New app gives Utahns with allergies hourly pollen updates

By Jed Boal, KSL TV | Posted - Sep. 26, 2019 at 8:22 a.m.

PROVO — A new app is allowing allergy sufferers across the Wasatch Front to check on pollens and allergens with live, hourly updates.

The brains and noses behind the app, Pollen Sense, have been working on pollen sensors in Provo for the past five years.

“I’m a bit of a connoisseur of allergens,“ said Landon Bunderson, aerobiologist and an allergy sufferer.

He and software developer Nathan Allan co-founded Pollen Sense five years ago with two other founders. A network of those sensors has already spread across the state.

“We’re pretty well covered here in Utah,” Allan said.

There are also sensors located across the country and the company wants to expand coverage to every major city this winter. They also have sensors in Europe and one in Australia, with growing interest there.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Bunderson said. “Now, I don’t have to log in on the computer and go through the data. I can actually just pull up my app first thing in the morning or last thing at night and see what’s in the air. For me that’s amazing.”

Even if you’ve been tracking pollen for years, this app will help you learn more about the pollens that are problematic for you.

“You can know specifically ragweed is in the air right now, or earlier today, we had a little reprieve, so I can go outside for a while,” Allan said.

Until now, available pollen counts were 24 hours old and covered the whole day, rather than the hourly information Pollen Sense shows.

“Today might be really low as far as cottonwood, but tomorrow, all of a sudden it’s a huge day,” Allan said. “Knowing that is really useful if you’re allergic.”

Before the sensors were developed, pollen had to be counted manually on a microscope slide.

“What we basically did was automate that process,” Allan said.

They replaced the human counter with a computer using machine vision and artificial intelligence to recognize the different types of particulates.

“Now it’s a completely cloud-based solution,” Allan said.

The Pollen Wise app is currently free on the App Store. Right now, the sensors retail for $8,000, but the company expects to be able to lower that price. So far, governments and researchers have purchased the sensors.

“Eventually, we will have a consumer version that you can put in your backyard,” Allan said.

“I’m giddy over it,” Bunderson said. “My favorite thing to do is open the window at night.”

But, if pollen is high, he suffers the next day. Now he checks the Pollen Wise app before he goes to bed.

“If it’s low, the windows come open,” Bunderson said. “If it’s high, the windows stay closed. For me, that’s amazing.”

If you’re an allergy sufferer, go to the App Store and download the Pollen Wise app. The Android version of the app has the latest update; developers said the Apple version will have that same update soon.

Jed Boal

KSL Weather Forecast