Alarm-triggering fabric could be burglars’ nightmare

Covering a bank vault or jewelry store entry with fabric might not seem like a way to prevent crime, but it could work with a new kind of alarm-triggering fabric developed by researchers in Germany.

The “smart” fabric looks unassuming, but is made with a fine web of conductive threads connected to a microcontroller. The microcontroller can detect when the fabric is cut and set off an alarm to alert someone to a break-in.

In addition to being significantly cheaper than other burglary detection devices, the fabric can also help responders pinpoint exactly where the break-in — ie, the location where the fabric was cut — occurred.

The innovative technology was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin in collaboration with the Technische Universität Berlin and the technical textile manufacturer ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions GmbH.

The researchers say the alarm-triggering fabric could be useful in a variety of settings. Vehicles parked overnight at truck stops, for example, are vulnerable to theft at night when drivers are sleeping: thieves can slit open the canvas tarp covering trailers and make off with the cargo.

“The fabric could be used to implement an entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings,” said IZM project manager Erik Simon.

The textile could, say, be laid on the rafters of a museum roof as an additional layer to the vapor barrier underlay, underneath the tiles. Or the fabric could be integrated into the concrete and blockwork walls surrounding a bank vault. It could also be used as a backing material for floor coverings; when combined with pressure sensors, that signal an alarm if an unauthorized person enters the room.

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