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How Digital Beekeeping is Saving Pollinators


Most of us have been stung by a bee, and most of us have found bees annoying as they buzz around our carefully packed lunch. For a minority of people with a severe allergy, bees can even be lethal.

But without bees, humanity as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. That’s why researchers, climate scientists, and bee aficionados from around the world are scrambling to explain why the populations of bees and other pollinators have been dying at alarming rates for the last decade.

As just one example, the US’ honeybee population is a full 50 percent less than it was at the end of WWII and the nation’s government has noted that bees are dying at an “economically unstable” rate. Figures from parts of Europe, Australia, and Canada show these nations losing bees too, although not as rapidly as in the US.

Without bees to pollinate foods, there is a high chance the agricultural industry will take a hit it can not survive. And the world’s global food crises will be exacerbated.

Why the bees are dying in such suspiciously large numbers is not fully clear. Researchers in the field call the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). One plausible explanation is the higher amounts of pesticides used to maintain crops, many of these pesticides affect the bees adversely and render them unable to fly or kill them outright. But this is not the only factor involved, also to blame are climate changes, loss of habitat, and parasites, among others.

A buzz word that has been on many people’s lips lately is digital beekeeping. As the name suggests, technology is being employed to save, monitor, and help manage beehives and populations.

Hive Hacks

Curiously, the Langstroth hive, the most common design in use among beekeepers, has remained largely unchanged since its invention in the mid 19th century. The hive has an important role to play in bee population health, and so the hive is the ideal place for technological intervention.

Tieto Oyj, a Swedish software consultant has recently stepped up to the challenge and is hacking traditional hive technology by connecting around 160,000 bees to the internet. Tieto placed sensors in two hives, each containing around 80,000 members. These sensors send real-time data to an off-site server for analysis and monitoring. The plan is that eventually, AI technology will take over analytics.

The information relayed to the cloud includes the number of bees at home in the hive, how viable the community is, and how much honey is being made. Honey, or at least the volume that people do not harvest from a hive, is the bees’ primary food source and is crucial to a healthy colony.

Mikael Ekstrom, a Tieto digitization consultant noted that people “need to get under the hood of the beehives, and understand more why they are decreasing and how we can help.” He also stated that “Modern Internet of Things-technology, artificial intelligence, cloud services etc. now give us the tools to collect and execute in these areas.”

Securing Tech & the Future

As we near the end of the 21st century’s first quarter, it is becoming increasingly apparent that technology holds the solution to many of the world’s issues. Vast networks of data collection systems can be employed, AI assistants can identify patterns, and, equipped with that knowledge, people can execute plans to conserve our precious recourses and key environmental elements.

And the downside of this level of interconnectivity? As with anything connected to a network, proper security measures are an absolute must. While it seems unlikely that digital security is much of a concern when it comes to a beehive, it is not outside the realms of possibility. If a fish tank can be used to hack into a casino’s systems, a hive can provide a similar pathway to data that need not fall into the wrong hands.

A simple and elegant solution is at hand. Among the many uses of VPN technology are data protection and encryption. Adding a VPN app or using a VPN router swiftly skirts much of the potential for harm and keeps hive and home networks safe and secure.

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