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Title:
Weather forecasting umbrella
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A weather forecasting umbrella includes a display device in the umbrella's handle that provides a visual indication of the day's weather, such as the probability of precipitation. The display device may take the form of one or more lamps that emit a color, or flash at a varying rate, to indicate forecast weather conditions. The weather forecast that is displayed is preferably obtained using a wireless receiver built into the umbrella that receives data via a wireless paging or cell broadcast network. A display screen may be used to display forecasted information in more detail, including the likelihood of precipitation and/or the forecast high and low temperature for the day.


Inventors:
Resner, Benjamin I. (Roxbury, MA, US)
Gandhi, Pritesh V. (Boston, MA, US)
Negroponte, Nicholas (Boston, MA, US)
Dredge, Robert (Somerville, MA, US)
Rose, David L. (Cambridge, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/699314
Publication Date:
11/08/2007
Filing Date:
01/29/2007
Assignee:
Ambient Devices, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45B25/00
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Charles, Call G. (215 W. HURON ST APT 2, CHICAGO, IL, 60610-3331, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An umbrella combined with a display device forming a part of said umbrella for presenting information on weather conditions to the user of said umbrella.

2. The umbrella as set forth in claim 1 wherein said display device is an integral part of the handle of said umbrella.

3. The umbrella as set forth in claim 2 wherein said display device includes a display screen for displaying images indicative of said information on weather conditions.

4. The umbrella as set forth in claim 3 wherein said display screen displays an icon that graphically portrays at least some of said information on weather conditions.

5. The umbrella as set forth in claim 4 wherein said display screen further displays an indication of one or more forecasted temperatures.

6. The umbrella as set forth in claim 4 wherein said display screen displays an icon that graphically indicates the forecasted probability of precipitation.

7. The umbrella as set forth in claim 3 wherein said display screen displays an indication of one or more forecasted temperatures.

8. The umbrella as set forth in claim 7 wherein said one or more forecasted temperatures include the high and low temperature forecast for a given day.

9. The umbrella as set forth in claim 2 wherein said display device includes one or more visible lamps for presenting illumination that represents at least some of said information on said weather conditions.

10. The umbrella as set forth in claim 9 wherein at least some of said lamps emit light of different colors and wherein the particular color emitted is indicative of at least some of said information on said weather conditions.

11. The umbrella as set forth in claim 9 wherein at least one of said lamps emits light periodically to represent at least some of said information on said weather conditions.

12. The umbrella as set forth in claim 9 wherein at least one of said lamps emits light periodically at a repetition rate that is indicative of the forecasted probability of precipitation.

13. The umbrella as set forth in claim 1 wherein said display device includes a wireless receiver for acquiring said information from a wireless transmission network and further includes means for rendering at least selected portions of the information acquired by said receiver in perceptible form to said user.

14. The umbrella as set forth in claim 13 wherein said display device includes a wireless receiver for acquiring said information from a wireless transmission network.

15. The umbrella as set forth in claim 14 wherein said wireless network is a wireless paging network.

16. The umbrella as set forth in claim 14 wherein said wireless network employs a cellular phone network to transmit said information.

17. The umbrella as set forth in claim 16 wherein said information is transmitted using a cell broadcast protocol.

18. The umbrella as set forth in claim 14 wherein said information transmitted by said wireless transmission network to said wireless receiver is dependent upon the geographic location of said wireless receiver.

19. The umbrella as set forth in claim 18 wherein said information transmitted by said wireless transmission network to said wireless receiver includes weather forecast information for a geographic region that includes said location of said wireless receiver.

20. The umbrella as set forth in claim 13 further including a manually operated selector for selecting a particular day and means responsive to said selector for presenting information on weather conditions forecast for that particular day.

21. The umbrella as set forth in claim 1 wherein said weather information is acquired by one or more sensors which are carried with said umbrella.

22. The umbrella set forth in claim 19 wherein said one or more sensors includes a barometer.

23. The umbrella set forth in claim 20 further including means for storing previous readings from said barometer and for producing a precipitation prediction based on changes in said readings over time.

