There are some alarming stats out there on the impact of pests on business. 55% of all businesses report losing at least one working day per year as a result of infestation and two fifths of all infestations last for over two weeks — a timespan that causes huge financial and reputational damage to any food business.
The problem is a frustrating one for anyone involved in managing facilities in the food industry. Many organisations have preventive measures in place, but they still struggle to stop infestations because they don’t have the resources to monitor facilities 24/7.
Thankfully, though, there is now a solution available with the rise of iot technology that presents a huge opportunity to redress the balance and improve pest control. At Rentokil, we’ve developed PestConnect — an automated wireless monitoring system that allows businesses to protect facilities 24/7, 365 days a year with even more security.
How Rentokil employs IoT technology in pest control
PestConnect is an application of the Internet of Things (IoT), the global network of physical devices embedded with electronics, sensors and network connectivity that is transforming the way organisations work. The IoT’s impact is already changing the way organisations manage everything from logistics to agriculture, to manufacturing and by 2020, the world will have over 20 billion connected devices (Gartner, 2015).
Bringing this phenomenon to pest control, PestConnect works via iot enabled devices with infrared sensors that monitor facilities 24 hours a day and pick up any activity from mice or rats. When a unit is activated, a message is transmitted to a Rentokil technician, who then follows up rapidly to treat and control the issue.
All of this information is then recorded on the secure myRentokil portal — a unique, online 24/7 reporting system that enables organisations to track trends and identify new risks across their operations in real-time.
Another breakthrough through is that the portal also includes advanced analytics that allow food businesses to focus on prevention of pest problems in new ways. This is being achieved by combining Rentokil’s vast knowledge of pest control with the data analysis expertise of organisations like Google, PA Consulting Group and Qlik. The cloud-based Qlik Sense platform, for example, provides visualisations of data collected from PestConnect and combines them with other relevant data sources — for instance, mapping weather patterns with rodent behaviour. This will ultimately help us ensure that our customers can take a much more proactive approach to managing food safety risks across global supply chains.
A future of multi-sector collaboration to improve food safety
In the future, it’s likely that the availability of new data collected by systems like PestConnect will lead to greater collaboration across the whole food industry.
Major industry groups recognise this already. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), for example, provides an international multi-stakeholder platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and networking along the supply chain.
Governing authorities are also playing their part. In 2015, European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research programme called for proposals for a large-scale multinational, multi sector Internet of Things pilot project on smart farming and food security. It stated that IoT technologies have the potential of helping European farming and food sector face important challenges for the future through real-time monitoring, better decision making, and improved operations management of the whole value chain, from farm to fork.
Significantly, the European Commission is encouraging the participation of all the potential contributors that play an active role in the agro-food chain, including farmers, machinery suppliers, food processors, retailers, wholesalers and of course the scientists and IoT technology suppliers working in the food sector. Results will also be used to inform EU policy on farming, food safety and food security.
There’s little doubt: the rise of iot technology could have significant effects on food safety. Systems like PestConnect are detecting food safety threats as they happen and implementing control measures before threats can spread. Crucially, they are also leading us to the point where we can predict likely infestations and improve efficiency and business continuity in the process – ultimately helping to improve food safety and security across the supply chain.