Innovation That Matters

Smart Fabric

Washable smart fabric uses magnetic thread to store data

Work & Lifestyle

By using the inherent magnetic capabilities of conductive thread, scientists created an electronic-free fabric able to unlock doors and store passwords.

Computer scientists from the University of Washington (UW) discovered that the built-in magnetic capabilities of conductive thread can store ID and security data. Currently, many wearables incorporate some type of electric current, making the items relatively fragile when compared to everyday clothing such as ties and t-shirts. By removing the need for electronic components, items of clothing using the magnetic threads can be washed at high temperatures, dried in a machine and ironed.

When paired with the magnetometer built into most smart devices to enable navigation apps, the thread provides an inexpensive and easy means for transporting, storing and using identification data. Although the threads currently lose approximately 30 percent of their magnetic strength over a period of about a week, they can be re-magnetized and reprogrammed. The research team is now working on finding ways to increase the strength of the magnetic signal, as well as embedding a higher density of data into the thread.

As wearables advance in comfort and capability, they also help to increase general accessibility. Examples of this that have recently been featured by Springwise include a glasses add-on that improves situational awareness for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, and a bionic smart glove that increases hand strength for the wearer. Which parts of the body have so far been underserved in the development of wearable technology?




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