Smart Fabric Might Be the Key to the Future

Charlotte Kuijpers
December 5th 2017

Conductive thread has been around for a while and it became the backbone of many smart textile creations, such as this one. Its versatility has been proven once again in a paper by a team of researchers from the University of Washington. They designed a smart fabric able to encode data readable by a magnetometer, like the one in your phone, without the need of electronics or batteries.

Using the built-in magnetometer, magnetic textile can be used for gesture control. In 2014, iOS developer Ivo Leko already made a video on real-time magnet position detection by an iPhone. He suggested the development of virtual keyboards, by using gloves with magnets. Magnetic embroidery could be a very classy realization of this idea.

Magnetized thread can be used for more than just smartphone applications. It is able to store data, by creating a binary code out of differing positive and negative polarity on the fabric. The same principle is implemented by creating a 2D image on a piece of conducting cloth. This can originate a code similar to a QR code, but it may also exist of letters forming a word. Multiple magnetometers put together create a “scanner” or “detector” capable of reading the invisible code embedded in the smart fabric. This could be used for authentication, for example to open a door.

For the key-losers among us, embroidering the password to enter your house on your sleeve might be a clever idea. But don’t forget to stay away from magnets!

Source: MIT Technology Review

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