More than Human Centred Design

Performance and Design Exhibition

Burglar Alarm—More Than 100 Years of Smart Textiles

Irene Posch, University of Art and Design Linz, Austria

Paper available at the ACM digital library

Burglar Alarm is an installation based on two patents formulated in the 1890s. They propose a curtain as an alarm system, suggesting, among others, a metal thread as a circuit conductor woven throughout the fabric—an early formulation of smart-textile potentials. The installation shows the patents, material samples of the circuit solutions they propose, and a recreation of the main functionality: a curtain producing an alarm when opened unexpectedly.

The installation aims at a critical and historical perspective on smart textiles, providing viewers with a tangible provocation to current narratives of innovation. It presents and performs design considerations of interactive systems from more than a hundred years ago, contextualizing smart and electronic textiles as a historical technology. The work is part of an ongoing material inquiry into metal threads, and their historic and present use in aesthetic and technical objects.