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Digital watermarking breakthrough
A technique to improve computer security developed at the University of Ulster is to be sold on the open market.
HidInImage has secured funding to sell its digital watermarking innovations.
The system could be used by police crime scene managers to send evidence like an image of a captured van to court concealed within a less sensitive photograph to protect it from being intercepted.
It may be used for anything from farm animal identification to banking by hiding text or pictures.
Professor Paul McKevitt of the University said: "With society so dependent on computer technology, providing additional ways of authentication and verification to improve security can only be of immense value."
The method, steganography, allows the hiding of messages in a carrier like an image. This can be sent to someone without anyone knowing that the message exists. The ultimate goal is to conceal the existence of the secret message.
HidInImage is a security spin out company of the University of Ulster. Its team is based at the Magee campus. The work has been led by Dr Joan Condell and Dr Kevin Curran. According to Dr Condell, digital watermarking is a well-known technology that can be used to hide personal or sensitive data in security in digital imagery.
She added: "However, the watermarking technique that we have developed is significantly more impervious to image and data compression than any previously known methods. This means that the encoded image can be copied and moved around without losing the hidden image.
"Our watermarks cannot be seen by the human eye but they can be identified and decoded by our algorithms alone, hence the name HidInImage."
The researchers have international patents pending for the technology.