Mosquitoes borne diseased kill over 700,000 people every year, effecting over half the world’s population and causing billions of dollars in lost productivity. Surveillance of mosquitoes is the only known way to monitor vector virus activity.
Wouldn’t it be great to have mosquito sensors in domestic backyards? Hundreds, perhaps thousands all networked together giving us real time information from the resolution of a single backyard alerting the owner that its perhaps not a good time to be sitting outside enjoying the BBQ to entire suburbs monitored for sudden blooming of mosquitoes from specific locations say someone who has not cleaned their swimming pool recently.
How could we achieve this without huge infrastructure costs? We have developed a revolutionary insect tracking technology. Our MozTrack sensor is one of our first devices using this technology to completely automate the process of mosquito tracking and identification, significantly boosting humanities surveillance capabilities. Our strategy is twofold:
Firstly we need a method of deploying our sensors. One method is to give away sensors to homes, schools and institutions in strategic locations, another is to crowdfund the cost and deployment of the sensors via a platform such as Kickstarter. The sponsors get a device that can alert them locally of mosquitoes and they also get the satisfaction of contributing to neighbour, suburban and city level surveillance.
The second thing we need is a reliable cheap high quality network infrastructure to connect our sensors to the Cloud. One way would be to use domestic Wi-Fi connection and indeed this would be cheap but it can be problematic to setup, temperamental and open to security issues. We chose, where available, to use the long range low power free LoRa VHF radio networks and IoT technology now being deployed in our major cities. Perth's latest developmenst can be found here.
INSECT TRACKING TECHNOLOGY
Effectively and efficiently controlling mosquito borne diseases requires a knowledge of the insects’ whereabouts and population densities. Mosquito traps are a standard method of mosquito surveillance however they are time consuming, costly, labour intensive and worst of all take days even weeks to accumulate data.
We have developed MozTrack as an automated system for tracking and classifying mosquitoes and other flying insects within a 1 to 7 meter range with a sampling time in seconds. No lures or manual inspection of traps is necessary. The MozTrack sensor is robust, portable and relatively low in cost. The sensors are connected to the Internet via LoRa radio, Wi-Fi or Cellular and operate using IoT (Internet of Things) protocols. Data from the sensors are added to our Cloud service containing information such as locations, images, species, abundance, observation times and local weather data. No such device or service is commercially available anywhere in the world today.
End users benefit from real time high resolution data accessible from their office computers or even via mobile phone alerts. The data is made available to companies and institutions wanting to further process the data from hundreds, potentially even thousands of sensors using Big Data mining techniques and Machine Learning technology. Local governments and institutions now know exactly when and at what level to treat mosquito outbreaks or issue warnings to the public.
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Background To Our MozTrack System
Currently mosquito traps are the preferred method of mosquito surveillance and we have been working closely with the West Australian Dept. of Health on verification testing of our MozTrack sensors against physical traps. Initial results are looking very good for MozTrack. Not only do our results show that we match the data coming from the manual traps but indeed we are intercepting more than 50 times the mosquitoes that the traps collect. In addition of course we are seeing our results in seconds but can practically only check the physical traps once every 30 minutes.
Bear in mind that physical traps cost local councils over $1000 per trap per week in running costs in season or over $20 Million a year in West Australia alone. Our system would bring this cost down at the same time as it provided enhanced data.
Already with our enhanced time resolution data we can see things like a huge spike in activity at dusk, we call it the 6 o’clock rush hour and a smaller one at dawn. We all know we get bitten more at dusk and dawn but to actually see and measure the sheer quantity of mosquito observations over a 20 minute period is an eye opener. Our devices emit a beep every time a mosquito is detected, imagine a Geiger counter for mosquitoes. At around 6pm in mosquito season it’s a very scary sound. Each and every mosquito event is potentially a little packet of virus delivery…
With only a limited number of prototype MozTrack sensors operational it is also encouraging to see that already the geographical data is giving results where we can track mosquito movements in real time which would be impossible to see with physical traps.
We plan to push into the future on four fronts.
1. Expanding our capability by providing not just a mosquito detection service but disease detection as well. Virus monitoring is currently done by collecting mosquitoes for analysis in laboratories or by testing the blood from sentinel chicken flocks that mosquitoes feed upon. A new technology has been developed where by mosquitoes are allowed to feed on honey baited cards. When feeding in this way mosquitoes leave behind disease markers. With our technology for instance at the dusk data spike we can open a shutter allowing mosquitoes to feed. Regularly the cards are sent off for a relatively simple automated virus analysis.
2. We have plans to move outside Australia and enter the South East Asian region where they have a much bigger mosquito problem. Consequently the need for our technology is far more acute. Revenues from the richer countries such as Singapore could be used as funding to move into the poorer African countries where malaria is by far the biggest killer, our MozTrack technology would be a game changer there.
3. Exotic insects arriving at our airports and threatening our agriculture will be the next market for us. MozTrack technology can be applied to tracking most insects of significance to our agriculture and biosecurity.
4. As we track mosquitoes in 3D space in real time we can target them, which means we could invest in developing technologies to selectively kill mosquitoes.