Inventor Develops IoT Solution to Bedbug Problem

GUPSY's monitor uses a connected camera and insect trap that would act as an early-warning system for building owners or managers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 09, 2016

Wim Glorieux is not an entomologist. He's not a pest-control expert, either. But the Belgian engineer believes he has found an effective way for hoteliers and other property managers to reduce the financial impacts caused by bedbugs. And he's leveraging the Internet of Things to do it.

To property managers, bedbugs are pernicious for a number of reasons. The insects, which generally arrive in a property by hitching a ride in luggage or furniture, live off human or animal blood and remain inactive during the day but, like mosquitoes, are drawn to the carbon dioxide exhaled by their prey. While they do not spread disease or create any major human health risk, the bites are an itchy nuisance. They are very difficult to eliminate because DDT, the chemical that historically was most effective in eradicating them, is now banned. Applying very high heat to infested rooms is the best way to kill bedbugs, but that, as well as the follow-up monitoring required (often done with specially trained beagles that can sniff out the presence of bedbugs), is very expensive.

GUPSY's bedbug monitor
According to a Businessweek article from 2007, a hotel could spend $60,000 to respond to a large infestation. What's more, bedbugs bring with them an exceptionally negative stigma, even though their presence is not correlated with unclean spaces or poor housekeeping. For hotels and apartment buildings, this stigma means that an infestation comes with reputational costs, as well as direct costs.

Glorieux's startup, GUPSY (which stands for global urban positioning and sensor system), has developed a device that attracts bedbugs by emitting CO2. Once they crawl inside the device, the bedbugs, which cannot fly, become trapped. A built-in camera takes periodic images, and an algorithm, developed by Glorieux, analyzes those images and determines the quantity and type (adult versus juvenile) of bedbugs that are present. "If you see just a large one, that's one thing," he says, "but if there are also small bedbugs present, that is very bad because it shows they have begun reproducing in that room."

The bug count would be transmitted wirelessly, via the LoRa protocol for low-power wide area networks (LPWAN), to a gateway device in the building and would then be forwarded on to a cloud-based server. From there, an alert would be issued to hotel personnel or the building manager, or to the building's pest-management company, if the owners use one.

The bedbug monitor is not the first device Glorieux has developed that seeks to help organizations control pests, nor is it the first time he has opted for a LPWAN communication network. GUPSY also sells a temperature sensor and communications module that Glorieux designed specifically to be integrated into a mousetrap, in order to make it more effective and accurate. GUPSY sells this module to Anticimex, a pest control management company, which has added the module to 15,000 of its mice traps, deployed in warehouses operated by companies in the food and beverage industry, according to Glorieux.

To prevent traps from being triggered accidentally, such as when they are bumped with enough force to trigger the switch, the switch inside the modified trap is tripped both by pressure and by a slight increase in the temperature inside the trap (indicating a mouse is within). After the trapped is triggered, the integrated LoRa-compliant radio transmits an alert, along with the trap's identification number, to the nearest gateway device. Anticimex then receives this alert and can dispatch a technician to empty the trap.

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