There’s always some new invention to ponder these days, and with technology advancing at such an incredible pace there are new concepts and ideas to consider every day – some more unusual than others. They infect every industry, and password management is no different. While we’re on the brink of new technologies – like facial and voice recognition – we’re even seeing the likes of iris or retina scanning that could end up replacing passwords.
A few years ago all these alternative passcodes would have seemed like they were taken out of a sci-fi novel, but this latest addition to the ever-growing list of authentication methods – the smart textile – is kookier than all of them. It’s safe to say that the future is right upon us.
Wearable Passwords: This Must Be a Joke, Right?
As a matter of fact, smart fabric already exists and it’s been in use for many years now. Just think of children’s toys that communicate with the kids or, better yet, clothes that can glow in the dark; they all use the same technology smart textile is based on, namely conductive thread.
The only difference is that ‘smart’ clothes made out of conductive thread still need a power source to do their magic, which means that washing or ironing them is strictly out of question.
But there is one thing developers haven’t thought about before: magnetizing the conductive thread. This is exactly what a team of researchers, led by Shyam Gollakota, did at Washington University, proving that clothes containing conductive thread can store digital data or visual information without the need to connect it to a power source. From this point on it was only a matter of time before somebody connected this tech to the idea that these magnetized threads can store passwords and passcodes as well.
The Technology Behind Smart Textile Explained
How Does It Work?
The best thing about using a fabric made out of conductive thread to store passwords is that manipulating the material to contain the right digital information is ridiculously simple. All researchers needed to do was to manipulate the polarity of the magnetized fabric with magnets to encode short strings of 0s and 1s – binary codes that can be interpreted by computers and smartphones.
In fact, smartphones are already equipped with magnetometers – which is the technology necessary to read data sewn into fabric – for orientating the device with applications that are based on such a feature.
And these magnetometers can easily be turned into neat identification devices, whether they are used separately like card readers or left in the phone to be paired with an authentication app. In other words, once the technology is refined – and available to the general public – it will become a nice addition to such authentication methods as the PIN code, the iris scanner, facial recognition, voice ID, and heartbeat passwords.
Usable and Durable
Although the idea of opening doors or unlocking phones with our shirts is pretty exciting, the technology is still far from being considered ready for everyday use. Researchers have managed to solve the biggest problems of patches of smart thread – now they can withstand washing and ironing – but the data-filled fabric still suffers from the same problem as smart cards: the data degrades over time. Additionally, the amount of data that can be stored in conductive thread is relatively small, not to mention the fact that patches created from these threads could easily turn otherwise beautiful clothes into silly looking rags.
However, it’s safe to say that the technology does indeed work and test results regarding its usefulness and durability are more than promising. So once patches made out of conductive thread are made more appealing to the eye and will be able to store more data than just a series of letters and numbers, we can soon have all our passwords, credentials and other electronic documents literally up our sleeve.
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