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Smart fabric design uses magnetics

November 8th, 2017 / By: / What's New?

New technology may put the ability to unlock your home or office with your clothes. Scientists at the University of Washington have found a way to create a smart fabric using conductive thread, without using additional electronics. According to information from the University, it’s the first smart fabric design that harnesses the ferromagnetic properties of conductive thread.

And that’s the “secret ingredient.” By manipulating the polarity of magnetized fabric in cloth patches the team was able to encode different types of data, including 2D images and bit strings. These bits can be read by swiping a smartphone across the fabric, using its inbuilt magnetometer. Results show that magnetized fabric retains its data even after washing, drying and ironing.

Associate professor Shyam Gollakota, Ph.D., and Ph.D. candidate Justin Chan, department of computer science and engineering, led the research to develop a glove made of magnetized fabric, using it to perform six gestures in front of a smartphone, with a classification accuracy of 90.1 percent. Using magnetized thread, the research team was also able to create fashion accessories, such as necklaces, ties, wristbands and belts, with data storage capabilities, as well as enable authentication applications.

They also found out that magnetized fabric won’t lose data when washed, ironed or dried. While the smart fabric patches created by the researchers lost around 30 percent of their original magnetic field strength after a week, they were able to be re-magnetized and retain at least partial field strength for months.

The researchers also say that this technology has an advantage over RFID technology because any smartphone with a magnetometer has the capability of accessing the data. RFID tags require specialized readers that fit the tag’s specific frequency, and they are significantly more expensive.

Video: Paul J. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington.