Data Storage in Clothes without Electronics

The researchers have developed fabrics and fashion accessories that can store data — from identification tags to security codes — without requiring any on-board sensors or electronics.

In one instance, they stored the passcode to an electronic door lock on a piece of conductive fabric stitched to a shirt cuff. They unlocked the door by waving the cuff before an array of magnetometers.

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. 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.

This is contrary to many smart garments today that still need on-board sensors or electronics to function. That can be difficult if one gets drenched in the rain or forgets to detach those electronics prior to putting them in the washing machine — a potential obstacle to extensive adoption of other wearable technology designs.

In testing, the phone was able to identify six gestures with 90% accuracy.

  • Right flick
  • Left flick
  • Downward swipe
  • Upward swipe
  • Click
  • Back click

Future research aims at developing tailored textiles that produce stronger magnetic fields and can store a higher density of data.

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