Researchers from Germany have developed a new kind of anti-theft system based on a woven fabric that triggers an alarm when penetrated by intruders.
The smart fabric enables the exact location of the break-in to be identified, and is significantly cheaper than other burglary detection systems.
It is also suitable as an invisible means of protecting entire buildings.
Thieves are unlikely to appreciate this fabric, which looks innocuous, but in fact incorporates a fine web of conductive threads connected to a microcontroller that detects warning signals emitted when the fabric is cut and triggers an alarm.
This system can be used to protect buildings, bank vaults, and trucks against even the most wily of intruders.
The smart fabric was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin in collaboration with the Technische Universitat Berlin and ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions GmbH.
IZM project manager Erik Simon can envision a whole swathe of potential applications, particularly where there is a need to provide protection over a large surface area.
"The fabric could be used to implement an entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings," he said.
For example, the textile could be laid on the rafters of a roof as an additional layer to the vapor barrier underlay, underneath the tiles, the report said.
This might be a good solution for museums housing valuable collections, or jeweler's shops, or banks.