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February 24, 2004
Umbrella.net: Ad hoc social networks
and Katherine Moriwaki
are developing an ad hoc mesh network, both technological and social, with devices embedded in umbrellas
. As a result, the network only appears with the "coincidence of need" that occurs with the first drop of rain.
In Dublin, Ireland, rainfall is frequent and unpredictable. Often individuals carry umbrellas with them in case they are caught in a downpour. It is common to witness during a sudden and unexpected flash of rain, a sea of umbrellas in the crowded streets sweeping open as raindrops first hit the ground. This collective, yet isolated act of opening an umbrella creates a network of individuals who are connected through similarity of action, and intent. The manifestation of open umbrellas on the street could be tied to a temporary network which is activated through routers and nodes attached to the umbrella, which operate only while it rains. While the coincidence of need exists, the network operates. When the necessity of action and intent ceases, it disappears. We believe these transitory networks can add surprise and beauty to our currently fixed communication channels.
The UMBRELLA.net system works with a hardware and software component that is integrated into the design of a typical umbrella. By embedding the system into an everyday object, our intent is to lessen the point of entry for people using the system as they are already familiar with the object and how it works. The prototype will include handheld PocketPC (iPaq) computers that will interface to the umbrella and only communicate with each other when the need exists: ie. When rain is present and other nodes exist in close proximity.
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