Dropped calls, snail-slow internet and spotty service may all be headaches of the 21st century, but a study by Ohio State University researchers says a newfangled device sewn into clothes may put an end to wireless gadget woes.
Using metallic thread, researchers secured antennas made of light and flexible layers of plastic film directly into clothing, with hotspots placed on the chest, back and both shoulders. A computer-controlled device placed in a belt then automatically honed in on whichever point received the best signal at that moment, successfully alternating points as the test subjects walked around transmission obstacles like doorways and walls, according to the journal report published in IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters.
Lab tests revealed an impressive signal strength four times that of today’s standard military antenna.
While the concept isn’t a new one—foot soldiers have long donned unwieldy antennas to maintain communication in times of war—the addition of a computer-controlled tracking device allows for far sleeker and smaller antennas, plus the hands-free bonus of not having to hold an antenna.
According to the researchers, the intent of the study was to improve communication tools for soldiers and first-responders like fire fighters and police officers. But with lab workers playing with sewing machines to construct options, it begs the question: might your next Marc Jacobs bag come with sewn-in antenna technology that makes your iPhone run flawlessly?
John Volakis, the Roy & Lois Chope Chair Professor and Director of the ElectroScience Laboratory at Ohio State, says it’s a bet he would take.
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