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Smart Fabrics sans On-board Electronics Developed to Store Data

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Published on : Nov 01, 2017

World over, a number of wearable technologies are being developed for designing smart fabrics capable of performing a variety of amazing functions. But, a key aspect that hinders their widespread adoption is the use of on-board electronics and sophisticated sensors, which require care and caution. However, a recent breakthrough explores the hidden potential of magnetic properties shown by conductive threads to design fabric patches that can either store data or can be invoked to perform specific actions. Computer scientists at the University of Washington developed a number of smart garments and fashion accessories using off-the-shelf conductive thread and demonstrated that these can be made to store digital data or visual information using only magnetometers.

The researchers presented a paper detailing their study at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology on October, 2017.

Smart Fabrics to Use Inexpensive Technology like Magnetometers

The design innovations that does away with the need of elaborate on-board electronic was long sought after by developers of wearable technology. The scientists demonstrated that the smart fabrics can be made to decode data with the help of an array of magnetometers via navigation apps. They showed that the smart fabrics can store personal data, notably passwords, to unlock doors.

Since magnetometers are commonly embedded in smartphones, the design is cost-effective and needs markedly small amount of power to function. In addition, smart fabrics were sewn using conventional sewing machines. The researchers also developed several fashion accessories that can be store data which can be decoded conveniently with a swipe of smartphone.

Smart Fabric to Decode Hand Gestures

In one of the experiments, the team demonstrated that a glove made using these smart fabrics can be made to interact with smartphones, even when kept in the inner recesses of the wearer’s pocket. This can be made to play music with the help of hand gestures-the tests could record smartphones to respond to six different gestures. The smart fabrics used in these wearable can be re-magnetized and re-programmed a number of times to keep the strength of the magnetic signal intact.

Work is in progress to develop custom textiles to store more data and can generate a potential magnetic field.