Researchers develop digital watermarking for images

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Researchers at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) at Ulster University have developed a secure digital watermarking technology for images, called ’HidInImage’.

Dr Joan Condell, who leads the research team at the ISRC, said digital technology has meant major advances in steganography — the science of writing hidden software messages in such a way that only the sender and intended recipient realise they exist.

’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.’

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

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

Dr John MacRea from Ulster’s Office of Innovation, who is taking the commercial lead on the HidInImage project, said the ISRC’s research into the security of digital technologies has already generated a lot of commercial interest.