Fujitsu claims breakthrough in hiding data in images

A steganographic technique developed by Fujitsu will allow a 12-digit number to be hidden within printed material, and accessed by a camera phone or PDA

Fujitsu has developed a method of embedding data invisibly within printed pictures.

The procedure, commonly known as steganography, will allow numerical information to be hidden within a colour image and accessed via a camera.

Steganograghy involves altering an image in a way that cannot be perceived by the human eye, but which can be detected electronically. Fujitsu's technique can apparently hide a 12-digit number in a 1cm square.

This would allow data such as phone numbers or a URL to be planted into a poster, a magazine advert or business card. To extract the information, a user would just have to point their camera phone or PDA at the image -- as long as the device was configured to find the hidden message.

Fujitsu says that consumers could even use its steganographic procedure to add embedded information to personal photos, and print them out at home.

The Japanese manufacturer is now working to make its procedure more user-friendly. It is also keen to collaborate with mobile phone companies and content providers, in an attempt to get the technology to market.

Fujitsu is claiming that this is the first time that technology has been developed to hide numerical data within printed images, but many other IT companies are also working on steganography.

At Intel's IDF show last year, ZDNet UK saw a demonstration of a similar technique running on the chipmaker's reference mobile phone platform.