24. The umbrella set forth in claim 20 wherein one of said sensors is a thermometer.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a non-provisional of, and claims the benefit of the filing date of, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/763,861 filed on Jan. 31, 2006.

This application is also a continuation in part of, and claims the benefit of the filing date of, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/247,780 filed Sep. 19, 2002 and published as U.S. Patent Application Publication 2003/0076369 on Apr. 24, 2003. Application Ser. No. 10/247,780 was a non-provisional of Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/323,493, filed Sep. 19, 2001, Ser. No. 60/358,272, filed Feb. 20, 2002, and Ser. No. 60/398,648 filed Jul. 25, 2002.

This application is also a continuation in part of, and claims the benefit of the filing date of, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/149,929 filed on Jun. 10, 2005 which is a non-provisional of U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/578,629 filed Jun. 10, 2004 and is a continuation in part of the above-noted U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/247,780.

The disclosures of the above-identified applications are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a weather forecasting display built into an umbrella.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As used herein, the term “umbrella” refers to handheld portable devices that are easily unfolded to protect the user from adverse or unpleasant weather, usually from rain, but also for sun protection. While some umbrellas are small and portable and can be reasonably stowed in a backpack, purse, or briefcase, even these compact umbrellas are sufficiently unwieldy that most people don't carry them continuously. Instead, umbrellas are often only carried if the user believes there is going to be a need. Typically, people decide whether or not to carry an umbrella with them when leaving home in the morning.

To aid in this decision, many umbrella users employ various available weather forecasting services or devices, such as weather reports on TV, radio, or the Internet, or commercially available weather forecasting devices that employ local sensors to make determinations of precipitation likelihood. If any of these trusted sources of weather prediction information indicate that the user of an umbrella would be advantageous, the user is more likely to take an umbrella with them when departing for trip outside.

Weather Forecasting

Weather forecasts are typically obtained in one of two ways. The first utilizes advanced sensing technologies such as real-time satellite imagery, doppler radar, weather balloons, and powerful computer processing to predict the weather, of for five to ten days in advance. These forecasting services often employ a staff of trained professional meteorologists, and often receive data from governmental organizations such as the National Weather Service (NWS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users obtain these forecasts from these services by watching television, listening to the radio, or viewing weather forecasts on a commercial or government website that makes this content available. Users can also have this information emailed to them, or sent as a text message to their cell phone. This first, advanced method will here be called a “satellite forecasting”.

The second method of obtaining a weather forecast employs a local sensor to make 12-24 hour weather predictions for that particular location. One of the simplest such devices is a barometer, which measures atmospheric pressure. Low pressure and falling pressure is generally associated with increased likelihood of storms, while high pressure is a good predictor of fair weather. Therefore measuring barometric pressure can indicate weather conditions for the next 12-24 hours. More advanced local weather forecasting stations may also monitor trends in temperature and/or humidity when making local forecasts of probable precipitation. This second method will here be called a “local forecasting”.

The results of local forecasting are displayed to users in a variety of ways. Barometric, pressure is often displayed as a needle directly connected to an expanding bladder that responds to changes in air pressure. Digital barometers typically employ a LCD display, either with calibrated numbers, or with icons representing the likelihood of precipitation associated with that particular barometric pressure. Similarly, temperature is often displayed on a dial driven by a heat-sensitive bimetallic strip, the fluid level of a thermometer, or a digital readout on a LCD screen.

Each type of forecasting technique has advantages and disadvantages. Satellite forecasting tends to be more accurate, longer range, and can be obtained for virtually any location in the world. For example, a person in San Francisco can typically obtain a forecast for Hong Kong just as easily as the San Francisco forecast. However, to obtain the results of satellite forecasting, some form of communication must be provided over some type of network, such radio or television broadcasting, a wired or cellular telephone network, or the Internet. Local forecasts, on the other hand, require no network, are totally self-contained and can work anywhere in the world. A mechanical barometer does not even require batteries.

