Ben Epstein's Wi-Fi Roaches

A bug’s life in the trenches
Photograph by Darin Mickey for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Ben Epstein sees a cockroach, he’s more likely to get out a circuit board than a can of Raid. Epstein, 57, is a vice president at OpCoast, a defense contractor in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. For the last few years he’s been using insects—specifically, the death’s head cockroach, a two-inch-long, glossy brown branch of the species—to create wireless networks. The goal is to use the insects to communicate with people trapped in collapsed buildings, mines, and other areas rescuers can’t easily reach. The insects might also conduct surveillance. “These are real bugs that can do bugging,” Epstein says, laughing.

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