Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
This “smart” umbrella turns the sun’s rays into electricity to power its built-in flashlight, fan, and GPS system.
More than 3 million Muslims from around the world will make their way to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, this September. They’ll travel by bus, by plane, and many will be on foot under the blazing sun as they make the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia’s ministry of health advises pilgrims to use an umbrella, which will shield them from excessive sun exposure. But a Saudi-Palestinian company called Knowledge-Base has created an umbrella that can do so much more.
Called “Kafya,” the “smart” umbrella will collect those powerful rays and convert them into electricity through solar panels attached at the top. That electricity, which is stored in the handle, can be used to power the built-in flashlight, fan, and GPS system to help families find one another. It can also be used to charge phones and laptops via the three USB ports embedded at the bottom of the handle, creator Manal Dandis told Reuters.
Their product will come in handy over the next 10 years when, according to one study, the Hajj seasons will fall between June and September. During those months, temperatures in the area can reach well into the hundreds, and cases of heat exhaustion and sunstroke are expected to be on the rise. There were more than a thousand cases of heat exhaustion reported during the 2015 pilgrimage, plus roughly 700 cases of sunstroke and more than 1,700 cases of other heat-related problems.
Dandis and her business partner, a Saudi Arabian scientist named Kamel Badaw, are currently creating prototypes of their umbrella. They told Reuters that they’re working on getting their invention patented and finding investors before they can start marketing it.