The Ambient Network

Information from satellite forecasting is made available for presentation to a user on a variety of display devices by Ambient Devices, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. Ambient operates a server software platform that parses verbose weather information into terse packets that are economical to delivery over a bandwidth-constrained long-range usage-metered wireless network. These packets display the weather forecast in a glanceable format on dedicated devices, employing interfaces such as shifts in color, offsets of a needle of a dial gauge, change of pattern, or a simple set of numbers. These devices are based on the principle that a very small amount of information can be very valuable when situated in the right design context. The Ambient Information Network is used to provide content to devices such as the “Ambient Orb”™ which can change color in response to changes in forecast weather conditions. The server uses user-defined rules to create a data packet representing the color the Orb should emit. For example, if the weather forecast for the city of interest is very hot, the Orb will glow red. If precipitation is forecast, the Orb will pulse, with the pulse rate proportional to the likelihood of precipitation. The Ambient Information Network and various display devices, including the Ambient Orb, are described in detail the above-noted U.S. Patent Application Publication 2003/0076369.

Ambient Devices also manufactures and sells a product known as the “Five Day Weather Forecaster.” This weather forecasting display device receives user-configurable data over the Ambient Information Network and displays a five-day weather forecast local to the region in which the device is located, or some other selected remote region which the user selects. The Five Day Weather Forecaster employs an LCD display for presenting a five day weather forecast using icons to represent the likelihood of precipitation and a bar chart to represent predicted high and low temperatures. The Five Day Weather Forecaster is described in detail in the above-noted U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/149,929.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following summary provides a simplified introduction to some aspects of the invention as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later, but is not intended to define or delineate the scope of the invention.

The preferred embodiment of the invention is an umbrella combined with a display device that forms part of said umbrella and presents information on weather conditions to the user, The display device may be an integral part of the umbrella, or may take the form of an aftermarket product which is attached to an existing umbrella and thereafter carried with the umbrella. The display device may include a display screen for displaying images indicative of said information on weather conditions, such as an icon that graphically portrays at least some of said information on weather conditions, such as the likelihood of rain. The display screen may also display an indication of one or more forecasted temperatures, thereby assisting the user in selecting an appropriate garment to wear when going outside. The displayed temperatures may include both the high and low forecasted temperatures for a selected day. The umbrella may further include a manually operated selector for selecting a particular day and means responsive to said selector for presenting information on weather conditions forecast for that particular day.

The forecasting umbrella may also, or alternatively, employ one or more visible lamps, such as LEDs, for emitting illumination that represents at least some of said information on said weather conditions. At least one of said lamps, or a group of lamps, may emit light of different colors where the particular color emitted is indicative of at least some of weather information. Alternatively, or in addition, one or more lamps may emits light periodically to represent at least some of said information on said weather conditions; for example, a lamp may emits light periodically at a repetition rate that is indicative of the forecasted probability of precipitation.

The forecasting umbrella may acquire the weather forecast information from a wireless transmission network, and employ means for rendering at least selected portions of the information acquired by said receiver in perceptible form to said user. A wireless receiver forming part of the umbrella acquires said information from a wireless transmission network such as a wireless paging network or a cellular phone network using a cell broadcast protocol. At least some of the information transmitted by the wireless transmission network to the wireless receiver varies depending on the geographic location of said wireless receiver; for example, the weather forecast information for a geographic region that includes the location of the wireless receiver may be displayed, allowing the forecasting umbrella to automatically display forecast information for the region in which it is currently located, and if it is moved to a new and different geographic region, to automatically display the forecast to that new region without requiring any action by the user.

The forecasting thermometer may acquire displayed data from one or more local sensors, including a barometer and or a thermometer. By storing prior barometric readings, the forecasting umbrella may display a precipitation prediction that is based on both the current barometric reading and the extent to which the current atmospheric pressure is rising or falling.

Thus, umbrella users can use either or both satellite and local forecasts to assist with informed decision as to whether or not an umbrella will provide utility in the short term. Embodiments of the present invention may integrate of these forecasting technologies into the actual umbrella such that the umbrella itself informs the user whether or not it is likely to provide utility in the near term. This removes the need for any external media to provide forecasting information. A quick look at the umbrella itself indicates whether or not it should be utilized.

