Worry-free hotel guests sleep tight thanks to sensor networks
Case Valpas: Simple hotel IoT retrofits eliminate pesky bugs
Detecting and preventing hotel bed bug infestations
Have you ever experienced bed bugs? Valpas founder Martim Gois has – on a long trip to southeast Asia. And, despite his best efforts, he brought them back home. A bit of research quickly showed him that bed bugs present real hygiene and reputational risks for hotels worldwide, including in Europe and North America. But until recently, the options for getting rid of an infestation included fumigation with poisons and drastically raising the temperature of the room. Valpas was born of a desire for a much better alternative: to prevent the bugs before the problem even arises.
Bed-bug incidents are uncomfortable for guests and embarrassing to hotels. Valpas eliminates the problem before it even gets started by automatically trapping bed bugs, wherever and whenever they appear. It’s an IoT-enabled, chemical-free solution that delivers great hospitality to guests – by always keeping those pesky unwanted guests away.
IoT bed bug alert and capture
Martim and the other two Valpas principals began by studying bed bugs in their lab. The company, still quite small, quickly reached several important conclusions about bed bugs:
They escape from clothes or suitcases and actively climb into beds
They can only thrive in beds and belongings, right next to humans
They prefer certain colors
They lose their grip on extremely smooth surfaces
Martim and the others also found that you need to catch the first ones quickly before they can multiply. And this is most effectively done where they are most active: trying to get into a bed to feed. What Valpas ended up developing is a smart leg that’s easily retrofitted onto hotel beds. This smart leg includes a built-in trap with IoT alerting and can quickly be exchanged for a standard bed leg. When hotel staff install Valpas bed legs, which are coated with a color that attracts the bugs, they use an app to scan each leg’s QR code, assigning it to a hotel room.
Two legs on each bed have traps and IoT sensors, while the other two are ‘dummy’ legs that are just too smooth to climb. When a bed bug climbs up one of the two smart legs, it falls into the trap – a deep groove that encircles the leg. Within, an intelligent sensor detects a bug for removal and the Valpas system is activated. The Wirepas Massive network then passes the message from sensor to sensor to the Valpas back-end system. And staff receive an instant alert. The system also provides daily reports and stores all data for effective analysis and reporting.
Bye bye, bed bugs
The Valpas protocol is currently in use in more than eight countries in Europe, with over 1,000,000 nights protected in 3,500+ rooms. Hotels in the network have been able to detect and resolve bed-bug infestations in an entirely eco-friendly manner before they even get started, upgrading arriving guests to a better room to avoid a problem. Part of Valpas’ sell is offering a label that hotels can proudly display on their websites and other marketing materials, giving customers assurance that their stay will be bed bug-free. It doesn’t have to end there. Thanks to the Wirepas Massive network linking Valpas’ smart bed leg sensors, hotels have full wireless coverage that can carry any additional sensor data that facility owners wish for. The system can be extended with wireless occupancy, temperature, humidity and air-quality sensors, for example. Wirepas Massive also has geo-positioning built in, enabling the tracking of hard goods like cleaning carts, irons and more, just with the simple addition of a wireless tag.
“We had a genius plan of how to detect bed bugs with our smart bed leg design and sensors, but needed a way to transmit data from hundreds of bed legs to the back-end system. Since Wirepas Massive is fully battery-powered, including routers, the business case was sound – we were able to quickly and easily roll out our sensor-based system at a low cost. And support from Wirepas has been great.”
Martim Gois, CEO, Valpas
How does it work?
Uniting best-of-breed components for low-cost installation
Wirepas Mesh is plug-and-play: no wireless network or technicians required. Hotel staff simply replace ordinary bed legs with Valpas bed legs. The firmware and electronics design for the legs were created by Haltian, a company that designs smart devices. Once powered up, sensors in the bed legs automatically search for each other and form an efficient, robust mesh network. The more sensors there are in the network, the stronger the signal, plain and simple. Each sensor acts as a relay to the next, in adjacent rooms and between floors, over frequencies chosen for their availability. The Valpas protocol connects gateways to their back-end system via Wirepas Massive. All data is then captured for dashboard-based analysis and alerting.
Thanks to Wirepas Massive, an entire hotel’s worth of devices often connect to the Internet via a single network gateway. If the hotel consists of separate buildings or far-flung wings, more gateways are added. If there are long distances between some rooms, small battery-operated router devices can also be used to boost the network. All sensors are powered with 3- to 5-year long-life batteries and communicate with gateways using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ultra-low-power 2.4 GHz hardware via the Wirepas Massive protocol, whose architecture keeps power consumption to a minimum.
Find more value
Better hotel management builds customer preference
Offering the assurance of a bed bug-free facility is a big plus for hotels, not to mention doing away with disruptive, toxic solutions when an outbreak is finally detected. Plus, data collected over months and years can show trends useful for refining business processes and resolving potential problems before they even arise. The advantage of the Wirepas Mesh/Haltian system is that it is entirely affordable, inexpensive to install, and provides a clear path to return on investment as a lower-cost solution that also helps maintains a hotel’s reputation and their room rate. The system is also future proof thanks to self-healing network behavior and over-the-air software updates. In other words, maintenance visits not required!