This high-tech monitoring platform is placed along the wall of the hive she wants to analyze. It is fitted with a number of tiny sensors that are equipped with microphones (and, in the future, accelerometers, too) to monitor sound and vibration. The monitoring platform also keeps tabs on temperature and humidity using heat sensors. The smart system collects all of this data and then analyzes it looking for abnormalities, such as possible sickness or the death of the queen. If abnormalities are found, beekeepers are alerted so that they can instantly respond.
It is a more efficient, less intrusive way of monitoring large quantities of bees, whose activities can be severely disrupted for up to 24 hours every single time a hive is opened by beekeepers.
The project was set up as a response to the mysterious decline of bees in the United States. Over the past decade, the North American honey bee population has fallen by 30 percent. Research continues into the so-called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” although no definitive conclusions have yet been reached. Should populations continue to decline, it is imperative that an explanation (and solution) is discovered since fewer bees mean a major impact on both crop pollination and the environment as a whole.
It is this research Pooyanfar, a graduate student in SFU’s School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering, hopes to be able to contribute to. On a macro scale, her smart hive-monitoring project could represent another smart-tech solution to help scientists understand one of the biggest mysteries currently facing the insect kingdom. On a micro scale, it will hopefully turn out to be an incredibly valuable tool for individual beekeepers.
After all, we are not yet at the point where we’re able to replace honey bees with bee robots. And who knows when we will be?