In one instance, the umbrella includes a wireless receiver that is capable of receiving a signal indicating the probability of rain. If the wireless signal indicates rain is likely, the umbrella may, for example, pulse a LED red, or rotate a wheel with printing to display an icon depicting a rain cloud. Secondary displays or user interface could also indicate the weather forecast for days more in the future. A quick glance at the umbrella would indicate rain or shine, and the user could plan accordingly.

This display can be embedded in the umbrella handle, the shaft, fabric, or tip of the umbrella. The forecasting component could also be a separate accessory designed to attach to the umbrella, essentially making the umbrella plus forecaster into a single unit. This would allow existing umbrella users to add this functionality to their umbrella.

In more advanced versions of the wireless forecasting umbrella, the user may customize the parameters of the weather indicator. A user could use the website to customize narrowcast data for that user's umbrella to:

    • Change the threshold to trigger the “rain ahead” indicator
    • Have the indicator display weather conditions for a non-proximate location (e.g. if the user is planning a trip, the umbrella displays the weather of the destination).
    • Have the indicator display forecast or current temperature
    • Have the indicator display forecast or current humidity, pressure, UV exposure, or any other measurable or forecastable meteorological phenomena
    • Have the indicator display non-weather information such as stocks, traffic, pollen, sports scores, airport delays, or status of a loved-one.

The source of the wireless signal would likely be derived from a satellite based weather forecast, although it could come from any source the user perceives to be reliable. The forecast data may include a timecode reference, permitting the umbrella to include an accurate self-setting clock appropriate for that particular timezone. The output of the umbrella could include any of the following items:

    • LED or other illumination element where pulse rate and/or color is indicative of weather forecast or any other content.
    • LCD panel (or similar) which displays text and/or iconic information relating to weather or other content.
    • Mechanical wheels or panels that physically move to provide a text or pictorial indication of upcoming weather.

The server and wireless network operated by Ambient Devices, Inc is particularly well suited to provide content for this invention. This network translates verbose weather forecast information (as well as other content) into terse packets. One feature of these packets is they are economical to transmit on a long-range bandwidth-constrained usage-metered network. From the perspective of the Ambient network, an umbrella looks like any other product that consumes content from the Ambient Information Network. The fact that the receiver and associated output device is housed in an umbrella handle instead of a frosted glass shell or plastic enclosure does not matter.

In another mode, the umbrella does not include a long-range wireless receiver, but uses a local sensor attached to an on-board processor to make forecast predictions based on local measurable weather conditions. For example, if the barometric pressure were falling, the umbrella would indicate a higher likelihood of rain using any of the interface elements described above. The difference is that the source of the forecast is a local forecast instead of a satellite forecast.

The simplest forecast is obtained simply by embedding a mechanical thermometer or barometer into the umbrella handle. In this instance, electrical power is not required.

Finally, it is possible to create a forecasting umbrella that combines elements of both satellite forecasting and local forecasting. For example, the umbrella could display both forecasts allowing the user to make a determination of reliability. Or the umbrella could employ an algorithm that combines the two forecasts.

These and other features and advantages of the invention may be better understood by considering the following detailed description which is presented in connection with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the detailed description which follows, frequent reference will be made to the attached drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a block schematic overview of the Ambient Information Network (AIN) which, in a preferred embodiment, provides weather forecast information to a forecasting umbrella and to other Ambient display devices.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing the components of the preferred embodiment of the forecasting umbrella in more detail;

FIG. 3 is block diagram of a self contained forecasting umbrella which uses local sensors to acquire data for display to the user; and

FIG. 4 is a side view of the handle of the forecasting umbrella, illustrating the user interface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Overview of the Ambient Information Network (AIN)

