If you're living in the Southern Hemisphere then you're probably coming to grips with the fact that we're heading into winter and that means umbrella season. In you're in the Northern Hemisphere... well, into every life, a little rain must fall -- even in summer.
The problem most people have with umbrellas is that there's a big tendency to lose them -- they get left in restaurants and cafes and libraries and more. The other problem is that people tend to buy budget umbrellas because of the aforementioned losing issue and these cheap brollies break rather quickly.
So how about an umbrella that's not only built tough, but one that you can also track via a smartphone app? Well that's the idea behind the Blunt + Tile range.
Blunt is a New Zealand company with a reputation for making very impressive umbrellas -- they've been described by the Wall Street Journal as, in terms of structural integrity, falling "somewhere between [a] suspension bridge and [a] NASA space probe".
Blunt uses what it calls a "unique radial tensioning system" to create an "unflappable aerodynamic structure" -- basically they're very hard to break even in wild weather. They sport fibreglass floating ribs, double struts and safety tips (the titular 'blunt' aspect) which also help provide an aerodynamic design that makes the umbrella resistant to 'inverting' -- what you and I would call "blowing inside out". And yes, they even get tested in a wind tunnel.
That's true across the entire Blunt range. What makes the Blunt + Tile different is that it ships with a Tile -- a small, square Bluetooth fob that can be tracked via a smartphone app. Tile has been around for a while and the fobs are usually sold separately for popping on a key ring or in bag. The Blunt + Tile range, however, has a specially designed pocket on the underside of the umbrella canopy that the Tile goes into. This is double-layered so the Tile can't fall out, but can be removed with a little fiddling.
If you're within 30m (or 100 feet) you can get the Tile to start playing a little tune for you to track, which is perfect if you've looking for your umbrella in the house or office. The app also tracks the last location of your Blunt -- not via real-time GPS, but by recording the last time the Tile app was in contact with your umbrella.
As you get back into Bluetooth range, the app shows you how strong the signal is, letting you play a little digital Marco Polo as you hunt down the umbrella. Finally, you can mark a Tile as 'lost', after which, if the signal gets picked up by either you or another Tile user, you'll get a notification of that location.
Blunt is offering two models in the Tile-enabled range. The Metro XS is a smaller size collapsible-style umbrella. It's got a diameter of 950mm (37-inches), covers around 5800 square centimetres (900 square inches), is 365mm (14-inches) long and weighs 373g (0.82lb).
The larger sized Classic has a 1200mm (47-inch) diameter, covers around 8950 square centimetres (1390 square inches), is 840mm (33-inches) long and weighs in at 640 g (1.4 lb).
All of this is great, but it might be a stretch to call the Blunt + Tile "unloseable". If you've left it in a cab or on a public transport, last known location isn't going to be a great help. But it certainly does make the umbrella easier to track down around house, the office or a cafe you visited for lunch, and that's not a bad thing.
Of course, with XS Metro costing AU$99/$69 and the Classic setting you back AU$129/$99, the price alone might be enough to have you keeping an eagle-eye on this particular purchase. (Blunt does sell in the UK, but there's no pricing for the Blunt + Tile range in that market just yet.)
We've got the Blunt + Tile XS Metro in the office and we'll be taking advantage of the current wild weather to test both the toughness of the umbrella itself and the advantages that the Tile brings.