Researchers Want To Collect Rain Data Through Your Umbrella

A Dutch professor has unveiled a prototype of a "smart umbrella" that uses a sensor and Bluetooth to transmit data to a computer. Unlike expensive rain gauges, hundreds of these "mobile weather stations" could provide valuable measurements much more cheaply.

What's the Latest Development?


Delft University of Technology civil engineering professor Rolf Hut has come up with an ingenious and affordable way to measure rainfall: He attached a sensor and Bluetooth earpiece to the underside of a simple umbrella. When rain strikes the open umbrella, the sensor sends data to a smartphone app, which then transmits it to a computer. Hut recently demonstrated a prototype at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna.

What's the Big Idea?

Due largely to the cost of maintenance, the number of scientific rain gauges is dwindling, says NASA official Chris Kidd, who also presented at the general assembly. Although satellites and radar can measure rainfall using sophisticated technology, the best way to verify those findings is by using ground-level data. Hut's invention is just one of several creative approaches to the problem of collecting this information. Another far more low-tech solution, says Kidd, involves "paying farmers for the data, and to make sure the rain gauge keeps operating. [They] also get paid for the quality of the data. In this way, they are invested in the gauge."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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