Bugged by mosquitoes? Now there's an app for that.
It doesn't ward off the annoying, blood-thirsty critters with a wave of a smartphone, but it does allow users to warn others and provide information to figure out which infested neighbourhoods to avoid.
The app, developed by a team at the University of Manitoba, lets users rate mosquito activity in an area — information that is then uploaded to a map which all users can see.
Engineering student Rory Jacob says he and his colleagues came up with the idea after using similar technology to track traffic congestion and the spread of influenza. Being from Manitoba where mosquitoes are considered the province's "unofficial bird," Jacob says it didn't take long for them to figure out how to apply the technology to the blood-suckers.
People can check the app — called the M Tracker — before they leave the house so they know whether to douse themselves in bug spray, he says.
"If you're going to an area of the city, to a park or something with your family, and you don't know if you're going to bring mosquito spray, you can take a look at the app," says Jacob, who worked on the app with engineering professor Bob McLeod and fellow student Chen Liu.
The City of Winnipeg diligently tracks mosquito numbers using scientific traps, but the app could give officials another — more personal — perspective, Jacob suggests.
And while mosquitoes are plentiful in Western Canada, the app can be used anywhere in the world.
"It's been downloaded in Russia, in the United States, in the U.K. It uses the map built-in to essentially tell you how the mosquitoes are in your area."
The app has been downloaded about 200 times. Jacob hopes it will take off as more people hear about it.
"Realistically, the more people you get, the better the data is going to be. You'll be able to get more consistent results out of it."