Knowledge Series 2- Microdots (Episode 1)


Microdots- a detailed study

Emergence of Microdots- from a fairly simplistic approach to solving complex problems.

Microdots are images that are reduced to sizes of microscale to prevent detection of unintended recipients. 

The microdot is a means of concealing messages (steganography) that was developed by Professor Zapp and used by German spies in the Second World War to transmit secret information. A microdot was a greatly reduced photograph of a typewritten page that was pasted over a full stop in an innocuous letter. 

After the use of microdots in world war to transmit small images, they found their application in anti-theft and anti-counterfeit space. Microdots now are used to store a Vehicle Identification number, in order to protect the vehicle parts from being stolen and reused in an illegal manner.


DataDot have pioneered microdot technology in South Africa since 2001. Before DataDot microdots were introduced into South Africa there were only two ways to identify a vehicle if its number plates were removed or changed.

  • The stamped Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The Engine Number.

Criminals, however, found it easy to modify or clone these two numbers resulting in stolen vehicles finding their way back into the used car market. Two numbers are easy to modify but changing 10,000 microscopic identifiers is a near-impossible task – that is - if all 10,000 of them can be found.

Microdots are small 1mm size dot-like structures that usually looks like black sand grains. These dots are mixed with a particular type of adhesive and sprayed on to the vehicles in case we want to prevent vehicle theft. There is an industry-standard for a minimum number of microdots to be sprayed on a vehicle. For a private four-wheeler vehicle, the designated number of microdots is 10000. For commercial vehicle, it's 5000 because commercial theft cases are less than personal vehicles. For a commercial or personal two-wheeler vehicle, the number becomes 2000.


Once mixed in a special adhesive containing a UV trace, microdots are sprayed onto a vehicle or applied onto a bicycle or valuable asset giving it its own DNA. The fitment process for a vehicle takes approximately 20 minutes. All fitted microdots are linked to vehicle details and uploaded to the Transport Department.


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