A new program funded by the United States Department of Defense allows nations and private companies to keep satellites safe in orbit, without bumping into each other with potential disastrous effects. The program is called Sharemind and uses the revolutionary concept of shared multi-party computation.

The project is developed by Estonian software company Cybernetica and funded by the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency with $700,000. The program is unique in that it will be able to prevent satellites from crashing into each other without having to reveal their location. Developers hope to avoid events such as the one in 2009, when the privately-owned U.S. satellite Iridium 33 collided with a Kosmos 2251 of the Russian military, destroying both satellites.

Sharemind Spy Tech Keeps Satellites Safe

The computation system Sharemind is based on allows multiple users to look at secret satellite location data without having to decrypt it. The Estonian computer scientist behind the spy tech project, Dan Bogdanov, explained that Sharemind acts like a computer that does not actually see or understand the data it processes. Unlike current computer programs, the Sharemind project can work with encrypted data.

Shared multi-party computation is relatively new and has been used more for academic purposes than for actual applications, but Sharemind is likely to make the technique more popular. The concept could be used successfully for various applications, such as compiling and analyzing financial and investment information, and allowing retailers to learn more about customers and their needs without having to reveal their identity.

A researcher with the University of Virginia is trying to apply the concept to a project aimed at developing personalized medical treatments based on genomic date, without the patients having to share their information with their insurer or drug company.

In turn, Cybernetica is planning to make available Sharemind to several Estonian government agencies to share and analyze data about citizens’ education, income and the unemployment rate while keeping their personal information private, with an end goal of aiding access to social services.

[Image via Discovery News]