back to article Rentokil uses AI rat recognition to plot extermination in real time

One of the applications science fiction has found for AI is pest control – sometimes cute, sometimes extremely violent – and the direction of travel suggests we are moving into the realms of science fact. Last year The Register covered how engineering academics gave a laser beam machine vision and trained it to hunt …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    Well, they made life difficult for themselves by using AI looking for rats, it's very easy to detect if a mouse is plugged into a USB port...

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      True, but the Remote Access Trojan with AI evasion will ensure a profitable setup for a long time to come.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Welcome to snout recog

    The official app of New York (among many, many, many other cities).

    There's going to be a great need for video cameras for this to work - and I hope those cameras operate via WiFi, because if they're connected via cables, well, let's just say that rats can handle that problem.

    1. Mage

      Re: cables

      Though they will eat actual chilli flesh they don't like chilli sauce, like Tabasco or similar. Does stop them eating the cables. They seem to especially like black PVC. One ate through a slim dishwasher supply pipe. They ignore the regular fat hoses on washing machines and dishwashers.

      1. sebacoustic

        Re: cables

        Rodents - rats as well as mice - will try to eat almost anything they can sink their teeth into.

        This is part of their evolutionary strategy: even though eating plastic doesn't nourish them or do them any good, and may even kill an individual, the point is they have _tried_. Don't knock it until you've tried it is really the point: if something new does turns out to be beneficial (e.g. there's some food _inside_ the plastic) then as a group they are onto it quickly. If they see one of their brothers suffer after eating something new: maybe they will even learn from that (this is speculation on my part, borne out of frustration with the success of rodents populating our house and garden)

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: cables

          You can get cat urine flavoured cables to act as a deterrent:

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Welcome to snout recog

      We need 11kV PoE that deals with that specific problem...

  3. logicalextreme Silver badge
  4. bregister

    They should not layoff more people but cut their own bonuses and share payouts the dirty ...

    Oh Sorry, wrong story!

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    They need to be careful with this technology.

    Think about it. Depending on how the AI is trained and the data they've given it, how are we to know that it won't count the entirety of Westminster as one huge infestation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and that's a problem how?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        I don't want Rentokill becoming overstretched.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't work for London ...

    System would crash trying to analyse all the rats scuttling between Westminster and Downing St.

  7. Mage
    Black Helicopters


    Surely this is PR.

    I can't see how, even if it works, it makes it easier to trap, shoot or poison rats.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    AI rat recognition is working for us!

    Animal Intelligence is working fine, we have no rats or mice, or even cockroaches in the house - our cats work all day long and then sit on the sofa with me in the evening, not just the cats on the sofa, my crazy cat wife is happy there too!

    Basically keep a cat around and you can ignore technology, technology doesn't purr so I am much happier with our cats. We live in Louisiana so cats are very helpful all the time, if there's a tornado close by at night then they run around and alert the whole family - it's never been a problem, the last tornado went past half a mile away but we were getting ourselves safe with the cats too.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: AI rat recognition is working for us!

      we have no rats or mice, or even cockroaches in the house - our cats work all day long and then sit on the sofa with me in the evening

      Ditto. Except for the whole 'cats working hard thing'. I think they've outsourced the work to a lower-class bidder (ie the dogs - two terrier crosses (one dachshund, one Spanish unknown mixture of breeds but mostly terrier) and one Romanian multi-breed cross that appears to hate rats and foxes so probably had some training in Romania before she got ill and ended up in the rescue centre..).

  9. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    "And the technology will always identify which rat has come back"

    Old Mister Johnson had troubles of his own

    He had a yellow rat that wouldn't leave his home

    He used an AI system to track the rat that day

    He saw the Rentokil man drive it very far away...

    But the rat came back the very next day

    The rat came back, they thought he was a goner

    But the rat came back, it just wouldn't stay away

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: "And the technology will always identify which rat has come back"

      The canadian film board animation of the original is a work of art.... try and see it if you haven't already!

      Have a pint for a delightful ear worm/memory.

      1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: "And the technology will always identify which rat has come back"

        That's where I first heard it- I didn't realise it was a pre-existing (and much older) song in its own right until years later.

        They also did a Hula Hoops advert based on the same animation.

  10. 080


    Why would you want to Artificially Inseminate a rat?

  11. aregross
    Thumb Up

    A great idea but....

    ...without training one rat to 'Rat' on the others, all this will do is sell traps... "Oh you need a LOT of traps!"

    Although, the 'Rat' rat could be fitted with a frickin laser-beam on it's head... Hmmmm

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Brown rats?

    I wonder if this AI has problems distinguishing between brown rats. Or lady rats?

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  15. DrXym Silver badge

    A solution in search of a problem

    If you cam place a camera with picture clear enough to an ID a rat, then you could just as well put a trap, cage or bait there instead. Then you know exactly where the rat is - in rat heaven.

  16. Dr Dan Holdsworth


    One other trick that has been tried is to get rats to ingest a contraceptive solution. This has been tried in New York with the effect of reducing the population of rats to a steadily-ageing population of non-breeding rats. Rats, as they age, tend to turn into aggressive, xenophobic curmudgeons which actively resist incursions from younger rats trying to move into their territories. The net effect is that you end up with a small resident population of rats which actively keep out incomer rats.

    In a city like New York, no matter how zealous you are with the traps and poison you never eliminate the rat population, so reducing it to a tolerable low level is just as good as poison.

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