Smart umbrella measures air quality as it shelters you from the rain

A new project has produced an umbrella that’s smart in its application, its appearance and its aims – as you’re huddled beneath it in the rain, it measures and records air quality in the immediate vicinity to inform you about pollution.

Designed by a team of students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, the ‘sensing umbrella’ works by measuring carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in the surrounding air using an in-built sensor array. As a visual aid, LED lights interpret this in real-time and change colour and rhythm accordingly. All of the data is automatically timestamped, geographically located and logged onto pollution databases for further analysis.

Of course, pollution indicators are already in place to cover large areas such as cities – but the sensing umbrella allows data from much smaller, more specific areas to be collected, with the potential to create pollution ‘maps’ from shared information. It also gives people the opportunity to see for themselves the polluted air that they may be breathing in every day.

‘The whole idea behind this project was to enable people to be more aware of the environment they’re living in, and at the same time enable them to contribute to the larger scientific community,’ says Akarsh Sanghi, one of the umbrella’s creators, in this video.

The team hope to make an impact by raising awareness about air quality in the local community, then making recommendations for improvement. They’re keeping the project open-sourced to attract other developers too.

The success of the sensing umbrella coincides with news this week that London’s Oxford Street, the infamous shopping heaven (or hell, depending on how you look at it) is the most toxic place on Earth, with pollution levels more than 11 times the EU limit. I don’t think we need the sensor umbrella to know that’s seriously dirty!

Sadie Hale