Derry teccies give new twist to ancient science

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Innovative technology developed in Derry is giving a 21st century twist to an ancient and mysterious science.

University of Ulster spin out company HidInImage, has secured funding to commercialise its digital watermarking innovations - bringing the ancient art of steganography firmly into the digital age.

Steganography - the art of writing hidden messages so that only the sender and intended recipient know they exist - has been used in various guises for centuries.

Now, thanks to their latest innovation in image processing technology, Ulster academics at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at the University’s Magee campus have developed a way to conceal and retrieve information from within digital computer files.

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.

“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 information.”

She adds: “Our watermarks cannot be seen by the human eye but they can be identified and decoded by our algorithms alone: hence the name HidInImage.”

This go-to-market methodology is endorsed by Professor Hugh McKenna, Ulster’s Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation.

He says: “Our ambition is for the high quality research and development work ongoing at University of Ulster to assist local businesses to grow and thrive.

“HidInImage presents a great opportunity for this objective; it can really add something innovative and cutting edge to business.”

One of the first local licensees to sign up is Tribus Ltd, who specialise in the management and security of workflow, particularly in law enforcement and industrial workplaces such as oil and gas and heavy engineering.