We all get caught in downpours without an umbrella every now and then. For students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, however, that will no longer be a problem. A kiosk from a new firm called UmbraCity is offering automated umbrella loans that are free for 48 hours.
UmbraCity was founded in 2013 with the aim of keeping people dry in "rainy Vancouver." The solution developed was a fully automated umbrella rental kiosk that was inspired by systems such as car-share and bike-share programs.
The first kiosks have been installed around the UBC campus. After signing for membership, users need only then swipe their membership card at a kiosk to get hold of an umbrella.
Each umbrella has a unique identifier that is read by the kiosk as it is signed out and returned, allowing UmbraCity to keep track of how long users have kept hold of them. Umbrellas can be kept at no charge for up to 48 hours. After that, you're charged CA$2 a day, up to a maximum of $20. The umbrellas can be returned to any UmbraCity kiosk.
The UmbraCity service is designed to be both convenient and sustainable, minimizing the number of cheap, low-quality umbrellas purchased when people are caught in rain showers and, thus, the number that break and end up in landfills.
The UmbraCity umbrellas themselves are billed as lightweight, high quality and resistant to strong winds. They are also said to be fully recyclable for when they come to the end of their serviceable lifespan and their bright yellow color increases pedestrian visibility.
UmbraCity was launched in September and there are five kiosks around the UBC campus. The firm intends to use this initial roll-out as a pilot study, with the results informing future roll-outs, including across the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia in the coming year.
The video below shows a demonstration of the UmbraCity machine in use.