Cops and Pollen

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I recently drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico to discuss automated pollen sensing with their city air-quality folks. Google maps was helping me get there, when I heard a voice coming from my phone telling me there was a speed trap ahead.

Wow. I don’t have a lead foot, but it was a nice reminder to check my speed and make sure I wasn’t at risk for a ticket. As the cursor on the highway got nearer to the place where the speed trap was supposed to be, sure enough: a state trooper lay in ambush!

Google gave me the option of confirming whether or not the speed trap was still there.

“Yep,” I told Google.

Later, another speed trap warning popped up, but that trooper had moved on to another hiding spot. Again, the prompt to confirm.

“Nope,” I told Google. I sense a metaphor.

Pollen information is currently gathered and forecasted by relying on about 80 manual pollen counters around the country. You may think, “Wow, that’s a lot of devoted souls counting pollen!” And you’d be right, they are devoted! However, you may want to reconsider that it’s a lot of people doing that work considering that there are 3.8 MILLION square miles in the U.S.A. That means that an area the size of the state of New York gets one counter.

That’s not enough. Pollen distribution varies by the minute and by the mile. Trying to report or predict pollen using these sources is a little like trying to locate all state troopers using a small handful of drivers around the country.

Well, there WAS a trooper there, two days ago!

It’s like herding cats. Another metaphor.