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13 September 2017

The future started yesterday: Barcelona Pest Control Innovation Forum

In late May Simon Forrester attended the second Barcelona Pest Control Innovation Forum, organised by ADEPAP, the Catalonian Pest Management Association.

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Feature where we've been | PPC88 September 2017

Speed view

The Innovation Forum featured sessions with a panel of experts in the middle of what looked like a television studio. After the main discussion, everyone broke off into smaller groups for roundtable discussions, giving delegates the opportunity to really engage with each other while the topics were still fresh in their minds.

The event attracted 120 delegates from across Europe to look at the future of pest management – or at least the possibilities that technology might bring to our sector. Quim Sendra, the President of ADEPAP, opened proceedings by stating that in the past many pest controllers fell into the same habits; the future is change, and the only way to guarantee total success is through total commitment to change. It’s difficult to gauge the future – who would have thought that the best selling robot in the world would be a vacuum cleaner (Roomba), not a robot that uses your vacuum cleaner? Our industry must be ready for a change of this magnitude.

Andy Architect from America’s NPMA said, “We’re all in this together; like it or not our industry is a global community, and at a recent futurescaping event US pest management professionals said their goal is to have a pest controller for every home in the world. Reaching this aim will require technological development.”

Speakers came from a range of sectors, almost all from outside our industry to give a fresh perspective.Robotics is a fast-developing science – yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality. The opportunity is for pest controllers to become technical experts in the application and use of these technologies, leaving basic pest control activities to others – or to robots!

Robotics is a fast-developing science – yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality. The opportunity is for pest controllers to become technical experts in the application and use of these technologies, leaving basic pest control activities to others – or to robots!In general, participants agreed that technology is going to change some of the traditional methods of pest control, like it or not. However, they doubt whether this turning point is going to take place in the short or long term. It is imperative we’re sure that the investments that new technologies require are worthwhile economically, and their efficacy can be demonstrated.

In general, participants agreed that technology is going to change some of the traditional methods of pest control, like it or not. However, they doubt whether this turning point is going to take place in the short or long term. It is imperative we’re sure that the investments that new technologies require are worthwhile economically, and their efficacy can be demonstrated.

where we've been half way

Can we as a sector change?

Attendees heard that clients are already asking for technology to replace technicians. We should use appropriate technology to anticipate client demand and target marketing, resources, etc. accordingly.

Government, big companies and associations should push the entire sector towards a change of paradigm, according to participants. Legal issues dominate any change; a regulatory framework for the use of drones or nanotechnology must be established.

Significant technology is already here (or just around the corner)

NanotechnologyNanotechnology

On a nanoscale, physical laws change. A natural example is water-repellent hairs on a leaf. The molecules within a 20mm cube can cover five football fields at the nanoscale. Time to market for these products will be slow due to legal issues plus the requirement for familiarity with the species on a cellular level. Nanoscience allows the same or even better results from smaller quantities of a product. The jury is still out on the relative safety of nanotech, and especially nano-scale robotics.

The present 
  • Silver ions to neutralise bacteria (used in socks, tupperware, hospital surfaces)
  • The physio-chemical properties of quartz (SiO2) change to Diatomaceous Earth at a particulate level of 2-18μm
  • Self-cleaning clothes
  • Building coatings using titanium oxide – no water, dirt slides off
The future
  • Graphene (2-300x stronger than diamond or steel). Specific surfaces created to improve contact between substances
  • Using nanoparticles we need less material to gain coverage of a wider area – more atoms are on the surface, and so active ingredients are more effective
  • Nanoencapsulation can allow slow release of biocides under specific conditions, improve residual activity and specificity, even to single species
  • Nanobots (20-30 years away)

Sensing technologySensing technology

Batteryless sensors are a big plus – they may negate the need to visit regularly.  Having real-time information on the pest infestation and being able to respond proactively was seen as a major benefit. Sensors could be attached to traditional tools to monitor activity, connected to the Internet of Things.

  • Beware of customers becoming loyal to the device rather than the company
  • Emphasise the importance of using professionals
The present 
  • Sensing through the soil for burrowing insects and animals e.g. termites via attenuation of soil
  • Cameras help us identify behaviour of pests without revisiting, and can switch to trapping systems once the pest feels confident in the environment
  • Transmitters that detect the size and shape of the pest, sending information to a hub in the cloud – already in use in agriculture and mosquito control
The future
  • Augmented reality – technicians with glasses that show likely pest hotspots based on real-time data analysis from sensor networks, allowing instant pest identification
  • Pheromone traps that tell you what pest it has caught using a database of pest images

DronesDrones

Legal issues around who pays in case of an accident, also unlicensed or illegal drone use is a current problem - this is currently being addressed.