As noted above, the weather forecasting umbrella contemplated by the present invention may be used in conjunction with the Ambient Information Network (AIN) that is operated by Ambient Devices, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The AIN employs a software platform that parses verbose weather information into terse packets that are economical to delivery over a bandwidth-constrained long-range usage-metered wireless network. These packets display the weather forecast in a glanceable format on dedicated devices that produce visual indications, such as shifts in color, offsets of a needle of a dial gauge, changes in shape, or a simple set of numbers. Content sources indicated generally at 101 in FIG. 1 include a source of weather forecasting data 103, a source of information describe traffic conditions on local roadways 105, and a source of information such as an addressable Internet resource provided by a developer 107, or from any other source as indicated at 109. Data from these content sources are delivered to a content aggregator 111 that stores and caches this content for quick access. A web server seen at 113 provides an web interface allows users to employ a web browser 115 connected to the web server 113 via the Internet to define rules for displaying different types of content by submitting preference information on a web form. The “Ambient Compression Scheme” (ACS) encoder 119 compresses the data into small packets for efficient wireless transmission by a nationwide wireless network indicated generally at 120. As described in the above-noted U.S. Patent Application Publication 2003/0076369. the transmission system may comprise, for example, a one-way wireless communication system, a two-way wireless communication system, or a wired system. The transmission system may optionally comprise a distributed data network, such as a commercial pager, telephone, wireless data, and public Internet-based networks. The most popular of these networks include GSM, FLEX, reFLEX, and Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD). As discussed below, the FLEX paging network and the Cell Broadcast protocol used in the GSM network provide particularly useful mechanisms for distributing weather data to display devices. Ambient enabled products seen at 122 receive these signals and display information accordingly. These controlled display devices include a weather forecasting umbrella 122, an illuminated cube 124, a five day weather forecasting LCD display 126, and an Ambient Orb™ seen at 128.

A key feature of this network is that products seen at 122 through 128 “work right out of the box”. Because these devices use a long-range nationwide wireless network, they do not need any connectivity from a local PC, phone, or broadband connection. Ambient enabled products have similar functionality to FM radios or television sets in that the user simply provides electrical power (which may be from an internal battery) and these devices receive wireless data. A key difference, however, is that Ambient products can be individually customized by visiting a website hosted by the web server 113.

More Detailed View of Ambient Information Network.

As indicated at 103 in FIG. 1, weather forecasting data is obtained from an available source and delivered to the content aggregator 111. On such source is the National Weather Service (NWS) that collects data from a variety of sensors such as temperature sensors and satellites. This data is fed into powerful computers as well as being analyzed by human experts to generate predictions of meteorological conditions. The NWS makes this content available in a standardized format such as XML. Additionally, many private companies, such as Accuweather, Inc. of State College, Pa., take the NWS data and supplement it with proprietary sensor data and proprietary forecasting algorithms to come up with alternative predictions. Like the NWS, this data is electronically available.

This formatted electronic data is fed to the content aggregator 111 and then formatted for use by the destination devices, such as the forecasting umbrella 122. The formatting process can be varied to suit the needs of a particular application, or the preferences of particular user, by submitting preference data from the Web browser 115 to the Web server 113 to configure the rules used to format the data that is available in the content aggregator 111. In addition to the Web interface, the rules can be configured by telephone or other means. These rules include parameters which specify, for example, the geographic location of the umbrella 122. For instance, a user can go online and use the Web browser 115 to change the location at which weather is forecast from “Boston, Mass.” to “Berkeley, Calif.”. When the umbrella (or other ambient object) is first employed, a default set of rules is used. Typically, a customer who purchases a forecasting umbrella would be asked to go online to register the product, and uses the Web browser to complete an HTML form to identify the specific umbrella by a unique identification code such as a serial number which is provided to the customer with the umbrella, and to specify the geographic location at which weather forecasts will be used. The supplied serial number and geographic location is then used to format and address a data packet containing weather data, such as data indicating the probability of precipitation on that day at that geographic location. The supplied serial number is converted into a device address for the specific umbrella that is used to route specific control signals to that umbrella via the network 120.

