Skip to main content

Fabric that stores information invisibly, without electronics

A new type of smart fabric developed at the University of Washington could pave the way for jackets that store invisible passcodes and open the door to your apartment or office.
The UW computer scientists have created fabrics and fashion accessories that can store data -- from security codes to identification tags -- without needing any on-board electronics or sensors.
Using magnetic properties of conductive thread, University of Washington researchers are able to store data in fabric. In this example, the code to unlock a door is stored in a fabric patch and read by an array of magnetometers.
As described in a paper presented Oct. 25 at the Association for Computing Machinery's User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST 2017), they leveraged previously unexplored magnetic properties of off-the-shelf conductive thread. The data can be read using an instrument embedded in existing smartphones to enable navigation apps.
"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 in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. "You can think of the fabric as a hard disk -- you're actually doing this data storage on the clothes you're wearing."
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 UW researchers realized 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," said Gollakota. 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 UW researchers also created fashion accessories like a tie, belt, necklace and wristband and decoded the data by swiping a smartphone across them.
They used conventional sewing machines to embroider fabric with off-the-shelf conductive thread, whose magnetic poles start out in a random order. By rubbing a magnet against the fabric, the researchers were able to physically align the poles in either a positive or negative direction, which can correspond to the 1s and 0s in digital data.

Like hotel card keys, the strength of the magnetic signal weakens by about 30 percent over the course of a week, though the fabric can be re-magnetized and re-programmed multiple times. In other stress tests, the fabric patch retained its data even after machine washing, drying and ironing at temperatures of up to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is in contrast to many smart garments today that still require on-board electronics or sensors to work. That can be problematic if you get caught in the rain or forget to detach those electronics before throwing them in the washing machine -- a potential barrier to widespread adoption of other wearable technology designs.
The team also demonstrated that the magnetized fabric could be used to interact with a smartphone while it is in one's pocket. Researchers developed a glove with conductive fabric sewn into its fingertips, which was used to gesture at the smartphone. Each gesture yields a different magnetic signal that can invoke specific actions like pausing or playing music.
"With this system, we can easily interact with smart devices without having to constantly take it out of our pockets," said lead author Justin Chan, an Allen School doctoral student.
In the team's tests, the phone was able to recognize six gestures -- left flick, right flick, upward swipe, downward swipe, click and back click -- with 90 percent accuracy. Future work is focused on developing custom textiles that generate stronger magnetic fields and are capable of storing a higher density of data.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Google.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Amazon plans to lay off about 10,000 employees starting this week

Amazon.com Inc is planning to lay off about 10,000 people in corporate and technology jobs starting as soon as this week, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The cuts will focus on the e-commerce giant's devices unit, which houses voice-assistant Alexa, as well as its retail division and human resources, according to the report, which also said the total number of layoffs remains fluid. The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. As of Dec. 31 last year, Amazon had about 1,608,000 full-time and part-time employees. Amazon joins a bandwagon of U.S. companies making deep cuts to its employee base to brace for a potential economic downturn. Rad also:  Tech Boot Camp: Cadbury Nigeria Empowers over 9000 Kids Last week, Facebook-parent Meta Platforms said it would cut more than 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce, to rein in costs. (Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Prices of Maize, Rice and other food commodities to rise in December, 2022 – Survey

One of Nigeria’s commodities market players, AFEX has forecasted a surge in prices of six food commodities, namely maize, paddy rice, sorghum, soybean, cocoa and sesame by the end of December 2022 to the first half of 2023. AFEX’s forecast is contained in its 2022 Wet Season Crop Production Report unveiled at a hybrid event hosted at the firm’s head office in Abuja on Wednesday. The report said maize which faces a projected decline in production levels of up to 14% will reach a higher average price point ranging between N214, 980/metric ton ($486.72) and N220,000/metric ton ($498.09) by the end of the fourth quarter (Q4) 2022. According to the report, this is compared to an average price of ($475.97) N210, 229/metric ton in Q4 2021, and projected that soybean price will rise by 6% by May 2023. David Ibidapo, AFEX head of market data and research who presented the report said annual crop production research seeks to provide robust market intelligence for agriculture value chain player

Photos: Papa Ajasco opens baby factory

Papa Ajasco & Company, Nigeria’s Most Watched TV Comedy, has commenced a new season of amusing adventures, including a story in which Papa Ajasco, Pa James, Miss Pepeye, Boy Alinco, and Mama Ajasco establish and operate an illegal ‘Baby Factory’; with hilarious consequences. According to the Managing Director of WAP,Wale Adenuga Jr.,“This new season of PAPA AJASCO & COMPANY is packed with several entertaining stories. They really get themselves into some tight situations; but these experiences always leave them, as well as the viewers,with new important lessons and of course uncontrollable laughter.”