High-density data could one day be stored in fabric patches embedded in people\u2019s clothing, say scientists at the University of Washington. Importantly, it wouldn\u2019t require electricity, so the smart-fabric could be washed or ironed just like regular clothing. That could make it more convenient than other forms of memory.\nOff-the-shelf conductive thread, which the scientists say they recently discovered can be magnetized, is being used in trials. The data is read using a simple magnometer. The conductive thread is used commercially now in gloves for operating touch screens, for example.\n\u201cYou can think of the fabric as a hard disk,\u201d said Shyam Gollakota, associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, announcing the breakthrough on the school\u2019s website at the end of last year.\u00a0\u201cYou\u2019re actually doing this data storage on the clothes you\u2019re wearing.\u201d\n\nIn tests, the engineers stored a secure-area door-passcode on conductive fabric sewn into a normal shirt sleeve like the kind one puts on every morning. Swiping the cuff over the door-mounted interface unlocked the door.\nElectronic-free storage\nWe\u2019ve seen e-textiles, or smart garments, before. They include performance-enhancing fabrics made for regulating body temperature or to control muscle movement for athletes, as well as fabrics that light up or change appearance for fun.\nBut those technologies have generally required some form of power to function \u2014 sometimes batteries or sometimes from the environment by harnessing body heat for example. Electricity, though, in clothing, is a problem in the rain and for washing. Waterproofing needs to be built in. That\u2019s hard to do.\nGollakota, however, says those things won\u2019t be an issue with his gear.\n\u201cThis is a completely electronic-free design, which means you can iron the smart fabric or put it in the washer and dryer,\u201d he says.\n\n\n \n\n\nHow data is stored in cloth\nData is encoded by polarizing single-bit cells created in a strip of embroidered, magnetized thread. The directions North and South are programmed with a magnet and correlate with a 1 and a 0 bit. The data is then read \u2014 in the experiments using a smartphone\u2019s compass function.\nUn-magnetized parts of the thread separate the symbols to stop interference. It\u2019s a \u201cpassive approach,\u201d Gollakota says in his paper co-written with Justin Chan (pdf).\nEmbedded tech\nInterestingly, we\u2019ve been hearing about on-body (or even in-body) interfaces. RFID microchips, of the kind used in pets to identify them when they get lost, are being embedded between the thumb and forefinger by enthusiastic employees at some companies keen to authenticate photocopiers without having to remember to carry a key card.\nAnd Facebook is apparently working on technology called a transcutaneous language communication (TLC)\u00a0that will let people feel incoming texts through their skin when they can\u2019t get to their phone. Words are converted into vibrations.\nMailonline wrote last month of a standard 3-D printer that can print biological sensors onto hands.\nIn the case of University of Washington\u2019s magnetic smart fabric memory \u2014 while being less intrusive for the squeamish \u2014 its future efforts are being geared towards creating more powerful magnetic fields that would be able to hold larger amounts of data.\nConceivably then, one day we might see the ultimate in a low-latency data \u2014 it being on an actual person. Now, that\u2019s an edge data center.