Smart fabric to prevent thefts?

September 11th, 2012 - 5:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Sep 11 (IANS) Researchers have developed a new kind of anti-theft system, based on a smart fabric, that will trigger an alarm when intruders try to break into a house or a building. It is cheaper than burglary detection systems.

The innocuous seeming fabric incorporates a fine web of conductive threads connected to a microcontroller that detects warning signals emitted when the fabric is cut and triggers an alarm. This system can be used to protect buildings, bank vaults, and trucks against even the most wily of intruders.

Besides, lorries parked at truck halts are particularly vulnerable to attacks by thieves who slit open the canvas tarp covering the trailer, while the driver is asleep and make off with the cargo. If the tarp were made from the smart fabric, the driver in the bunk would be immediately alerted.

The smart fabric was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, Berlin in collaboration with the Technische Universitat Berlin and ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions GmbH.

The company in Ettlingen manufactures technical textiles, among other things, and has filed a patent for the innovative fabric.

IZM project manager Erik Simon can envision a whole swathe of potential applications, particularly where there is a need to provide protection over a large surface area.

“The fabric could be used to implement an entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings,” he said, according to a Fraunhofer Institute statement.

“This method has never been used before in this kind of application,” said Simon, who describes the process as “simple and reliable”.

And this is precisely the selling point of the solution: the ability to create an entirely new product with immediately appreciable benefits using existing materials and joining techniques.

For example, the textile could be laid on the rafters of a roof as an additional layer to the vapour barrier underlay, underneath the tiles. This might be a good solution for museums housing valuable collections, or jeweller’s shops, or banks.

An alternative solution would be to integrate the fabric in concrete and blockwork walls, for instance those surrounding a bank vault. Another possibility is to use it as a backing material for floor coverings, in combination with pressure sensors that signal an alarm if an unauthorized person enters the room.

What makes this solution unique is the fact that it not only signals the presence of intruders but also indicates the precise point of forced entry.

“The electric current flowing through the fabric is so weak that it presents no danger to humans or animals,” said Simon reassuringly.

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