Smartphones, Smart TVs and now smart clothing. A new trend in 2018 may see the arrival of data storage in your shirt sleeve.

Google and Levi’s have created touch-sensitive jackets which can operate a smartphone, but new researchers claim they can create smart accessories such as ties, wristbands and belts which can store your data and allow authentication for applications.

The 'how to'

Researchers at the University of Washington have experimented with smart fabrics which could store digital data without the use of batteries or electronics. Their paper, Data Storage and Interaction using Magnetized Fabric, highlights the innovative smart fabric design that “harnesses the ferromagnetic properties of conductive thread.”

This innovation means there is no longer a need for on-board electronics and sensors. Using ground-breaking magnetic properties of conductive thread, scientists used magnetometers to read magnetic signals which corresponded to specific actions.

Smart Materials

The researchers claim three applications are made possible with these magnetised clothes. Data storage, imaging and gesture recognition could all be capable with just the swipe of a shirt cuff.

The pioneering approach to this clothing technology could be used to encode data such as door pass codes, imprint images on smart fabrics and embroider magnetised thread to link gestures with smartphones. The gesture technology had an accuracy of 90.1% and recalls data even after washing, drying and ironing. This highlights the potential durability of material technology.

However, the researchers came across a speed bump when they realised that the magnetic patches weakened over time. After a week the magnets lost between 28% to 36% of its original field strength, but never completely demagnetised.

Futuristic fashion

New and bold approaches to the science behind fabrics is not limited to data storage alone. ‘Wide Eyed with Wonder: University of Nottingham Open their Doors to the Community’ looks at how the public have been able to engage with these innovations. While the research from University of Washington is still working out its quirks, there are plenty of trendy garments available today that offer smarter possibilities.

Fashion features are popular amongst tech savvy fashionistas. This includes a Supa Powered Sports bra which boasts biometric sensors, Nadi X yoga fitness pants which comes with in-built haptic vibrations and an accompanying app synced through Bluetooth. Other garments include a smart UV protecting bikini and compression sleeves that can utilise electrocardiogram technology for health benefits.

The next steps are focused on customising textiles with stronger magnetic fields, to allow more data to be stored. Everything from our phones, fridges and now our clothes are becoming smarter, who knows what will come next?