Ever seen a better mousetrap?

If you work in innovation I’m sure you’re tired of hearing Ralph Emerson’s “build a better mousetrap” quote trotted out as the guiding light for new product development. It seems a few too many people have taken the phrase quite literally since the mousetrap is allegedly “the most frequently invented device in US history” according to the Wikipedia article above, with over 4,400 patents registered.

A couple of months ago, I came across a genuine, real-life, honest-to-goodness “better mousetrap”.

I spend quite a bit of my time in “scanning” mode – monitoring technology use, looking for new technologies and considering their implications on society, industry and individuals. I read voraciously, attend conferences and events, take photos and notes, talk to people and collate and cluster what I see and hear in an attempt to identify patterns and themes so that I can provide foresight to my employer or clients to inform strategic decisions. This continuous process means that much of what I see falls into the “expected” category, as the future unfolds according to one of the paths I have extrapolated.

The fun starts when something falls into the “unexpected” category – as that means it challenges my preconceptions and opens my eyes to a new avenue of opportunity that I hadn’t previously considered. In spite of my attempts to stay on top of the “Internet of Everything” explosion, this category is currently the one that frequently causes me to go “hmmmmmmmm”.

Each time I see another internet connected widget I groan internally and think “Really? Do we really need THAT connected to the Internet? Why??” ……and so it was when I stopped at a stand and took this photo of Victorpest :-

My immediate thought was “really?? An Internet connected mousetrap??” I mean, “The Future of Rodent Control technology” was not one that I had ever given any thought to ………

I then proceeded to learn from the vendor that they can save companies that have large physical campuses thousands of pounds per year! Apparently, if you are the facilities manager of a large campus, rodents are an inevitable problem. The normal method of dealing with them involves setting traps manually and due to current health and safety / hygiene / humane animal disposal legislation, these traps have to be physically checked on a daily basis (can’t leave a decaying corpse around and can’t let a trapped mouse suffer a terrible death – have to dispose of it humanely ……). This is a very time-consuming and resource intensive process! The internet connected mouse trap electrocutes the mouse and sends a signal that indicates a kill which needs to be disposed of. The immediate benefit is that the daily checking process is efficiently optimised, reducing time wasted checking empty traps and the added benefit is that a record is kept of rodent management effectiveness – they can visualise and chart the movement of rodents, track down nests and routes and put deterrents in place with empirical evidence to back up their actions – something they never had before – all data driven.

I frequently urge companies to think about the “Internet of [their company’s] Things” and from a facilities management perspective, there is of course much more that can be done to improve campus efficiency and dive cost reductions – there is a great case study from Microsoft called 88 Acres that is a glimpse of how entire cities in the future could benefit from data analysis of internet connected devices  – Microsoft currently save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year on their campus through data driven insights from Internet connected objects.

So there we have it – genuine, real-life, honest-to-goodness “better mousetrap”.

What’s yours?


Title Photo credit: <a href=””>fodwyer</a> / <a href=””>Foter</a> / <a href=””>CC BY-SA</a>