PROVO — Monday was a rough day for spring pollen sufferers in Utah.
You may wonder where and when is the pollen the worst, and is it tree pollen, or grass pollen? A start-up in Provo invented a device to measure the pollen in the air, answer those questions, and report it near real-time.
"With real-time data, you can actually track the patterns of the pollen release of the day and you can pick up when the pollen is the lowest," said Landon Bunderson, one of four Pollen Sense company founders.
Bunderson is an aerobiologist who has made pollen his life’s study, in part because pollen has made his nose itch.
"Allergic rhinitis," he said. "My sinuses get socked in."
On the worst days, he gets headaches and swollen, itchy eyes.
"A lot of people know what I’m talking about," Bunderson said with a laugh.
So, he co-founded Pollen Sense and created a device to collect real-time data on specific allergens wafting in the air.
"This idea came out of necessity," he said.
The Pollen Sense device draws in air, identifies all of the particles in the air and reports them.
"You can get an hourly count on what"s going on right now,” said Bunderson. "That's cool, and that's completely different than anything out there right now."
The data is plotted on a graph and will eventually feed to an app still in development.
"We're getting ready to launch that roughly middle of the summer," said Nathan Allan, Pollen Sense co-founder and software architect.
Bunderson and Allan just don’t have a large enough network for people to access yet. They need to build a network of sensors that would provide meaningful information for enough people.
"Right now, we are building out that network," said Allan. "We're building devices."
They're building a network of the pollen sensors that cost $8,000 each. They expect to be able to bring the price down in the coming years.
Right now, their customers are hospitals, municipalities, school districts and researchers across the country and in Europe.
Bunderson said it's as accurate as any device out there and gives him the kind of information he needs to make decisions about playing outside.
"I can track it, and I can reduce my exposure to pollen," He said.
So, Bunderson knows when he can roll down the windows on his car and not have a pollen attack.
"With this device, I can go on the app, I can look it up, and I can see: What is the level right now? If there's no pollen, I can roll the windows down."
Pollen Sense started their work five years ago and picked up a $36,000 USTAR grant from the state to continue their development work.