Microsoft Joins the Fight Against Mosquitoes
High-tech tools, including automation and robotics, are joining the fight against Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, thanks to U.S. technology companies like Microsoft and Verily. Innovations include a smart trap to capture Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—known carriers of Zika—and techniques to create sterile male mosquitoes, providing effective birth control for the species.
In Harris County, Texas, 10 mosquito traps made by Microsoft use robotics, infrared sensors, machine learning, and cloud computing to help health officials monitor potential disease-carrying mosquitoes. Unlike conventional mosquito traps, which also capture other insects, the Microsoft version traps only Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, by detecting a feature unique to the species—the shadows cast by the insects’ beating wings. So far, these traps have proven to be about 85 percent accurate.
Verily is working to speed the process of sterilizing male mosquitoes and make it more affordable. Although it may take several years for these advances to become widely available, the hope is that they will offer alternatives to chemical pesticides.