Magee boffins make code breakthrough

Secret code technology developed in Derry could be “the next breakthrough in digital media”, it’s been claimed.

A team from the University of Ulster’s Magee campus are currently showcasing their work in steganography - the science of writing hidden software messages - at the Home Office exhibition in Farnborough.

Dr Joan Condell, who leads the Derry based team behind the ‘HidInImage’ project, says digital technology has meant major advances in steganography.

“With HidInImage, digital watermarks are embedded directly into content. They are imperceptible to humans but readable by computers.

“The embedding technique used is impervious to image and data compression so the image can be copied and moved around without anyone knowing that the text exists.”

Dr Condell says HidInImage technology has great potential in a wide range of areas, including identity cards or secure tamperproof CCTV technology.

“There are very many security applications for HidInImage, such as authenticating identity to tighten security at airport checks-ins and other public access points; securing watermarking for forensic photographic and video evidence transmitting sensitive information like medical records securely; and also guaranteeing that images and video and have not been tampered with.”

Dr John MacRea, who is overseeing the commercial side of the project, says interest is growing.

He hopes the exhibition will help secure investment to establish a university spinout company to supply the growing security market.

“However since protecting the authenticity of imagery is just as important in commercial markets and indeed, even in protecting the privacy of individuals, HidInImage could be the next big breakthrough in digital media,” he says.