This data packet is broadcast to the device on a Flex™ paging network depicted at 120 in FIG. 1, a nationwide network covering over 90% of the population in the United States. The paging network broadcasts the data on a network of radio towers spread throughout the United States. This data packet is received by the “Weather Forecasting Umbrella” device 122 and displayed appropriately. For example, if the weather forecast data indicates that a 100% probability of rain on that day, an LED on the handle of the umbrella 122 can be pulsed to flash 100 times per minute, and will be pulsed at half the rate if the probability or rain is 50%, and not pulsed at all if no rain is forecast.

A feature of this network allows different data to be broadcast to different regions using the same frequency and device address. This allows easy implementation of a “roaming” feature where an umbrella always have access to content local to their proximity without the devices have to “know” where they are located. For example, when a device is in New York it displays New York weather, and when the umbrella is used in Boston, it displays Boston weather. Using a switch (such as a pushbutton) on the umbrella, the user may alternatively select a specific programmed location (such as the user's home base) and display a weather forecast for that location, regardless of where the umbrella is located.

This is possible because each broadcast tower or collection of towers sends different data to the same address. Aggregates of towers are arranged such that transmission from each group does not interfere with transmission from an adjacent group. Tower aggregates that are synchronized to send the same data are called “simulcast zones”. The network currently used by Ambient Devices has 59 simulcast zones in the United States. The single tower seen depicted in FIG. 1 for the network 120 is thus representative of a collection of frequency aligned transmission towers making up a simulcast zone. Each of the 59 simulcast zones receives content localized for that region.

With this system, all the towers in the greater Boston area broadcast weather for the Boston region. Towers in New York broadcast weather for the New York region. The receiving device in the forecasting umbrella 122 does not know where it is located. It is simply displaying the data it receives. The server and the tower infrastructure are responsible for sending appropriately regionalized content to each of these different simulcast zones. This allows for a very low-cost device that appears to the user as if it knows where it is located.

The Ambient Information Network is described in more detail in the above-noted U.S. Patent Application Publication 2003/0076369. The manner in which weather forecast data is transmitted to specific forecasting umbrellas essentially the same as the method employed for the five-day weather forecast displays (see 126 in FIG. 1) described in detail in the above-noted U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/149,929.

An alternative wireless data transmission network that can be used to advantage is provide by an available GSM cellular phone service that uses a protocol called “Cell Broadcast” which, like a paging network, is a one-way broadcast technology. Cell Broadcast allows a text or binary message to be defined and distributed to all mobile terminals connected to a set of cells. Whereas SMS messages are sent point-to-point, Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB) messages are sent point-to-area. This means that one SMS-CB message can reach a huge number of terminals at once. In other words, SMS-CB messages are directed to radio cells, rather than to a specific terminal. SMS-CB is an unconfirmed push service, meaning that the originator of the message does not know who has received the message, allowing for services based on anonymity. A Cell Broadcast Entity (CBE) is a multi-user front-end that allows the definition and control of SMS-CB messages. A CBE can be located at the site of a content provider. At the site of the operator a so-called Cell Broadcast Centre (CBC) is located. The CBC is the heart of the Cell Broadcast System and acts as a server for all CBE clients. It takes care of the administration of all SMS-CB messages it receives from the CBEs and does the communication towards the GSM network. The GSM network itself takes care of delivering the SMS-CB messages to the mobile terminals. Thus, weather forecast information may be broadcast to an SMS-CB receiver in a weather forecasting umbrella which produces a visual indication of predicted weather to the user.

Hardware Description of the Forecasting Umbrella

The weather forecast data is transmitted to individual forecasting umbrellas in a manner similar to the manner in which data is sent to body worn pagers. However, instead of text data being displayed on a LCD screen, it is preferably displayed through various interface elements on the umbrella handle or elsewhere on the umbrella or through an add-on accessory that attaches to the umbrella.

