Sector

09 November 2021

State of play: How technology is shaping pest control strategies in 2021

TECHNICAL | PPC105 NOVEMBER 2021

Pest management is going through a technological revolution thanks to smart traps, remote monitoring, data availability, and the Internet of Things becoming more affordable and reliable.

We asked Paul Blackhurst, Head of the UK Technical Academy at BPCA member company Rentokil Pest Control, to share his views on how technology can enhance our management programmes.

How technology is shaping pest control strategies in 2021 PPC magazine feature BPCA

SPEED VIEW:

  • We can use data to understand the impact of pests better and develop the best solutions for customers
  • Traffic to Rentokil’s rodent pages has increased over five years
  • Warmer UK weather could be favourable for rodents to produce more litters
  • Data indicates that the most common time for rodent activity in an office is 0:36am
  • 30% of rodent infestations in warehouses originate in the loading bay
  • Tesco sites reduced reliance on rodenticide by up to 40% using the latest technology.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across many sectors. Numerous companies and even the government, schools, and GP surgeries pivoted to operate remotely for periods of time.

These rapid shifts have shown just how vital technology is for continuity as well as for strategic planning, helping organisations to make smarter decisions. The pest control industry is no different.

As the UK’s vaccination programme continues to roll on, the government is keen for businesses, schools and workplaces to cautiously get ‘back to normal’.

For some sectors, this means people will be back at their regular places of work full time, but the reality is that many will adopt a hybrid approach.

Office workers, in particular, are likely to split their time between offices and working from home.

This fluctuation in traffic is likely to mean that homes, offices and businesses will require better monitoring solutions to manage pest activity, and this is where technology and pest control converge.

With new technology, the pest control industry can use data to better understand the impact of pests and develop the best solutions for customers in the hybrid work era.

But what do these intelligent solutions look like? Let’s explore some of the latest innovations in the industry by taking a deep dive into tackling rodents.

A growing threat?

While rodents have long plagued residential and commercial properties, there is evidence that their numbers have increased.

Data released by Rentokil Pest Control found that online traffic to its rodent pages has increased over five consecutive years – 37% higher in 2020 compared to 2015.

Weather patterns could also be one element contributing to this increase. Warmer weather in the UK in recent years could be creating favourable conditions for rodents to produce more litters in a season and then survive the winter when colder weather usually curtails the population.

In addition, many unoccupied office blocks during the pandemic provided a quiet and safe place for rodents to hide, creating favourable conditions for rats and mice to breed.

But now, as businesses plan for the return of workers, clients will be looking to the industry to help ensure that their premises are hygienic and pest free.

Here’s where new technology comes in, as data can play a valuable role in helping to inform pest prevention strategies as well as providing assurance to employers and staff.

Harnessing data for better pest monitoring

Rentokil smart trap technology

Previously, data collection has been the biggest barrier in holding the pest control industry back from being more data-driven.

But with improvements in connected technology, as well as innovations from some of the key players, such as Rentokil, the pest control industry is on a data collection drive.

New technology, including connected traps and bait boxes, provides 24/7 monitoring and data collection to help inform the understanding of pest control professionals’ understanding of where, how, and when rodents have entered premises.

This means that they can work with clients to better pest-proof their premises and ensure the root cause of any pest break-in is dealt with quickly.

After all, once rodents gain access to premises, they can be very difficult to control, so preventing them from gaining access in the first place is key.

The data from intelligent pest management systems, like Rentokil’s connected solution PestConnect, can prove invaluable in helping facilities managers and pest controllers understand rodent behaviour in relation to different types of premises.

For example, when we analysed the data from thousands of PestConnect devices deployed across the country, we discovered that the most common time that a rodent is active in an office setting is 0:36am.

The data from intelligent pest management systems...can prove invaluable in helping facilities managers and pest controllers understand rodent behaviour in relation to different types of premises.

While it is useful to know when rats and mice are most active, PestConnect can also identify exactly where they are located.

In turn, this can help our experts target their pest prevention strategies for customers, and help identify hidden ingress points and rodent hiding places that otherwise may not be discovered.

PestConnect, combined with the MyRentokil Floor Plan App as part of a wider cloud-based digital ecosystem, have transformed the way Rentokil technicians work on-site.

They can now visualise and interact with customer sites digitally, which is improving the quality of service delivered and the efficiency of frontline colleagues.

With the FloorPlan app, technicians can see exactly where pest prevention measures have been implemented, making their time on-site focused on pest proofing and prevention strategies, as opposed to locating traps and bait boxes.

They can also quickly access the locations of previous pest issues or areas of concern to give a complete pest prevention overview to the client.

Data can also help pest controllers suggest behavioural solutions for clients.

For example, analysis of our data found that 30% of rodent infestations in warehouses originate in the loading bay, where building entrances are frequently open.

So, in this case, technicians were able to work with the client to encourage employees to ensure loading bay doors were closed when not in use to prevent rodents from entering.

These behavioural insights based on data can also help pest controllers both on the frontline, and in the research and development teams, to plan, design and execute better pest prevention products.

The technology for a holistic, humane solution

In today’s world, clients are likely to have a responsibility for helping their organisations improve their environmental footprint.

Pest control is not solely about getting rid of pests but doing it in an effective, humane and sustainable way.

A digital system such as PestConnect is a connected and fully integrated pest control solution that acts like a rodent burglar alarm.

This not only provides the data to enhance pest prevention strategies but also helps improve environmental outcomes by reducing the reliance on toxic baits.

By deploying PestConnect at Tesco sites across the country, this British retailer reduced its reliance on rodenticide bait by up to 40%.

PestConnect uses three ‘connected’ traps:

  1. Dual AutoGate Connect with infrared sensors to detect rodents outside the premises, exposing rodenticide in external bait stations to the target pest only once they have been detected, and then closing again to seal off rodenticide from the outside environment after the target pest has been controlled
  2. RADARConnect for those mice that manage to find their way indoors
  3. Rat Riddance Connect, a smart trap used to monitor and control rat activity inside.

This network of connected devices helps to provide further confidence when it comes to using rodenticides responsibly.

RADARConnect traps kill mice using carbon dioxide, a faster and more humane method of elimination, without using rodenticide.

Rat Riddance Connect is a connected mechanical trap, and Dual AutoGate Connect is a device with a barrier between bait and the environment, which only opens during an active rodent infestation.

Final thoughts

Digital pest control solutions can provide 24/7 monitoring and control of rodents as well as an unprecedented level of insight.

Pest professionals are then able to use this data with their clients to implement bespoke pest management strategies, that not only comply with all health and safety legislation but also deliver environmental benefits, such as a reduction in toxic bait usage.

While we remain hopeful that life will return to normal in the long term, the next few months will inevitably bring their own challenges.

But with the right technology and systems in place, pest management does not need to pose an additional challenge for clients.

Employing a preventative strategy using digital solutions will mean that, while many areas of life remain uncertain, costly infestations are much less likely to disrupt businesses from getting back on track.

What does technology mean to you?

Love it or hate it, technology is going to have an increasingly crucial role to play in managing pests.

Share your thoughts on embracing technology, and we might just print them in a future issue of PPC.

hello@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC105

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