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Fujitsu technique hides data in images

Steganographic innovation can render 12-digit number invisible to eyes, clear to 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 color 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 1-centimeter square.

This would allow data such as phone numbers or a URL to be planted into a poster, a magazine advertisement or business card. To extract the information, users 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 procedure to add embedded information to personal photos and print them out at home.

The Japanese manufacturer is now working to make its procedure easier to use. It is also eager to collaborate with mobile phone companies and content providers to get the technology to market.

Fujitsu is claiming that this is the first time technology has been developed to hide numerical data within printed images, but many other IT companies are also working on steganography. A demonstration of a similar technique took place at Intel's IDF show last year, running on the chipmaker's reference mobile phone platform.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.