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21st century rat busting is a high tech job
"I CATCH rats,'' says Deanne Baptista, much to the dismay of those who ask what she does for a living.
"I use technology to catch rats," she clarifies.
Ms Baptista is the chief executive officer of technology company Cre8tec, which focuses on improving surveillance to manage rodent problems.
"I had some misgivings with this industry - it's not glamorous, it's not sexy and it's largely male dominated," said Ms Baptista.
Despite that, she finds excitement in developing solutions to outsmart the furry pests.
Rats are typically caught using snap traps or glue traps with bait. However, rats today are very smart and adaptable, said Ms Baptista.
"We always assume that as long as we have the trap out, the rats will be caught by it," she said. "But they have learned to live around us so being able to detect them before they become an infestation is crucial."
Cre8tec's solution is to use sensors to collect data on rodent movement, exit and entry points and areas of infestation to help pest control firms boost the effectiveness of rat traps.
These sensors are part of Cre8tec's integrated infrared sensor-based system that is backed by data analytics known as Ratsense.
Ratsense is able to capture the details of the rodents' movement and time of activity to provide pest control firms with insights and location-based information on the rats.
The 24/7 surveillance also means being able to gain access to data remotely, cutting down on the need for on-site inspections.
To date, Cre8tec has deployed sensors at Grade A buildings, large infrastructural sites and universities across Singapore and Australia.
Ms Baptista noted that simply relying on rat traps would not suffice as rats reproduce quickly.
Without sufficient data and information, only a few rats can be caught at a time and they will reproduce at a faster rate than being caught, she explained.
Cre8tec first started looking into the potential of sensors for rodent management five years ago in an attempt to be more productive.
But unlike conventionally placing sensors on rat traps, the company decided to do something else.
"We found that we were learning more by monitoring other areas rather than limiting ourselves to just the trap," said Ms Baptista. "This allowed us to take on a more dynamic approach to controlling rats."
The company initially started out with using WiFi for its system, but soon realised that this was not sustainable as many power points were required, thus making the use of sensors a more expensive and cumbersome solution for its clients.
Ratsense today taps into technology that is able to collect and transmit data directly to the cloud. It is known as the low-power wide-area network, which is touted for its long range, low power and low cost.
However, Ms Baptista said, the take-up rate of Ratsense is much slower in Singapore than in other countries.
"I would have expected it to be faster, given that Singapore is generally ahead in terms of technology," she said. "So it's about changing mindsets especially since data-driven decisions are new in the pest control industry."
To overcome this, Cre8tec is looking out for key partnerships that can help promote Ratsense as part of their solutions to the market.
Overseas, on the other hand, Ratsense is an "easy sell", said Ms Baptista.
"I think it's largely due to legislation - animal welfare and enforcement by government on food establishments are stricter overseas than they are here," she said.
Currently headquartered in Singapore, Cre8tec has since expanded its footprint across Australia, New Zealand and France.
Looking forward, Ms Baptista said that she wants Cre8tec to have a huge global presence.
"I'd like Ratsense to be the de facto rodent surveillance solution for buildings and be the go-to solution globally," she said.
However, a lack of resources remains a barrier to break into foreign lands. While many nations are attempting to go "smart", the progress is still lagging in some regions.
"We realise that in different countries, different types of connectivity platforms are needed. So we need to be able to adopt more connectivity platforms for our products to work elsewhere," said Ms Baptista.
The company is also looking to include environmental data points such as weather and temperature to improve the system's predictive abilities.
"Cre8tec is always developing more ways to collect different types of data. That I think is the greatest way we value-add as a company. In time, we will look beyond rats and build the capabilities for other pests as well," said Ms Baptista.
The firm is currently working on adapting its technology to deal with pests such as birds and termites.
The bird detection sensor is on track to be completed this year.
With a team of eight in Singapore, including a business manager, engineers and designers, Ms Baptista admitted to a manpower crunch and is looking to expand her team.
"My struggles in my career are personal ones. Being a mother of two kids, it's always challenge finding that balance between work and family," said Ms Baptista.
"So to not compromise on both roles, I need to focus on building a bigger team."