Mathematical skills pay off for academics' app venture

Prof Bill Roscoe of OxCept with his research assistant Dr Bangdao Chen

Prof Bill Roscoe of OxCept with his research assistant Dr Bangdao Chen

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

An Oxford University professor has turned a decade of research into a commercial venture.

Prof Bill Roscoe has netted $1m from the US Navy and £100,000 from the Ministry of Defence for OxCept, a software app for mobile payments.

The breakthrough makes it possible to set up ultra-secure, defence-grade connections anywhere.

It can also ‘piggy back’ on other networks, such as in internet cafes, that are not secure.

Payments can be made without swiping, card-reading, scanning or entering pass codes or account details.

Government officials, aid workers, the military or anyone needing to quickly and securely communicate using ordinary mobile phones will benefit.

It could also revolutionise the mobile payments market, for things as simple as buying a hot drink or paying for a train fare.

Prof Roscoe, who is head of computer science, and research assistant Dr Bangdao Chen used mathematical skills to develop the protocols over many years.

Isis Innovation, which helps start spin-outs from the university, teamed the professor with OxCept’s chief executive, Perry Anderson, an investment banker and graduate of the Said Business School.

Prof Roscoe said: “What we have been working on are ways of identifying someone by the context they are in, when you don’t have their mobile number, name or anything. It can be geographically based by using their position and allowing them to see where each other are on a map, without anyone else outside that network being able to see them.

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“I guess you could say it is rather like the magical Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter books.

“I am a good abstract scientist but not necessarily the person to lead a small computer science company.

“But I have always been very keen to see my research being used in the real world, because I want to make a difference.”

Tom Hockaday, managing director of Isis Innovation, said: “Prof Roscoe’s technology has been rigorously tested and peer reviewed over the last seven years by some of the world’s leading universities.

“Isis has protected this valuable intellectual property on behalf of the University of Oxford and brought together the commercial management and other experts necessary to take these security protocols to the next stage.”

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