Imagine for a moment that you’re a thief bent on stealing something really valuable – is a piece of cloth really going to seem like a dangerous barrier? It might be just that once the smart fabric developed at Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM makes its way into real-world settings. The fabric is made of regular fibers on regular weaving equipment, but it has a couple of key differences. First, there is a network of silver-coated conductive threads running through the fabric and connected to a microcontroller. Secondly, this bad-ass fabric can tell you if it’s been cut – and precisely where the cut is.
The advance in secure textiles could be used in a very wide number of settings. It could be built into the walls of banks or museums, or used to cover valuable loads in trucks. The electric current passing through the fabric is so weak that it would not harm humans or animals near it (or even cutting through it), but it is just strong enough to sense a disruption in the energy. As long as the fabric measures at least one meter square, it can be scaled to any size – and it only costs about as much as a regular piece of fabric of the same size. Even repeated washing, extreme temperatures and high humidity can’t dampen the usefulness of the researchers’ futuristic new fabric.