Smart Fabrics Make for Enhanced Living

October 26, 2004 | Source: New

Imagine a handbag that warns you if you are about to forget your umbrella or wallet, and which you can later turn into a scarf that displays today’s pollution levels.

A variety of information-providing or environment-sensing objects like these could be possible using a system of computerized fabric patches developed by MIT engineers.

Each patch contains a functional unit of the system — a microprocessor and memory plus either a radio transceiver, a sensor, a microphone, batteries or a display. The patches are joined using Velcro, which has been modified to enable electrical as well as physical connections. Wires from the circuit board are attached to silver-coated contacts in the Velcro. In this way, data and power can flow from one module to the next. Using square or triangular patches the user can fashion useful objects such as bags, belts, curtains or scarves.