Public verification features are part of a matrix of security features on banknotes which allow the authenticity of legitimate banknotes to be established. They are characterised by being overt and easy to verify -- no examination tool or equipment is required even though the devices themselves are invariably highly sophisticated. Recent developments, though, combine overt and covert elements which may reqire inspection tools. Traditionally, banknote issuers were reluctant to involve the general public in the checking of banknotes, preferring to rely on those employed to handle them, experts and machinery to authenticate the various (normally undisclosed) features. This has now changed as the ability to counterfeit has moved from those highly skilled in printing to anyone with a scanner and computer -- the incidence of counterfeiting has grown exponentially in the last decade.
Three techniques for what can be categorized as public verification features have been used for banknotes for many decades and continue to provide a barrier to counterfeiting: (1) the optical effects of watermarks; (2) the appearance and tactile characteristics of cylinder mould-made paper; (3) the tactile characteristics of intaglio print. Since the 1980s the emergence of threads and optically variable features have added to the available features which can be utilized on banknotes for public verification purposes. OVDs fall broadly into the two categories of diffraction and color shift. Products which utilize the former include holograms, kinegrams and other devices originated with similar techniques and bearing a variety of proprietary names, but collectively known as diffractive optically variable image devices (DOVIDs). All share the fundamental characteristic of changing in appearance according to the viewing angle, providing an effective barrier to the increasingly common use of digital reprographic technology as a counterfeiting tool as well as a simple means for verification by the man on the street. They differ, however, in the underlying technology, their specific characteristics and their functionality, which is what this paper will examine, along with their growth and usage on the world's currencies and the current technical developments and trends which are likely to affect their role in the future.