Digital Rodent Monitoring: The Next Big Game-Changer?

The pest control marketplace is in the midst of big changes. As we speak, a variety of data-driven rodent monitoring systems that use sensors, wireless networks and apps are being developed.

The pest control marketplace is in the midst of big changes. As we speak, a variety of data-driven rodent monitoring systems that use sensors, wireless networks and apps are being developed for the U.S. and Canadian markets. This is the Internet of Things’ first foray into the pest management industry but probably not the last as developers also aim to reinvent bird and insect control with this technology. 
Leading the drive in rodent monitoring are device manufacturers, pesticide makers, software and international pest management companies. And while systems differ, they share similarities; namely, the ability to monitor traps and bait stations remotely for rodent activity, reducing labor costs while allowing PMPs to be more responsive to client needs.
Generally, systems consist of sensors mounted on rodent control devices that identify when an animal is present and when a trap closes, as well as a way of transmitting this data to a cell phone, tablet or computer via text, app or email. PMPs are alerted immediately if a trap has shut so they can take action sooner and eliminate gaps in protection. 
With the new tech potentially changing rodent control as we know it, pest management professionals have some figuring to do: How will these connected devices impact protocols? The business? And which system (if any) best fits the needs of company and client?
Precise problem solving. Remote monitoring systems alert PMPs instantly to rodent capture or activity compared to manually checking traps each week.
“Conditions can change considerably in a week’s time and this practice may not afford an accurate picture of cause,” wrote Pat Hottel, BCE, technical director of McCloud Services, which provides pest management services to commercial clients throughout the U.S. Midwest. Hottel wrote a case study on the company’s field tests of two remote monitoring systems.
Having real-time data lets PMPs analyze what’s happening simultaneously at the client facility, such as product deliveries and specific employee practices, to determine the cause of rodent problems, said Hottel. One McCloud service technician who received an alert returned to the plant to find the multiple-catch trap was being used to prop open an exterior door and had caught a mouse entering from the outside. 
Data directs technicians where to focus their time before arriving at the customer facility, helps PMPs schedule service visits and order job materials, and easily can be turned into trend reports and documentation for clients.

Less hassle. Checking devices in hard-to-reach and sensitive areas — like in drop ceilings, attics and under equipment — on every service visit is time-consuming, disruptive and often a safety risk. As a result, technicians sometimes don’t place devices in these rodent-prone spaces.

But with remote monitoring, technicians can respond to traps in difficult-to-access spots as needed. It allowed McCloud Services employees to monitor traps without having to dismantle a roof cap until an activity alert was received. They also spent less time on the roof, a safety consideration. 

Employee appeal. It’s hard to recruit someone to go out and check traps all day, PMPs say. With this technology, PMPs can recruit an employee to do more analysis as opposed to checking traps/scanning bar codes all day. In this way, the technology also could lead to higher job satisfaction for existing technicians. PMPs even may be able to reduce the number of service visits to check traps at remote client locations if no activity is recorded. “This technology will help save time and money since getting quality labor is very difficult in many places,” said Andre Bigras, account manager of Teris in Montreal.
Lots to evaluate. While Michel Maheu, general manager of Maheu&Maheu, Quebec City, said the technology may help in hard-to-reach or limited-access areas, he questioned whether PMPs really want to receive a text message every time a mouse is caught at an account and whether a client will pay to install sensors on more than 100 control devices. 
If you get an alert, do you drop everything and go service that account? And if you don’t, can you skip service that month? Technicians still must inspect glue traps for insects and rodents, Maheu reminded. “We need to mark the catches on the glueboards and this still has to be performed manually,” he said.
Many say the technology won’t replace an inspection from a technician. The technology is still evolving and the pest management industry is learning how to most effectively use it, said Hottel, McCloud Services.
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