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Pollen monitoring with artificial intelligence

Pioneering work: the start-up Swisens has developed an AI-based pollen monitoring system that tells us in real time what is in the air around us. Meteo Switzerland is using the technology starting this year, and in Australia, it is saving lives. In the tenth edition of our podcast, founder and CEO Erny Niederberger talks about how their approach is revolutionising pollen monitoring and what else is possible with their technology.


by Tobias Imbach

Everyone is excited about spring! Everyone? Not quite: when trees and flowers are in bloom, there is also a lot of pollen in the air – a serious problem for people with allergies and intolerances. Until now, pollen measurement has been done manually, which only provides results with a delay. However, the Lucerne-based start-up Swisens has now developed an AI-based system that revolutionises pollen monitoring and has also been used by the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology since this spring. In the podcast, Erny Niederberger, CEO and one of the founders of the start-up, talks about how the system works, what distinguishes it from previous methods and how little we humans know about aerosols.

 

SAID & NOTED

  • If the system measures all particles that are in the air for a day, this generates huge amounts of data. This measurement data is fed to an AI-based algorithm that classifies the particles.
  • We can automatically determine the pollen concentration in the air in real time.
  • Water droplets are sometimes very similar to grass pollen – there has been some confusion. But now we have also given the system water droplets to learn from, which enables it to distinguish between them.
  • In all other countries, the models in use resemble random generators – here in Switzerland, as of this year, they are real-time forecasts based on measured data.
  • Thanks to Swisens, allergy sufferers will in future be able to receive an alarm if the pollen concentration on site is too high.
  • The first application of our measurement system is pollen, but we can shed much more light on this microcosm – fine dust, ice crystals and microplastics are huge unknown areas. I hope that the pollen use case will make the potential of our instruments known and tangible.
  • Any dirt in the air is being absorbed – the instruments thus need to be very robust.
  • In Melbourne, pollen monitoring is a battle against time because of "Thunderstorm Asthma" – with our system, people know directly, every hour, if the concentration is rising and can react immediately.
  • We want to offer services and become a data provider ... and also move from the outdoor spaces to indoors.

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Erny Niederberger

Swisens AG, Horw

Erny Niederberger is one of the three founders of Swisens. As an electrical engineer and with an MAS in business administration, Erny worked for over 20 years as an electronics and embedded software developer in industry and developed various sensor systems, including for fire alarm systems. In the context of his work, he discovered that we know very little about the microcosm of aerosol particles in our ambient air.

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