may require a refit to accommodate the new tech, and possibly even the new shape. How big a potential problem this is remains to be seen, though a public consultation ahead of any introduction into the currency circulation should ensure this is a seamless transition come 2017.