Keeping yourself dry could also help scientists prevent urban flooding.
Umbrellas are a tried and tested way to keep yourself dry, but what if you were able to do your part for science every time you went out in the rain? Rolf Hut, a scientist from Delft University of Technology, thinks umbrellas could be used to crowdsource information that would prevent urban flooding, and other weather related disasters.
Hut has already devised a prototype umbrella that can detect raindrops falling on its canvas with nothing more than a simple sensor, and a Bluetooth connection to your phone. As the number of scientific gauges continues to plummet, Hut believes umbrellas could be their replacement.
“Eventually every umbrella would come with this technology, or at least premium umbrellas would. 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.”
All of this is related to Hydrology, the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth. Despite the obvious importance of water in our lives, it’s an area of science that is lacking.
Dr Chris Kidd, an associate research scientist at Nasa, explains it clearly.
If you were to combine the collecting area of all the instruments capable of providing near real-time data to the world’s meteorological agencies, you would have trouble filling the centre circle of a soccer pitch. It is that bad.
Sensor-equipped umbrellas offer one solution, which would mean hundreds of gauges transmitting real-time data when it rains, as opposed to the delayed information that comes to traditional stations.
Another suggestion from Kidd, is to improve the networks that are already in place by making local farmers responsible for the gauges.
In the Sahel, for example, there’s an interesting project where they’re paying farmers for the data, and to make sure the rain gauge keeps operating. These farmers also get paid for the quality of the data.
The movement of water is an undeniably important issue, especially as it becomes less and less accessible. Whether we improve our understanding through better management of the existing networks, or create an entirely new one is yet to be seen, but umbrellas seem like a smart and cost-effective way to do it.