Anti-Theft Fabric Raises the Alarm

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Try getting out of this web, would-be thieves. German textile researchers have created an inexpensive anti-theft system out of smart fabric. Its threads link to a hidden alarm.

Research associate Erik Simon at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration in Berlin led the development of the system, made from a fine lattice of conductive threads. These silver-coated threads are connected to a microcontroller that detects when the fabric has been cut. Any cut prompts an alarm to go off.

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Simon and his colleagues say the new system could be used protect buildings, bank vaults and especially trucks with canvas that's vulnerable to thieves, according to the Institute. The fabric could be an added protective layer on a roof, on rafters and even used in combination with pressure sensors along along the floor.

Standard materials can be used to make the conductive parts, and the conductive thread can easily be incorporated into polyester that the textile industry already uses for fabrics. That should make the anti-theft fabric affordable and easy to produce in different sizes.

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The researchers say the current running through the threads is too weak to hurt humans or animals that inadvertently encounter it. But it's still strong enough to keep working after undergoing a battery of tests at the Institute. The fabric made it through testing in a washing machine and was exposed to extreme humidity and temperatures for long durations.

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"It didn’t fail once," Simon said in a release from the Institute. High-tech security systems aren't easy for everyone to obtain, especially when it comes to cost. Cheap smart fabric that can stand in for fancy cameras and sensors sounds like a potential win. Thieves won't see it coming.

Photo: This anti-theft fabric has conductive threads and a processor. Credit: Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration