AI’s newest use case: Bedbug detection

A UK startup is using tech to keep hotels safe from bedbugs.

Even reading the word “bedbugs” is enough to make you itchy.

A man in blue overalls lifting up a mattress and shining a flashlight on bedbugs.

And finding the little creatures in your hotel sheets — like what happened last fall in Paris — is a real-life nightmare that’s becoming more common.

Luckily, it’s AI to the rescue. Spotta, a UK-based company founded in 2017, is developing tech to spot bedbugs on hotel mattresses and put a stop to outbreaks, per Hotel Dive.

While bedbugs might be teeny-tiny, the potential profits are not:

  • One study found that a single review mentioning bedbugs can slash the value of a hotel’s rooms by $23-$38 per night.
  • Insect pests cost the global economy $570B annually by spreading disease, killing crops, and marring businesses’ reputations.

The startup, which raised $3.7m+ in December, works with hotels throughout Europe and recently partnered with Comcast’s MachineQ to bring its tech to more US hotels.

Tech bites back

Spotta’s bedbug detection system is the size of a deck of cards and is installed under hotel mattresses. An image sensor in the device uses AI to identify any bugs and alerts hotel management with an email and a photo if it spots a bedbug.

  • Timely detection is key — once you can see the little suckers with your eyeballs, it’s likely too late to contain an outbreak.
  • Using AI to debug also limits the use of harmful pesticides, which has long been the only solution.

The tech could even be useful outside of the hotel room; being able to identify and control pests in restaurants and bars might be next.

More proof that AI is capable of seemingly anything — and that if you read the word “bedbug” enough times, you’ll be convinced they’re in your house.

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