This article is a guest post on NoCamels and has been contributed by a third party. NoCamels assumes no responsibility for the content, including facts, visuals, and opinions presented by the author(s).
Nachshon Ben is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Tel Aviv.
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We have all experienced the itchy annoyance of mosquitos. Whether they are buzzing in your ear while you’re sleeping or eating away at your ankles at a cookout, they are one of summer’s biggest nuisance — a species many of us would like to see gone forever. Beyond being a source of irritation, both literally and figuratively, mosquitos can also be deadly. Through the diseases they carry and transmit, mosquitos cause the deaths of approximately 750,000 people every year, making them the world’s deadliest animal.
There are plenty of preventative products on the market — bug zappers, chemical- and oil-based repellants, mosquito nets, citronella plants, LED lamps, and mosquito trapping systems. And some work relatively well. But the real challenge is finding the pesky little insects in the first place — before nabbing them.
Israeli startup Bzigo developed an indoor solution that does just that — using computer vision and AI-powered tech to pinpoint the location of the bug. An outdoor solution from the company is also in the works.
The firm is currently testing its autonomous prototype at its research hub in Tel Aviv, where I had the chance to visit and interview CEO and co-founder Nadav Benedek.
The device, about the size of an apple, uses infrared lighting and a camera to track the movements of the mosquito or another insect. The laser scans and finds the pest, marking its location on the ceiling or wall and then sends a notification to an app on a mobile phone. The system has been tested and works in both dark and light settings, the company says. It can detect insects up to eight meters away from the device.
Benedek was friendly and eager to show me the device in action. His confidence is something of a trend amongst inventors and tech geniuses in Israel; it was clear in his ability to break it down and explain the device.
Benedek, alongside the company’s co-founder and main investor, Saar Wilf, has been working on Bzigo for three years. Benedek is a former engineer at Sun Systems (SanDisk) and other companies. Both founders served in the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200. They met through mutual friends and began brainstorming on how to deal with these annoying bugs.
“We understood the importance and impact of this device,” Benedek explained.
The need is clear, and so is the potential. For example, those zappers don’t work, Benedek says. Less than 0.2 percent of the insects they kill are mosquitos. “It… works on psychology. You hear the buzz/zap, you think it’s working. It doesn’t have an effect, particularly on the spread of disease,” he explains.
The company has an ambitious goal: to create an entirely pest-free world.
“One of the reasons we made this device is to find a solution for the negative effects of mosquitos, like allergies and disease. Mosquitos kill more people in the world than all animals and human beings combined,” Benedek explains. “Many are affected by horrible diseases, such as Zika, malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya, dengue fever, and many others.”
In the first nine months of development, Bzigo’s research centered on ultrasounds, creating a phased array sonar of ultrasound which led to detection ranges of around two to three meters. The company then switched to computer vision, which was its “big breakthrough,” allowing it to increase the range of the device.
“It took three years to make the current prototype, and in the past few weeks, the company has started to tell its story,” says Benedek.
During our interview, I saw the device in action when a fly landed on the ceiling and it cast a laser that moved around it. Benedek then picked up an extendable zapper, killed the fly and sat back down. It all took just a few seconds.
Bzigo was just introduced to the public in June, having been deemed fully compliant with safety standards and regulations for home usage, Benedek says.
“All questions have been answered. There are no risks, everything has been tested and approved,” he says.
The next phase is, of course, funding. While Wilf has already provided a seed round, the company now has to move from prototype to a final product. “To make the final product, it takes a few million dollars of funds. We are working on raising this,” Benedek says. The process will focus on industrial design, making the product smaller and more efficient. He estimates another 18 months.
The plan is to also kill mosquitos, not just track them. The company is currently experimenting with safe and autonomous methods to completely eliminate mosquitos. While the research is still in its early stages, it expects that future versions of Bzigo will both detect and eliminate the pests without human intervention.
Bzigo expects the device to be available on the market in early 2021, with a price tag of about $170.
While Bzigo is focusing on mosquitos for the time being, the intent is to find solutions for pigeons, flies, and rodents, which also spread disease.
The company says it plans to create an agri-tech product for industrial use to kill crop-destroying pests on farms.
“Between 1 and 5 am, no one is in greenhouses,” Benedek explains, “You could use lasers instead of pesticides. When you work outdoors, there are more possibilities for eliminating bugs.”
Now, can we also get a laser device to track and kill cockroaches?