The automated home that maintains a consistent comfortable temperature, cleans the floors, turns ovens on or off, and makes coffee in the morning offers conveniences that make everyone’s lives easier. The same home that provides automated smoke and fire detection as well as security systems with cameras that the homeowner can view via a smartphone while away from the house offers an added level of safety and security.
Although the most common home automation technology was initially related to energy controls, the availability of automated systems that can be connected and controlled in a central dashboard have moved from primarily business and commercial settings into homes of all price ranges.
The growth in integrated smart technologies in the home will affect pest management companies, as well, says Beth Berry, vice president of business solutions and software for Real Green Systems. Do-it-yourself security systems that include cameras, remote monitoring and controlled access present a number of benefits to pest management operators.
“The number one challenge in the pest management business is scheduling service,” explains Berry. With so many homeowners at work during the day, scheduling can be a challenge to meet the homeowner’s needs as well as optimizing the technician’s time. “With a home security system that offers an alternate code for service providers, the homeowner can let us enter the home when no one is home, perform the service and leave,” she says. “If they have cameras that they can view on their smartphone or office computer, they have the added reassurance that only someone they’ve authorized is entering the home.”
Wearable technology—such as an android watch—can track the technician’s movements in the home to produce a report that shows the areas that are treated or checked. “Because people can track how long a technician is in the home, it is not uncommon to hear that there was no way the home was fully treated in only a few minutes,” says Berry. “The documentation provided by tracking technology shows that the technician did provide the full service.” The report, along with notes about what the technician noticed during the visit, can be sent to the customer’s email automatically to provide a record, she says.
The tracking technology not only provides a quality control measure, but can also serve as a safety alert, says Berry. Tracking the technician’s heartrate and temperature while working in a hot attic or other potentially dangerous environment, enables alerts to be set in case certain parameters are exceeded. “This protects the technician and the homeowner by giving everyone early warning,” she adds.
“We are also seeing more use of sensors that use motion or heat to detect wildlife, rodents and birds,” says John Cole, director of marketing and mobile solutions for ServicePro. Although the most common use for this technology is currently in commercial applications, this is a trend that will continue more into the residential area as the technology advances and costs come down.
Berry wishes that the previous owner of a condominium that she is purchasing had used sensors to detect pests. “The property was unoccupied for 18 months, and the previous owner made arrangements for someone to check the condo to be sure heat was on during cold months and that there were no water leaks,” she says. “They did not check for pests.” There were rodents and ants that had gone unchecked during the time the property was vacant, which meant the seller had to spend money to clear the pests and make repairs caused by the uninvited guests. Monitoring by a pest management company, even via sensors and a few scheduled trips, would have saved the seller money and time, she adds.
Because this technology is emerging, it is hard to predict all of the benefits, says Craig Velte, sales representative for ServicePro. “The value of all smart technology is information—knowing what is happening now,” he says.
One benefit to a pest management operator that Berry envisions is greater efficiency in managing schedules and workload. “Rather than scheduling visits to check traps or receive panicked calls from customers who heard a trap triggered, the company can monitor the traps remotely,” she explains. “This gives the company a chance to proactively call the customer about a trap that has been triggered and make arrangements to visit the property.” Not only does this make the technician’s visit more efficient, but it reassures customers that they have not been forgotten.
The misperception is that technology to monitor, track and document pest management services and pest activity is only affordable to large companies. “Technology providers have services available in different modules, which allows a company to invest in the level of technology that they need and that they can afford,” says Cole. “Our customers range from very small companies to very large companies that use a wide range of services.”
When choosing technology, be sure to plan for the future, suggests Velte. “What technology you purchase should be scalable so that it can grow with the company’s needs,” he says. To be sure that the right solution is chosen, take time to look at potential needs for the future, he suggests. “Then choose a technology provider with a proven track record of continually enhancing and updating software.”
No matter what new technology is added to the pest management business—scheduling, billing and customer communications, or GPS tracking of trucks, wearable tracking of technicians or sensors to monitor pests—it is important for the pest management company to educate customers on the benefits, says Berry. “Monitoring technology is new to our industry, and home automation is new to our customers, but by understanding how the two can work together to improve the efficiency and convenience of service, pest management companies can differentiate themselves in the market.”
By Sheryl S. Jackson