We can step up protection against the much-dreaded termites which work silently and invisibly. How about hearing them when they chew?
Researchers at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, have come up with precisely such a sensitive acoustic device that can be one up on the termites.
The device can hear termites whisper, it looks like, and hence it is called named WiSPr—short for 'wireless smart probe' network.
Once detected, the device can immediately send an SMS or email to a pest control firm—with the termites' GPS location—so they can take appropriate action to protect the property.
WiSPr can also detect termite activity in timber bridges and wooden power poles.
The developers are looking to commercialise the device in the next 12 months in Australia and say it has the potential to revolutionise the pest control industry.
Associate Professor Adam Osseiran said the technology consists of a tiny sensor—much smaller than a fingernail—which is attached to a piece of wood and placed around the house or retro-fitted to existing termite stations.
"It's a wireless acoustic sensor that listens and recognises the acoustic 'signature' of termites chewing on your house," he says.
"You would need about 20 devices placed every few metres around a house and they would be continuously listening and monitoring and providing an effective shield against termite attacks."
The market for termite control is huge.
"In Australia alone, there are 130,000 houses attacked by termites," A/Professor Osseiran says, "causing an estimated $1 billion to $3 billion dollars damage a year."
He says in the US, the yearly damage bill for termites tops $12 billion, and the main three markets for termite control are the US, Japan and Australia.
When placed in the ground, WiSPr can instantly detect termites or, if none are present, can serve as an early warning device if termites ever attack the property.
He says the device could also be used to detect termite activity in timber bridges and the hundreds of thousands of wooden electricity poles around Australia.