Rentokil pilots facial recognition system as way to exterminate rats


The world’s largest pest control group is piloting the use of facial recognition software as a way to exterminate rats in people’s homes.

Rentokil said it had been developing the technology alongside Vodafone for 18 months.

The surveillance technology, which is already being tested in real homes, tracks the rodents’ habits and streams real-time analysis using artificial intelligence.

A central command centre can then help to decide where and how to kill the rats caught on camera.

Rentokil’s chief executive, Andy Ransom, told the Financial Times: “With facial recognition technology you can see that rat number one behaved differently from rat number three.

“And the technology will always identify which rat has come back, where are they feeding, where are they sleeping, who’s causing the damage, which part of the building are they coming from, where are they getting into the building from, whether it’s the same rodent that caused the problem last week.”

In developing the technology, Rentokil watched rats in a controlled environment, with cameras monitoring their behaviour patterns. Machine learning using an AI system allows it to build the recognition capabilities.

Ransom said the purchase of the Israeli market leader Eitan Amichai in December had given Rentokil access to “significant technology”. The new system is being piloted by customers including food producers and offices.

Rentokil intends to expand its operation and has acquired 300 businesses since 2016, according to reports.

The group is targeting “cities of the future” in countries that could soon experience a pest population boom, such as China, India and Indonesia.

“If you can identify which cities are going to have a massive influx of population, you can pretty much conclude that they’re going to have significant rodent problems,” Ransom said.

In more positive news for rats, scientists recently discovered that they find rhythmic beats irresistible and instinctively move in time to music. The ability was previously thought to be uniquely human.

“Rats displayed innate – that is, without any training or prior exposure to music – beat synchronisation,” said Dr Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo.

“Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition.”

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( With inputs from : )

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