Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in extremely isolated quarantine), you’ve probably heard about electronic remote monitoring by now. While this emerging technology is not exactly mainstream yet, it has the ability to create valuable opportunities for pest control companies. In fact, this cutting-edge technology is already being used in some commercial accounts.
Keep reading to learn about the latest developments in electronic remote monitoring and how pest control businesses can implement this revolutionary technology.
At the PestWorld 2020 virtual conference, Patricia (Pat) Hottel, BCE, Technical Director with McCloud Services in South Elgin, Illinois, led an educational session entitled The Ins and Outs of Electronic Remote Monitoring. She says there have been quite a few new developments in the field over the last year.
For one, a couple of firms that offer electronic monitoring platforms have decided to collaborate. “I hope this trend continues,” says Hottel. “One of the challenges the industry faces are the potential number of different platforms used to house the electronic monitoring data systems. It may be difficult for a single manufacturer to develop all the equipment needed for monitoring the variety of pests in a commercial facility.”
For instance, in food plants, pest management companies routinely monitor for rodents, flies, cockroaches and stored product pests. “This means different monitors and potentially different manufacturers,” she points out. “If each manufacturer has their own platform, that is a problem. Managing the data in multiple portals is not ideal. Partnering to allow for one portal is ideal.”
Manufacturers also continue to seek improvements and refinements in their systems. “There is ongoing work in expanding artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to identify a wider range of pests in systems that offer pest recognition,” Hottel explains. Through the use of AI, pest cameras can capture images in response to movement and filter alerts so PMPs are notified only when a rodent image is captured. “You might compare it to the television show, A Person of Interest,” she adds. “Only, these systems are identifying a pest of interest.” She says the camera manufacturer is working to improve their system and the number of pests recognized.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has put somewhat of a damper on electronic remote monitoring progress. “For us, there have been some challenges in the capability to test some units due to the pandemic,” she says. “At times, there have been travel restrictions and some clients who have had restrictions on non-essential contractor visits. Field testing new products by technical representatives can fall into that non-essential category. It hasn’t shut down testing, but it has made it more difficult at times.”
On the flip side, remote monitoring provides a number of benefits in these times of social distancing. “It can offer some options in being able to monitor sites which may have had restricted access under the pandemic,” Hottel emphasizes. “We can determine rodent activity without a physical visit.”
THE LEAP FROM COMMERCIAL TO RESIDENTIAL
Many pest management businesses are already using electronic remote monitoring in commercial accounts. “We are using a variety of tools in our commercial accounts, from cameras to sensors,” Hottel remarks. “We are utilizing and field-testing cameras attached to equipment monitors, like pheromone traps and insect light traps, as well as using cameras to facilitate problem-solving in difficult-to-control infestations.” She adds that McCloud Services has sensored rodent systems in place, which use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi based systems.
While many pest management companies are implementing electronic monitoring for commercial customers, Hottel believes the technology could be used in residential accounts in some instances. “Certainly, in the area of nuisance wildlife trapping, the sensors have a place [in residential],” she says. “Nuisance wildlife trapping is common in and around residences. Where permitted by regulations, the sensors can be useful in replacing daily trap check requirements. There are a number of different sensors available and marketed for this purpose. There are pest management companies utilizing sensored traps for commensal rodent control in residential settings, but I believe, in the short term, the larger market will be in commercial.”
IMPLEMENTING ELECTRONIC MONITORING
Pest management companies that choose to implement electronic monitoring will reap the benefits. “There are multiple advantages to an organization in increasing the data obtained as it relates to solving pest problems,” Hottel emphasizes. “It can help in developing an understanding of root cause as well as allow for some additional inspection time away from the monitors.”
Ultimately, electronic remote monitoring can save PMPs loads of time—and as the saying goes, time is money. For example, in food plants, most interior monitors are checked weekly. “If we can reduce that time by checking only traps alerted, we can increase our proactive inspection time, looking for pest sources which are not tied to a monitor,” she says. “It is a reprioritization of time. It can lead to increased job satisfaction for our employees as well. Inspecting 200 interior rodent traps can be boring.”
There are also safety advantages to the technology, as electronic monitors can be placed in precarious places, such as rooftops and suspended ceilings. “With monitors, these areas can be checked less frequently by the technician,” she adds. “We believe there are safety benefits and job satisfaction benefits to be gained.”
If you’re considering adding electronic remote monitoring to your lineup but aren’t sure where to start, Hottel assures that there is plenty of help available. “Most manufacturers have staff available to help in the field with implementation,” she explains. “Some vendors have online training tools.”
She says PMPs should contact the equipment manufacturers for assistance and start field testing. “Some of the equipment is more intuitive to use than others, and field testing can help in determining which units will work best for an individual company.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Hottel believes electronic remote monitoring will continue to evolve in the years ahead. “The more data these devices can provide, the greater the value in pest prevention and control,” she says.
Advancements in AI will be particularly important for this technology. “As the devices become more sophisticated in their ability to identify specific pests entering a trap, there is potential we can use them not only to count the numbers of insects but also determine the types of pests,” she predicts. “At McCloud, we require our technicians to identify certain specific insects in an insect light trap. This can be a time-consuming part of the service. If we can get to the point where AI does that for us, it will be a time saver and provide valuable data regarding pest pressures and solutions.”
Another important component will be the integration of pest monitoring devices in coordination with environmental sensors. “For example, being able to link data from sensors regarding facility temperatures to stored product pest infestation captures in our monitors,” she explains. “Knowing how long a door was left open and the impact it may have had on rodent or filth fly captures. The potential in uncovering root cause is enormous.”
Even as this technology continues to evolve, Hottel gives an important reminder: “Smart devices are only so smart,” she says. “We still need to investigate what they are telling us and build in time to look at the online data and for field follow up.We also need to place our equipment in the proper location to maximize captures.”
So, if you want to implement electronic remote monitoring, you’ll still need human experts to handle these aspects of the job. “It will require a well-trained service specialist who is knowledgeable and has good problem-solving skills,” she adds.
BY AMY BELL
PHOTO: SUPPHACHAI SALAEMAN/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM