Microsoft wants to help capture mosquitoes to prevent disease outbreaks

Posted on June 16, 2015 by ECR Louisville in Blog

Microsoft isn’t renowned for its ability to prevent disease epidemics, but the computing giant is helping with some early-stage research that could do just that.

Project Premonition is being showcased publicly today at an event in Washington, D.C., where the company’s research arm will discuss a feasibility study carried out in Grenada earlier this year.

Microsoft researchers are teaming up with academics from a number of institutions for the initiative, including Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh, to build a system which collects mosquitoes and analyzes them to identify whether diseases are spreading and take action before an outbreak such as dengue fever or avian flu occurs.

Microsoft researcher Ethan Jackson, who will be heading up the project, refers to mosquitoes as “nature’s drones.” But part of the project involves real drones, too.

Traps and drones

To test mosquitoes, you must first catch them. Traps that are often used today have barely changed from designs dating back several decades, and they have inherent problems.

Not only are the traps laden with heavy batteries, but they also capture other insects — ones that are of no real use to scientists — and it can be a time-consuming process sifting through the bug graveyard. Also, the baiting systems are often crude, because dry ice — the preferred method of attracting mosquitoes — can be difficult to procure in many regions. So Microsoft has developed a smarter trap that solves some of these headaches.

Microsoft Research Trap