An embedded microprocessor seen at 201 in FIG. 2 receives data from a wireless receiver unit 203. This single microprocessor performs several functions enabling reduced part count. The microprocessor may be implemented using a PIC 18LF252 integrated circuit from Microchip Technology Incorporated of Chandler Ariz. On this chip, the raw data from the wireless receiver 203 is sent to a signal decoder 205 that includes clock recovery, de-interleaving, and error correction processing compliant with the Flex decoding standard developed by Motorola, Inc of Schaumburg Ill. The long range Flex wireless data packet transmission network 204 receives data from the network server 206.

Decoded incoming packets are compared against a unique serial number stored in an EEPROM seen at 207 or other non-volatile memory. A data filter at 209 determines which packets are directed to this device. If all packets are for other devices, the processor 201 powers off the radio 203 and enters a sleep mode in order to conserve battery life. If, however, the received address matches a stored address, the receiver 203 and processor 201 continues to receive and decode the transmission in order to capture the data payload. Only the data packets designated for a particular device is allowed to pass through the data filter 209.

This Weather Forecasting Umbrella can display a range of received content. Content data not currently displayed is cached in the onboard cache 211. The data packet meant for display is sent to an output controller 213 that drives a LCD display 215 and/or controls the blink rate of a LED seen at 217

The Weather Forecasting Umbrella also has three buttons on its housing which are accessible by and operated by the user of the umbrella. Two “channel” buttons 221 are used to change the display. Pressing these buttons cause the I/O controller 225 to take a different packet from the cache 211 and display it on the LCD screen 215 and/or LEDs 217. The “reset” button seen at 230 clears the cache 211 and restores the device to factory original conditions.

The entire unit is powered by a single battery (or multiple batteries in parallel). The power supply seen at 233 raises the 1.5 volts input to 2.7 volts by using a DC-DC voltage booster. The power supply may be implemented by a TPS61014 voltage booster to raise the 1.5 volts provided by a single AAA battery to the 2.8 volts required by the PIC18LF252.

The wireless receiver 203 is a superheterodyne radio receiver that listens to the 929.6625 MHz frequency and demodulates the FM signal into one of four frequency deviations. The resulting 2-bit signal is decoded by processor 201 at 205, and precipitation probability is mapped onto one of three colored LEDs at 217 according to the following schema:

Green:D1low probability of rain in next 24 hours
Yellow:D2medium probability of rain in next 24 hours
Red:D4high probability of rain in next 24 hours

The three colored LEDs may be placed in a translucent dome at the end of the umbrella handle which glows green, yellow or red to indicate the likelihood of rain. Alternatively, a single color may be used and pulsed at a rate which is indicative of the varying probability of rain.

If desired, a further switch may be used to provide an indication of the strength of the data signal being received. Pressing this switch alters the meaning of the LED color display as follows.

Green:D1excellent signal strength
Yellow:D2medium signal strength
Red:D4no signal strength

Pressing the switch assures the user that the unit is receiving a weather forecast data signal.

Given the shape of a typical umbrella, the antennae the receiver 203 can be fashioned into the shaft, tip, or fabric of the umbrella. It does not need to be contained in the handle. Superior wireless reception could be possible by moving the antenna to a different part of the umbrella.

User Interface of Umbrella Handle with Local Sensing

In a simplified implementation of the invention shown in FIG. 3, the embedded microprocessor 301 may obtain takes readings from a barometer (pressure sensor 303) also in the handle and causes the LED 305 in the base to blink when falling barometric pressure indicates rain. Pressure readings are also translated into a weather prediction icon seen at 307 displayed on the LCD panel 309. The umbrella handle also has a temperature sensor seen at 311 which allows the current temperature to be displayed on the LCD panel 308 as seen at 315. The unit is powered by a battery operated power supply seen at 316.

