Smart T-shirts Should Save Our Passwords

//Smart T-shirts Should Save Our Passwords

Again forgot the password for the office computer or the key card for the door? This is no longer a problem. At least for those who wear a certain T-shirt. Because, according to researchers at the University of Washington, our clothes will become password memory in the future.

Pretty much all garments should be really smart in the coming years. At least when it comes to fashion tech developers and designers. However, a whole phone does not have to be invisibly sewn into the jacket, or a pair of jogging pants with sensors must continuously record our movement pattern and running speed.

A research group at the University of Washington intends to have intelligent garments filled with comparatively casual but already day-to-day functions, thus making our digital life a bit more comfortable. They want to have found a way to turn clothes into a portable password store.

The engineers and IT researchers around Shyam Gollakota from Networks and Mobile Systems Lab have developed Smart Fabrics intelligent substances. This is electrically conductive yarn, as it is already used for touch-sensitive gloves.

By treatment with permanent magnets, the material develops ferromagnetic properties. So it can work like magnetic tapes or floppy disks and record digital data. Although only comparatively small amounts of data could be loaded onto the fabric – enough to accommodate passwords or access data.

A permanent power supply by batteries would not be necessary for conservation. In a series of tests, the developers were already able to load chains of binary codes as positive and negative charges into individual pieces of fabric. These can be read out with commercially available magnetometers.

In a test, the IT researchers have entered a digital key in the sleeve of a shirt and thus opened an electric door lock with a suitable reader. Likewise, they have made a tie, a belt and a bracelet from the smart fabric.

The data strings were successfully read with the integrated magnetometer of a Nexus 5X. In a glove, the scientists have sewn parts of the substance in the fingertips again. It would have succeeded by the relatively strong magnetization as a non-contact motion control for a smartphone.

If it comes to Shyam Gollakota, the possibilities of use would be manifold. Because magnetized material could store data stored in just about any garment – and that’s very cheap compared to RFID chips and other technologies.

Wash, an iron or a tour in the dryer would not harm the data. However, magnetic charge loses 28 to 36 percent in strength over a week. This also reduces the readability and consistency of the data strings. “However, the fabric parts have never completely demagnetized,” the researchers write in their study. “Even after a few months, a magnetic field was still detectable.”

Likewise, the original strength would be restored by re-treatment with permanent magnets. Thus, T-shirts or work suits in the future could indeed function as a key card. That a T-shirt but can soon represent a real alternative to 1Password or similar tools? That’s rather doubtful. It would not be a safe place to keep our passwords if it is enough to wipe a lock, open a door or unlock a computer.

By |2018-01-12T12:12:39+00:00January 12th, 2018|Technology|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Ogeto Omwancha January 14, 2018 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Amazing article and interesting how far digital technology has advanced. It is a fact that storing passwords and data is always a very cumbersome task. We have come a long way from finger print to face recognitions. It’s an interconnected world out there, and while it might be more convenient if one company acted as the gatekeeper for the array of services we subscribe to, overall it would probably mean that the technology of the future would be boring and homogenized. The problem is that when you subscribe to a lot of different services, you’re usually also forced to generate a lot of different passwords. This is actually a good thing. After all, your bank information is likely linked to many of accounts, as well as your purchase history, media browsing habits, and a slew of other private information that you’d prefer protected. Connected fabrics and clothing have been around for many years, touted by artists, Innovative startups, and, in some cases, large companies (see Google’s Project Jacquard and its partnership with Levi’s). They still haven’t caught on with most consumers, though, for a variety of reasons, ranging from high prices for limited functionality to concerns about durability (since, presumably, you’d like to eventually throw even a connected garment in the wash). How do you balance the necessity of highly secure passwords with the utility of easily recalling them all? The only secure password is one that you can’t remember, but there are times when you can’t use a password manager and need to rely on your memory or maybe a T-shirt. Well, I guess time will tell.

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