The present
  • Inspection at height e.g. for Asian hornets or bird management
  • Hawk-shaped drones to scare away birds using attack flight patterns and no kills - used in airports and agriculture
  • Good for tent fumigations to check for tears in fabric
  • Look into chimneys
  • Drive into crawl spaces
  • Drift netting
The future
  • Sewer mapping using autonomous navigation – there’s no wifi in sewers!
  • ‘Pied Piper’ unit sprays rats with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) - a slow-acting biocide thus avoiding behavioural resistance
  • Drones for mosquito spraying using UV light to attract them
  • Drones linked to sensors – when triggered, the drone is released to scare away the pest or spray it autonomously – overseen by a technician who has a contract to maintain this service
  • Need for proper qualifications for drone operators

Disruptive systemsDisruptive Systems

  • Residential clients want a relationship with the technician. Trust is essential, and our focus should be on safety
  • Recurring revenue is the challenge and may be the saving grace
  • Standards, certification and qualifications give a defence against ‘uberisation’
The present
  • ‘Uberisation’ of pest control services – lots of small companies working together to take on larger ones – this is already here through the BPCA Contract Sharing Network
  • Price comparison always leads to a race to the bottom - important to show that not all pest controllers are the same - that’s the value of certification and membership of a real trade body
The future
  • Sales of pest control services through shopping sites such as Amazon will present a threat and an opportunity
  • If we lose biocides and anyone can do pest control, what is our USP?
  • Wearable tech – sensing glasses that show the tech where the ‘hotspots’ are to treat, based on sensor activity and AI predicting movement (Google glasses)
  • Google glasses that tell the technician what is seen – instant pest identification and customer records while walking around

Betooth meshBluetooth Mesh transmission

  • Every Bluetooth device in range becomes a ‘node’ in the network, allowing relayed transmission of data over a wider area.No single point of failure improves reliability – remove a device and the rest of the network carries on. Already works with existing technology that uses Bluetooth 4.0
  • No single point of failure improves reliability – remove a device and the rest of the network carries on. Already works with existing technology that uses Bluetooth 4.0
The present 

Bluetooth is power-hungry but reliable, with limited range. Mesh uses the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) standard to manage how power is used carefully. Mains powered devices can pick up the slack concerning processing and transmitting data from energy conscious, battery-powered devices which can reprogram each other.

The future
  • This will supercharge the Internet of Things. It’s much more secure. Will blanket the world with Bluetooth networks, all talking to each other, and tracking objects to the centimetre; good for asset management – and pest management too!
  • Much improved energy efficiency means fewer visits to charge devices

RobotsRobots

Little nanorobots may be able to emulate bugs and fight current and invasive species.

The present
  • Greenhouse monitoring robots check soil, water and pests then sends data to a hub to adjust the environment
  • Jellyfish monitors to keep beaches safe
The future
  • Robotic cockroach infiltrates roach community, then uses pheromones to lure the colony elsewhere
  • 3D printers will eventually be cheaper than buying and posting something
  • Perhaps in the future we will see artificial beings fighting pests while we sleep!

Cloud computingCloud computing

Data is the fuel for AI. By 2020 our industry will likely be paperless, and all that data will be held in the cloud. This allows for rapid advances if the data is shared.
Issues around data security, privacy, false positives should be resolved in years.

The present
  • Big data allows forecasting and predictions. Companies like IGEO ERP are developing pest management software that predicts pest activity
  • Data sets allow for the automation of planning workloads, routes and staffing based on proximity, skills and what’s on the van
  • Following the evolution of an infestation in real time is possible, and the data gathered from each case can be used for the business intelligence of the company. The more data available the more artificial intelligence (AI) will be able to help us to take better decisions
The future
  • AI to process large data sets then take its own decisions based on this data.
  • A video feed identifies the pest, works out its relative importance based on client needs and contract, then loads the van, calculates the route, despatches the technician, sends a route/site map/video, etc. – or despatches a robot!

Internet 4.0Internet 4.0

  • The fourth industrial revolution: the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Less chemicals, fewer site visits, targeted response, real-time availability of data
  • Sensors now very cheap to buy and use
The present

Multi-sensor arrays to detect pests across a site using standard radio frequency identification (RFID).

The future
  • Pheromone-sensing technologies linked to low energy arrays
  • Put sensors where pests typically live
  • Longer term: inert (ie. uncommunicative/sensing) systems will be made useless – 4.0 overcomes this

A final word

Joaquim Vilà, Professor of Strategic Management at IESE Business School in Barcelona, had this to say: “The enemy is sometimes inside the company in terms of innovation. ‘We do not have time to innovate’, and ‘this has always been done like this and cannot be changed’ are the most typical excuses. It is important to change these behaviours and explore outside of our mental borders: ask ourselves crazy questions. The answers may surprise us – or offer a new future for our sector.”

Know of an event we should attend? Let us know.

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Simon-Forrester-staff-bubbleSimon Forrester
Chief Executive

15 September 2017  |  PPC88

Source: PPC88

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