Smart Umbrella Tracks Air Quality While Keeping You Dry


LED lights react in real-time to raise awareness about local air conditions

Ross Brooks
  • 9 july 2014


Earlier this year, a scientist had the idea to use umbrellas as a way to collect data and prevent urban flooding, but now a team from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design wants to use the trusted accessory as a way to measure, and visualize air pollution. The Sensing Umbrella is able to measure carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels, while built-in LED lights respond to the air quality by changing color and rhythm. It’s a project that looks good, but also has plans to make an impact on people’s health around the world.

Equipped with an an Arduino Yún micro controller, the umbrella can upload timestamped and geolocated data to pollution databases. While there are already pollution indicators for entire cities, the data would make it possible to generate local maps. Apart from data collection, the umbrella also visualizes the information using flashing LED lights. Their color and sequencing changes depending on the quality of air in the immediate vicinity. This particular feature helps to raise awareness in the local community, and hopefully encourage them to do what they can to make a difference.


Saurabh Datta, Akarsh Sanghi, and Simon Herzog, the students who designed the umbrella, have already made it clear that they have no plans to form a company or monetize the idea. Instead, they want to keep everything open-source in the hope of creating a global network comprised of individuals who are willing to collect and share information related to air pollution.

Crowdsourcing is most commonly known as a way to fund creative projects that might appeal to traditional investors, but there are applications beyond that. In the same way that people use wearable technology to gather information about themselves, it’s possible for a large network of people to gather valuable information about the local environment. This can then be used to identify the most serious problems, and formulate effective solutions. Hopefully, we will continue to see more of these crowdsourced scientific projects, which might be able to come up with ways to combat climate change and other pressing environmental issues.

Sensing Umbrella

[h/t] FastCoDesign

Images by Sensing Umbrella


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