Scientists including one of Indian-origin have created fabrics and fashion accessories that can store data—from security codes to identification tags—without needing any on-board electronics or sensors.The data can be read using an instrument embedded in existing smartphones to enable navigation apps, according to a paper presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST 2017) in Quebec, Canada.
“This is a completely electronic-free design, which means you can iron the smart fabric or put it in the washer and dryer,” said senior author Shyam Gollakota, Associate Professor at the University of Washington.
“You can think of the fabric as a hard disk—you’re actually doing this data storage on the clothes you’re wearing,” Gollakota said.
To create the smart fabric, the researchers leveraged magnetic properties of off-the-shelf conductive thread.
Most people today combine conductive thread—embroidery thread that can carry an electrical current—with other types of electronics to create outfits, stuffed animals or accessories that light up or communicate.
But the researchers realised that this off-the-shelf conductive thread also has magnetic properties that can be manipulated to store either digital data or visual information like letters or numbers.
This data can be read by a magnetometer, an inexpensive instrument that measures the direction and strength of magnetic fields and is embedded in most smartphones.
“We are using something that already exists on a smartphone and uses almost no power, so the cost of reading this type of data is negligible,” Gollakota said.
In one example, they stored the passcode to an electronic door lock on a patch of conductive fabric sewn to a shirt cuff.
They unlocked the door by waving the cuff in front of an array of magnetometers.
The researchers said they also created fashion accessories like a tie, belt, necklace and wristband and decoded the data by swiping a smartphone across them.
Picture courtesy: Alamy