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The future evolution of pest control

| December 21, 2018

IoP® sensor

Organized pest control has a long history that dates to 4000 BC when the first ever pest control solution – sulphur – was used in ancient Sumer to keep insects away from crops. Since then, pest control has seen steady progress, from botanical products used as fungicides for seed treatments in China, to professional “rat-catchers” of the Victorian era that used dogs (specifically bred to be “ratters”) to trap and kill rodents. The history of pest control is certainly a long one.

In the last 60 years or so the pest control industry has made tremendous progress towards refining, fine-tuning, and improving on technologies, and moving away from broad application of high toxicity materials to scientifically targeted applications using safer products.

The pest control industry today

The industry is in a state of perpetual evolution as it faces several challenges, while still being labour intensive in terms of day to day operations. Pest issues are tracked manually by Pest Control Organisations (PCOs), with the service technicians visiting and checking facilities to investigate and address problems. Identifying the root cause of infestations can take multiple visits before a viable solution can be provided. Keeping track of multiple customer facilities, documenting the progress of the pest solutions, and performing audits is a time consuming and labour intensive affair.

Housefly activity can be remotely monitored and linked to other factors such as temperature.
Photo: Vijay Sonar, CC BY 2.0

Climate change and the rapid rise in urbanisation will probably increase the number as well as the types of pest problems encountered. Pests that were specific to certain regions are now spreading across the globe. Another trend observed is the resistance developed by some pests towards existing pesticides, and behavioural changes in pests’ avoidance of traps. The growing consumer awareness of the importance of safeguarding the environment has also resulted in their increasing disapproval of the use of toxic and harmful chemicals whenever possible.

In the past there were a few pests that contributed to bulk of the problems that existed. However, the situation is very different today. There are multiple pests creating multiple problems. In some cases the economically available solutions are short term, and the problems recur. This has compelled pest control product manufacturers and pest management companies to constantly innovate their offering.

Pest management companies are looking beyond traditional methods of pest control to reduce costs, add value, and retain customers. Technology and automation are increasingly being accepted as the way forward in the industry. An integrated pest management system that can seamlessly track all pests across several regions and notify PCOs of any potential situation requiring attention can significantly reduce the man hours needed and improve pest control business efficiency.

The connected world of pests

The future is going to be a connected world of pest management. Innovations like the Internet of Pests (IoP®) from Brandenburg, are set to revolutionize the pest control industry. Current sensor technologies have made tremendous progress, and now PCOs have the capability of remotely monitoring pest activity 24/7. They can simultaneously track all types of pests (Figure 1) in multiple locations (some of which are traditionally hard to reach), and these sensors are built to have the highest resistance to false positive triggering.

Figure 1. Historical data captured by IoP® sensors analysing the pest activity of all pest types over a period of six months, broken down month on month.

The sensors collect relevant data from the network of preinstalled base stations and deliver it to a unique intelligent digital platform. For example, Brandenburg’s intelligent fly counter capabilities go beyond simply counting the number of flies in real time as they land on the sensor and then showcasing it on an intelligent dashboard. The fly counter also alerts PCOs when there is a threshold limit breach and notifies when the glue board is full, protecting the customer and saving a significant amount of time compared to the traditional method of manually executing these tasks

With this type of platform, PCOs can have a round the clock surveillance system and receive real-time alerts as soon as pest activity is detected by any of the sensors. Not just that, they will also get location-specific details such as temperature and humidity information of the customer’s facility, pest behaviour tracking and, most of all, predictive analytics (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Visual data analysis correlating pest activity to temperature, provides valuable insights into pest behaviour based on external factors.

The digital platforms that are being developed today seem to be the perfect package for the future. They can help PCOs prioritize problem areas in any region, which allows them to allocate resources even before the pest problem has escalated. They deliver live insights into operations and manpower optimisation, and they also automate data tracking for audit and regulatory compliance, both saving time and improving accuracy.

It is well known that many consumers consider the toxic chemicals used in pest management to be harmful to both humans and the ecosystem. Better technology and innovative sensors will help change the way pest issues are tackled and the public’s perception of the industry. It will allow for a more targeted approach, making pest management a proactive rather than a reactive process. Early identification of pest problems is a strategy that plans for the elimination of the underlying causes of pest infestation.

The future of pest control is going to be fascinating – where multiple systems will talk to each other and reduce human intervention. The industry is poised for a major shift in the way it works with the adoption of intelligent devices. Pest control technologies will continue to grow and evolve, with more companies developing smart devices for pest control. Pest management businesses are already taking advantage of well synchronised office management tools. The benefits of a connected ecosystem are plenty, however significant changes will be witnessed in resource utilisation, in time and cost savings, and in service and maintenance. It is time for the industry to embrace the connected world of pests.

Author: Arthur Dales*
*Technical Manager, Brandenburg North America

Published in International Pest Control – November/December 2018 issue

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Category: Special features

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