This week sees news of a bed bug infestation all over Paris. And it's not limited to beds or even homes – bed bugs have been to the cinema and are riding high on national high-speed trains, the Paris Metro system, and ferries.
And with the Paris Olympics coming next year, it won't be long before they can fly to foreign lands. It's enough to make your skin crawl.
As someone who comes from the creepy crawly capital of the world (Australia) and is keenly interested in tech, you'll be pleased to learn I've found a startup helping eradicate the problem of bed bugs.
I spoke to Valpas CEO and co-founder Martim Gois to learn all about it.
While the current news cycle focuses on Paris, Gois offered a caution for all:
"What we're seeing in Paris is also bound to happen in other cities. Paris is the most visited city in the world, so this is just the beginning."
IoT technology in pest control
Valpas has developed specialist bed legs that actively attract and prevent bed bugs upon entering a bedroom before infections.
The beg legs are coated with a bug-attracting colour with a distinct QR code for each room.
Two legs on each bed have integrated pitfall traps and IoT sensors, while the other two are 'dummy' legs that are too smooth to climb. When a bed bug climbs up one of the two 'smart' legs it falls inside the leg and can't escape.
A sensor detects the bug and sends an instant report to hotel staff. This kind of early intervention is crucial to preventing bed bug spread.
The system also provides daily reports and stores all data for effective analysis and reporting.
According to Gois, Valpas is designed to prevent the infestation permanently. Once installed in a clean room, it prevents the infestation of incoming bugs from the high turnover of guests.
Further, it can also be used in an already-infested room to accelerate the eradication and help direct staff where to target their efforts and track their progress.
A pesticide-free solution to bed bugs
What interests me most about Valpas' tech is that it's pesticide-free. Gois explained:
"Bed bugs have become resistant to pesticide solutions. Leading entomologists project that as soon as 2028, they could become fully immune to all pesticides."
Furthermore, chemical products can cause poisoning and harm the environment.
And, with that in mind, Valpas is focused on the most common site of bed bug infestations, hotels. Gois sees the current infestation as a "ticking public health time bomb, and the way to diffuse it is by permanently protecting the 'super spreader' bedrooms linked to hospitality."
Controlling bed bugs all over Europe
The Valpas system is currently in use in thirteen European countries, including hundreds of hotels outside of France, such as Sokos Hotels in Finland and ARP-Hansen Hotel Group in Denmark. Offered as a subscription service to hoteliers, Valpas tech has resulted in over 6,000,000 nights protected in 15,000+ rooms.
Hotels in the network have been able to detect and remediate bedbug infestations in an entirely eco-friendly manner before they even get started, upgrading arriving guests to a better room to avoid a problem area.
This week, Valpas launched a petition calling on the Office of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Paris to allay travelers' fears and implement a permanent solution against these pests before the 2024 Olympic Games.
"Bed bugs travel in luggage and, when they enter a room, infect it and spread.
As hoteliers, we have seen first-hand their expansion and the damage they cause, but we have also understood our responsibility in combating this scourge – our rooms, which see guests coming and going every day, help accelerate the epidemic (think of COVID and super spreaders).
Conversely, if hotels were rid of bedbugs, people would take far fewer bedbugs home, and society would be safer."
It has been signed by thousands of hoteliers to "ensure that Paris remains a favourite destination of the world before, during, and even after the Olympics".
Lead image via Valpas' Facebook account.