Sharing Economy Welcomes New Player: Umbrellas

Sharing Economy Welcomes New Player: Umbrellas

UBC-Vancouver offers an easy-to-use, fully-automated umbrella borrowing service that costs nothing if you play by the rules

Leo Lutero
  • 30 september 2015

UmbraCity from the University of British Columbia-Vancouver is using automated kiosks and RFID umbrellas to make sure students don’t get wet under the rain. Borrowing an umbrella from them is simple. Just swipe an ID or card, grab and go. Returning requires just putting it back in the rack. The best part is, if you return what you borrow, the service doesn’t cost a dime.

To participate, first you have to sign up online. A credit card is pre-authorized but not charged $20. By joining in, your card number is paired up to your account and your ready to borrow.

umbracity psfk

When you need to grab an umbrella, it’s as easy as swiping your plastic on the kiosk. The automated umbrella rack will allow you to slide out an umbrella. To return, just put it in the slot end again. The umbrella will be drip-drying while waiting for the next borrower.

Watch the demonstration below:

If you return the umbrella within 48 hours, you pay nothing. If you miss the two-day grace period, you pay $2/day for a maximum of $20. Although it doesn’t say it anywhere, you can probably keep the umbrella if you’ve maxed out on the penalty fees.

Since each umbrella is uniquely tagged with RFID, you can lend it to a friend within the 48-hour period and let them return it. Should the umbrella accidentally break while in your possession, UmbraCity recycles the carcass and you don’t even have to pay a penny for the damage.

umbracity umbrella photo.png

Right now, the kiosks are only available within the UBC-Vancouver campuses. Through UmbraCity, there’s no more need to buy another umbrella if you’re caught outside during a rain, meaning less waste in the end. Because the system is conducive for quick borrowing and returns, it’s also hard to lose the umbrellas.

The project, a partnership with the UBC Alma Mater Society, charges no fixed fees and it would be interesting to see how UmbraCity can survive as a business.


+financial services
+RFID umbrellas
+sharing economy
+UBC Alma Mater Society

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