Your umbrella may soon do more than just protect your freshly groomed hair from spring drizzles. One scientist from the Netherlands wants to equip umbrellas with rain sensors to collect rain data — all to improve the accuracy and speed of weather information.
“We have radar and satellites, but we’re not measuring rain on the ground as we used to,” said Dr. Rolf Hut from Delft University of Technology, who developed this idea. “Therefore, agencies are reducing the number [of rain gauges], and that’s a problem for people who do operational water management or do research into hydrology because they don’t have the access to the data they used to.”
A piezo sensor — a device that uses the changes in the atmosphere, like pressure, and converts it into energy — is placed on the umbrella and can tell when rain is falling. The piezo sensor then collects information about the rain, sends it to an app on a smartphone via Bluetooth, which a computer then receives.
Hut isn’t alone in using technology to revolutionize weather information. Other technologies like the apps Wezzoo, Weddar and WeatherSignal all use data from mobile phone users to crowdshare local weather updates.
Technology like this could help weather forecasting become more accurate and detailed, said Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
“Crowdsourcing data for weather forecasting is likely to be one of the exciting new advances,” Bogdan told Forbes. “Data is of huge value to us and rather than [immediately] deploying new [weather] sensor systems, we should bring in this almost free source of information about changing weather conditions.”
Currently, Hut’s product isn’t in any development stage except in his own experiments. But he thinks that a crowdsourced data project can happen.
“Eventually every umbrella would come with this technology, or at least premium umbrellas would,” said Hut told the BBC. “And if you wanted to be involved, the moment you opened the umbrella, it would start sending data to your phone which uploads it to the cloud.”