The pressure sensor may be implemented using a MS52XX (RoHS) Surface Mount Device Pressure Sensor available form Intersema Sesoric SA, Bevaix, Switzerland, The processor 301 stores pressure readings to determine whether the pressure is rising, steady or falling. Based on the current barometric pressure, and the manner in which the pressure is currently changing, rain can be predicted using the following table:

Pressure to precipitation prediction table
ReadingRisingSteadyFalling
30.35 and aboveNo rainNo rainNo rain
30.00No rainProbably fineShowers likely
29.75Showers likelyShowers likelyRain likely
29.5Rain likelyRainHeavy Rain likely
29.25 and belowHeavy rainHeavy rainHeavy rain

The pressure readings from sensor 303 are converted by the processor 301 into a rain prediction as seen at 321, and the resulting prediction is processed by the output controller 323 which controls displays an icon at 307 to indicate the prediction, and also controls the rate at which the LEDs 305 blink. For example, a prediction of heavy rain produces a blink rate of 100 pulses per second, a prediction of rain produces 60 pulses per second, and a prediction of showers 30 pulses per second. The icon at 307 also changes to provide an indication of the likelihood of precipitation. It will be understood that barometric pressure alone provides a weather prediction which, while helpful, is not as accurate as the prediction provided from a weather service as described in connection with the preferred embodiment of FIG. 2. Nonetheless, barometric pressure changes do provide useful guidance in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when leaving home.

The temperature sensor 311 produces an output signal which is converted into a digital temperature indication at 327 which is delivered to the output controller 323 to control the numeric temperature readout 315 on the LCD panel 309. Note that the temperature indication indicates the current ambient temperature where the umbrella is located, and hence will show the inside temperature when the umbrella is inside. In contrast, the preferred embodiment obtains a prediction of the day's predicted high and low outside temperatures, thereby providing useful guidance to the user leaving home when choosing a garment to wear.

Simplified implementations can omit some components such as the LCD screen or blinking LED, and can also replace the electronic components with mechanical thermometers and/or barometers embedded in the umbrella or attachable as a separate component. This allows implementation of a forecasting umbrella that requires no electrical power. While these simplifications lower cost, they do so by sacrificing the useful function provided to the user by the preferred implementation which provides a more accurate precipitation prediction, as well as an indication of the predicted outside temperature to be expected on a given day.

FIG. 4 shows the preferred user interface provided on the handle of the preferred Weather Forecasting Umbrella with wireless connectivity to satellite forecast data described above in connection with FIG. 2. The interface is housed in the handle 401 of an umbrella which is positioned at the distal end of the umbrella shaft 403.

A small LCD screen seen at 407 displays additional information for users interested in more details. The LCD screen displays the selected day's high temperature at 411 and low temperature at 413. The forecast conditions are also displayed in iconic form at 414 on the screen 407. A forward button at 416 and back button at 418 controls which forecast day is displayed on the LCD. An array of LEDs at 421 gives the user feedback as to which day is being displayed (e.g. today, tomorrow, 2 days hence, etc). Because this implementation receives data from the National Weather Service (or similar forecasting agency), it is much more versatile than the self-contained implementation described in FIG. 3. At the outside end of the umbrella handle housing, a translucent dome which holds one or more LEDs is strobed at varying pulse rates, depending on the amount of predicted precipitation. This strobing light effectively alerts the user when rain is forecast. The strobing LED consumes very little power, since it is emitting light for only a small portion of the time, even when it is being pulsed at the fastest rate when the forecast probability of rain is near 100%.

It is important to note that in many implementations the umbrella handle simply receives instructions on how to configure its user interface. It does not “know” what the data represents and there are no local decisions about how to display a given set of user-selected content. The handle is merely acting as a terminal, displaying data sent by a server according to user preferences. Note further that simplified implementations of the radio signal controlled forecasting umbrella can omit some components such as the LCD screen or the blinking LED.

The following general statements can be made with respect to the all embodiments of the forecasting umbrella:

    • Interface elements can appear anywhere on the umbrella such as the shaft, tip, fabric, or frame. They are not restricted to the handle.
    • Temperature can be displayed in analog format as a fill bar, dial, or color shift, and does not have to be displayed as digits.
    • The mechanism that provides the weather forecasting capabilities may be either a manufactured part of the umbrella, or may be attached to an existing umbrella as an installable aftermarket product.

CONCLUSION

It is to be understood that the methods and apparatus which have been described above are merely illustrative applications of the principles of the invention. Numerous modifications may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention.