Internet of Bees device tracks hive health

As we all know, the bee population is declining at an alarming rate, and while the causes are many, the solutions are few. At the very least, beekeepers need to keep an extra-close eye on their hives — which can be difficult when there are a few thousand of them. A Canadian researcher is working on a monitoring system that listens to the buzz and passes on word if things are going south.

Oldooz Pooyanfar, a graduate student at Simon Fraser University, created the device to improve data collection and hopefully lead to some insight into colony collapse disorder, the mysterious affliction that has claimed many a hive.

It uses microphones and temperature and humidity sensors, and will eventually include accelerometers; you mount it inside the hive and it gives you a drone’s-eye view of the colony’s activity.

“With this monitoring system, we are collecting data in real time on what the bees are ‘saying’ about foraging, or if they’re swarming, or if the queen bee is present,” Pooyanfar said in a news release.

Ultimately, with enough of these things going and contributing data to a central pool in real time, a neural network would be trained to watch for problems. That’s part of Pooyanfar’s thesis work (in progress).

Right now the device is built from off-the-shelf parts, so it’s a bit bulky and expensive, but it’s hoped that a custom-manufactured sensor package could get the cost down. She’s working with local beekeepers to develop the hardware and software, and says there’s been quite a bit of interest.

Pooyanfar’s ongoing work is funded by the Mitacs Accelerate program.