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Crowdsourcing with smart umbrellas

Crowdsourcing with smart umbrellas

smart umbrellasCollecting rain data could become accessible to anyone who is able to handle an umbrella. A researcher from Delft University of Technology created a prototype of smart umbrella with an integrated sensor that detects raindrops falling on its canvas, and using bluetooth technology, the data collected is sent via a smartphone to a computer.

Basically, using these smart umbrellas, researchers will be able to collect data more easily from thousands of people, proving to be an effective solution to the present lack of data information caused by the expensive cost of maintenance gauges.

The prototype is made of a small-sized brolly with a piezo sensor stuck under the canvas, that measures the vibrations caused by the falling of raindrops.The sensor is wired to a mobile-phone bluetooth-earpiece which transfers the information into an app, and the smartphone transfers the data to a laptop. So far, experiments have delivered motivating results, close to the ones obtained using a proper rain gauge.

Researchers are hoping that eventually this technology will be integrated in every umbrella or at least in the premium series. Therefore, a greater number of people will have the opportunity to get involved in hydrological research.

Furthermore, smart umbrellas could prove to be a solution for the current lack of resources needed to gather hydrological data within a reasonable timeframe. Basically, hundreds of moving rain gauges will provide information for better prediction of urban flooding. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that smart umbrellas will never be a substitute for properly calibrated scientific gauge.

Similarly, other groups of researchers plan to do the same thing using smart windscreens placed on cars. The windscreens will be able to automatically turn on the wipers when they detect rain, and also adjust the wipers speed according to the heaviness of the downfall.

Another feature that may be implemented  to smart umbrellas is the option to monitor levels of pollution. In this case, students from Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design have upgraded an umbrella to create a device that measures pollution. The information provided by the smart umbrella – pollutant levels, time and location data – can be uploaded in the cloud via wi-fi for further analysis.

Until now, the smart umbrellas available on the market include different features, ranging from weather prediction for the current area of the owner, to a special feature designed to prevent losing the umbrella. Would you buy such an item? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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