It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a mouse infestation can, if left unchecked, get out of hand very quickly. Reputational damage due to pest infestations in particular is a major concern for businesses. Effective rodent protection for businesses therefore requires discrete monitoring for rodent activity that does not interfere with day-to-day business operations.
Rentokil, the world leader in pest control, addressed this challenge beginning in 2013 by launching its innovative PestConnect services, the world’s first connected pest control technology system. It offers pest protection by means of continuous and proactive monitoring of business premises combined with a rapid response from Rentokil’s expert pest control technicians, even to incipient rodent activity. PestConnect devices are equipped with wireless modules that send a signal to a central control panel as soon as a trap is activated, and from there on to Rentokil’s command centre.
Unlike conventional rodent traps, PestConnect devices give the earliest possible warning of rodent activity, allowing rodents to be controlled before they breed in large numbers. PestConnect further meets business needs through accurate and comprehensive online reporting of pest protection status and was, for these reasons, recognised with a Best Internet of Things Project award by the UK IT Industry Awards in 2016.
Rentokil wanted to develop the next generation of PestConnect devices and to stay at the forefront of Internet of Things (IoT) technology for pest control. The goal was to improve the reliability and availability of PestConnect while minimising customer disruption during installation.
In particular, Rentokil sought a wireless communication module for PestConnect that would ensure reliable communication between rodent control devices and the central control panel even on the most challenging industrial sites. In addition to the challenge of scale, typical sites will include extensive metal structural elements which screen radio signals and electrical plant that can cause interference.
Rentokil also wanted a system that would be easy to deploy to minimise disruption to their clients’ operations, and offer secure data transmission given the potentially sensitive nature of data being passed over the network.
Finally, Rentokil wanted longer battery life for PestConnect devices to minimise staff deployment for system maintenance, anticipating that this would free up Rentokil’s skilled and qualified staff to focus on providing expert customer support and pest prevention.
As no commercial, off-the-shelf wireless communication solutions were available to address these needs, Rentokil engaged TTP to develop a wireless module for the next generation of PestConnect services.
TTP has a record in developing reliable, low-cost solutions to even the most challenging of IoT problems — from smart city lighting, ultra-low cost retail displays and welfare monitoring for dairy herds, through to extreme, in-body human health monitors. This gave Rentokil the confidence that TTP would find the right solution for the next generation of PestConnect services.
We selected TTP as a partner because of their comprehensive knowledge of wireless systems and the pragmatic approach they were prepared to take in working closely with us. TTP didn’t just guide us to the radio solution that would best meet our customer needs but went on to deliver a complete, approved and secure design that we could take straight into the factory.
What we did
At the outset of the project, a team of product engineers and IoT experts at TTP worked closely with members of the Rentokil Marketing and Innovation team to understand its product requirements, assessing existing implementations of PestConnect services and associated business practices and reviewing Rentokil’s roadmap for future connected services, to identify suitable technologies to meet these requirements.
This included an evaluation of available radio technologies and global wireless regulations - key for a product family that will be deployed worldwide - and radio surveys on representative industrial sites. Based on these studies, TTP and Rentokil selected the LoRa air interface and designed a custom protocol to achieve cost-performance targets dictated by Rentokil’s business plan.
During the development phase of the project, TTP developed the hardware and software, including a high-reliability, power-efficient communications protocol, and customised antennas. This work spanned the complete engineering design, prototyping, performance validation, regulatory approvals and the transfer of the module into manufacturing. This ensured that the performance of the wireless module met Rentokil’s requirements for reliability, security, range and battery life.
The result: the world’s smartest rodent control devices
The finished wireless module forms the heart of the next generation of Rentokil’s PestConnect services. Offering market-leading reliability and power consumption performance, the module is already deployed in Rentokil’s RADAR mouse traps, as well as in the on-site control panel for PestConnect services.
The wireless module has a range of over 300m and can reliably transmit through walls and buildings in dense, complex industrial environments. The module supports secure communication using well-established encryption techniques, while bi-directional data transfer allows for over-the-air firmware upgrades. It is approved for use in major global markets. The long battery life of the module further increases efficiency in the delivery of PestConnect services, freeing up Rentokil’s staff to focus on customer support and pest prevention.
For Rentokil’s customers, the new wireless module delivers a PestConnect service that is even easier to adopt. Thanks to the superior performance of the wireless module, PestConnect rodent control devices are now even easier to install on formerly challenging sites and easier to monitor from a central control panel.
Steve Baker, IoT specialist at TTP, commented “Rentokil had a clear focus on the customer benefits that they wanted to deliver. This enabled us to rapidly evaluate the technical commercial trade-offs that inevitably need to be made in these exciting IoT projects. As a result, we have delivered a module that places Rentokil at the forefront of IoT development for the global pest control market”.
A Rentokil Technician in the Netherlands concludes, ‘The stronger signal has made a real difference. It gives our customers who have weak signal strength or difficult locations more opportunities to leverage real-time insight, giving them the added confidence that their pest control measures are effective”.