Umbrellium designs and builds urban technologies that support citizen empowerment and high-impact engagement in cities.
We work throughout the world with communities, organisations, urban developments and city councils to develop urban technology projects and products. We want to collaborate on building engaging cities (rather than ‘smart’ cities) that put people’s needs first. Our proven methodology gets people involved in design activities, decision-making and defining project goals. Our aim is for participants to develop a shared sense of technological enfranchisement and ownership in civic outcomes. When people act together, they are more effective.
We are a team of architects, designers, tactical urbanists and creative technologists with years of proven experience in designing and deploying award-winning data platforms such as Pachube.com (the world’s largest open Internet of Things data repository and community when it was acquired by LogMeIn Inc in 2011), Thingful (a search engine for the Internet of Things), and urban technologies such as Starling Crossing (responsive road infrastructure) and the Burble (which won London’s Design Museum Design of the Year Award in 2008).
With a deep intuitive and practical understanding of what makes crowds and networked urban environments valuable, dynamic and delightful, our mission is to develop systems and initiatives that bring people together in making sense of, contributing to, and actively creating a practical and desirable future for cities.
Our team designs, engineers and fabricates both hardware and software systems in-house, as well as the infrastructures that unite the two. Our workshop includes everything from a 3d printer to a laser projection chamber, enabling us to prototype, test and build a wide range of interactive devices, platforms and environments prior to deployment on-site.
A major challenge in cities today is to connect the urban scale with the human scale by ensuring that networking technologies (with their potential for supporting both top-down and bottom-up processes) encourage citizen enfranchisement and creative diversity rather than disengagement and homogeneity. With so much attention on Big Data, Smart Cities and socio-technological disruption, we believe it’s vital to involve citizens directly in the design, prototyping and rollout of urban propositions so they have a vested interest in outcomes.
Our design and engagement methodology, partly covered in Notes on the Design of Participatory Systems and formalised in the Urban Innovation Toolkit, involves a deliberate phased approach that responds to hyper-local situations and communities. Through a series of iterative tactical engagement sessions we work with groups of people to define, design and prototype many parts of a project collaboratively. This enables us to test and refine objectives rapidly, while getting ever larger groups of people involved and invested.
Usman Haque, founding partner
Usman is founding partner of Umbrellium (formerly Haque Design + Research) and founder of Internet of Things data infrastructure and community platform Pachube.com, (acquired by LogMeIn Inc in 2011, where he launched the Urban Projects Division). Trained as an architect, he has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interfaces and dozens of mass-participation initiatives in cities throughout the world. He has taught in the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London and in 2008 received the Design of the Year Award (interactive) from the Design Museum. Twitter: @uah.
Andrew Caleya Chetty, partner
Andrew is a producer in the artistic, cultural and entertainment sectors specialising in interactivity and physical space. He was part of The Public gallery, a state-of-the-art gallery incorporating the visitor into the gallery experience. He has also been head of the New Media department at ICA London and ran art festivals in Nottingham, London and Manchester. For 5 years Andrew was part of a team that created ditto, a communication agency working with financial and technology sectors. Twitter: @AndrewChetty.
Sam Mulube, partner
Software engineer with fluency in full stack of web technologies from browser to data center, as well as complexities of network communication in low-powered and memory constrained devices. Original architect of Pachube.com web service, infrastructure and API, which featured in many academic textbooks and had significant influence on other later IoT data infrastructure innovators and competitors. Twitter: @smazero.
Nitipak ‘Dot’ Samsen, partner
Dot is a designer, maker and gamer who enjoys exploring everyday life’s paradoxes through his projects. Dot trained in Thailand as an architect, then graduated from Royal College of Art’s Design Interactions. His works have been exhibited internationally including London, Tokyo, Paris, Dublin, Ljubljana, Bangkok, Rotterdam, Moscow and New York. He was a visiting tutor at Royal College of Art. He received First prize from Future of Money Design Award in 2011 and Special Jury Award from BIO23, Biennial of Design, Ljubljana 2012. Twitter: @dotmancando.
Ling Tan, senior designer/coder
Ling Tan is a designer, maker and coder trained as an architect in Singapore and London. She is interested in how people interact with the built environment and wearable technology, and enjoys building physical machines and prototypes to explore different modes of interaction between people and their surrounding spaces. Her focus is on using social wearables to explore community participation. She is currently part of FutureEverything’s FAULT LINES programme and The Trampery and Barbican’s alt.barbican programme. She also participated in various festivals, working with museums such as Wits Art Museum, South Africa and Watermans Art Centre, UK. Twitter: @LingQL.