The University of Ulster spin out company HidinImage has secured additional funding to commercialise its research into digital watermarking.

A team of Ulster academics, based at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at Ulster's Magee campus, have developed digital watermarking technology to ensure the security of transmitted data through hidden software messages.

HidinImage is the product of a decade of research into steganography - a science of writing hidden software messages in such a way that only the sender and intended recipient realise they exist.

It was the first university spin out company in Northern Ireland to get funding from the Ulster Innovation Fund, part of the NISPO fund (Northern Ireland Spin Outs) managed by eSynergy.

NISPO is an initiative launched by Invest Northern Ireland to provide financial support to start-ups and businesses in the early stages of development.

Now, HidinImage has secured an additional £125,000 in the second round of NISPO funding, with additional support from a private investor.

HidinImage CEO Dr Joan Condell says HidinImage's digital watermarking technology has many potential applications, such as hiding personal or sensitive data in photo images, identity cards and other digital media.

Condell said HidinImage technology could be used in many different situations, such as authenticating identity to tighten security at airport checks-ins and other public access points, security watermarking for forensic photographic and video evidence, and for transmitting sensitive information like medical records securely.

It could also be used to strengthen protection of copyright, she said.

The digital watermarks are embedded directly into the content of a digital image so, although the watermarks can't be seen by the human eye, they can be recognised and read by enabled software and/or hardware for authenticating, tracking or monitoring purposes.

Condell said: "The embedding technique used by HidinImage is impervious to image and data compression so the image can be copied and moved around without anyone knowing that the text exists."