Beekeeping isn’t exactly something you read about a lot in the tech press, but it’s a big business with about $268.9 million in revenue in the U.S. alone, and technology is slowly finding its way into apiaries around the world. Beezinga, the Microsoft Imagine Cup finalist from Slovenia, has developed a system of sensors for standardized beehives (yes, there are standards for beehives). The system can measure things like the temperature and humidity in the hive, as well as the amount of honey production (by measuring the weight of the hive) and the overall activity of the hive by analyzing a video feed of bee activity at the entrance of the hive.
The Beezinga believes it will cost about $40 to retrofit a single hive. That, the team believes, is a price commercial beekeepers will be more than happy to pay to get analytics about their hives. Beezinga is currently beta testing the system and plans to adopt a subscription model once it goes into production.
The system regularly updates data from the hive to the cloud and beekeepers can then use a web app to get a quick overview of how their bees are doing. The system, of course, can also send real-time alerts when something is amiss. Right now, Beezinga uses a standard cell phone with a data connection to send this data from the often remote apiaries (and multiple hives can talk to the same phone), but the team is also looking into how to use off-the-shelf technologies to integrate wireless technologies directly into the system without the need for a phone.
One cool aspect of Beezinga is that it doesn’t just do analytics, but that it can also defend the hive from attacks from other bees. Using audio analytics, the system recognizes when the hive is under attack and starts spraying water at the attackers in front of the hive. For the most part, this is enough to repel these kinds of attacks.
Given the discussion around colony collapse disorder, Beezinga also believes that it can create a large database of information around beekeeping that may be able to help researchers understand what exactly is happening to bee populations around the world.
Beezinga is currently competing in the Imagine Cup finals in St. Petersburg. After presenting their projects to a group of judges over the last two days, the finalists will now have to wait until tomorrow before they will hear if they won one of the prizes up for grabs at Microsoft’s annual student technology competition.