An app for allergy sufferers

Two graduates of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design have designed an early warning system that connects a special sensor to your smartphone.

If a new app created by two graduates of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design in the US goes live, hayfever sufferers will soon be checking their smartphones for daily “allergy forecasts” just like we do with the weather. Kasia Burzynska and Hui-Wen Wang, both allergy sufferers themselves, designed the Respire app to improve people’s quality of life, they say.

Respire is designed to be an early warning system for the presence of airborne allergens such as pollen or carbon and metals from diesel exhaust fumes. “In our interviews we learned that most people only take action once symptoms are present, since they are not able to see or detect the invisible allergens,” said the designers. “The problem is that people don’t know when to take the medicine if they want to prevent the onset of symptoms.”

The Respire system has three parts – the main unit, which collects the data and gives a simple colour-based readout, styled after a thermostat; the sensor, which collects the data and transmits it to the main unit; and the app which allows you to monitor the system at any time from your phone. If the user chooses to become part of a network by connecting to other Respire users, the data from their devices is shared to map out allergens in the area and form a comprehensive database. Users can thus preempt allergic reactions and treat themselves preventatively.

The app’s design is modelled on the classic wall-mounted thermostat, making it simple to understand. As Burzynska and Wang put it, “Although this is a medical device, we do not want it to feel like one. We want it to naturally become part of the family.”

The designers plan to pair the app with a specially designed slow-release anti-histamine to provide constant relief throughout the day via the Curity patch system, which works on the same principle as a nicotine patch. And if it’s too late, and the sneezing has hit, there will also be a fast-acting tablet for emergencies, called Curity e.