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Bee Smart: Bee monitoring with the Open Telekom Cloud

Two beekeepers use the smart beehives from BeeAndme to produce honey
The smart beehives from BeeAndme support beekeepers in honey production.


In this article you will read

  • why bees are so important for humans and the environment,
  • how the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence can protect them with the help of cloud computing and
  • how bees spend Christmas.

Monocultures, pesticides and habitat destruction: the threat to bee colonies is increasing rapidly worldwide. While environmental toxins and one-sided forms of cultivation are causing problems for bees in rural areas, urban bees are mainly struggling with deadly pathogens. Yet these industrious insects are not only important for honey production. In Germany alone, they pollinate up to 80 percent of flowering plants – an indispensable prerequisite for fruit and vegetable harvests. Their pollination generates a gross national product worth 70 billion dollars worldwide. This makes honeybees one of the most important farm animals alongside pigs and cattle. The decline in the global bee population could have devastating consequences for humans and the environment. However, modern technologies, installed in the smart beehives of the start-up BeeAndme, offer beekeepers new solutions to protect these valuable animals. Deutsche Telekom has also been offering bee colonies a smart home on its premises since 2017 – now at over 30 locations in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

A smart home for the bee family

In addition to information on temperature (brood chamber and outside temperature) and humidity, the smart sensors also record the fill level of the honeycombs every hour and transmit the collected data to the Open Telekom Cloud via the mobile network. The number of flowers visited, the so-called pollination performance, is also calculated from the daily honey input as a CSR key figure. The data can be accessed via a dashboard using a smartphone or web browser.

Dashboard of the data collected for BeeAndme via the smart sensors and processed in the Open Telekom Cloud.
Dashboard of the data collected via the smart sensors and processed in the Open Telekom Cloud.


Open Telekom Cloud provides suitable infrastructure

In the beginning, their servers were still under the start-up's desks, but then the entrepreneurs quickly reached their limits as the number of customers and their requirements increased. Support and hardware maintenance took up a large part of the work, leaving little time for the actual business. That's when Deutsche Telekom's offer to switch to the Open Telekom Cloud came in handy. Since then, the BeeAndme software has been provided sponsored from Telekom's public cloud. Among other things, the startup uses virtual machines from the Elastic Cloud Server (ECS), the Web Application Firewall (WAF) and the Anti-DDoS to protect itself against unwanted access to the website and distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). Wherever possible, standardized services are used to keep support costs as low as possible. “We want to make the technical setup as simple and standardized as possible,” says Patrick Köhler from T-Systems, who supports BeeAndme in the technical implementation and is an enthusiastic beekeeper himself. “This allows us to provide a smooth and uncomplicated cloud environment that can be configured as required without wasting too much time.”

Artificial intelligence is also utilized: with the help of TensorFlow and Open CV, the company counts how many bees fly in and out of the Innovation Center's two research beehives in Munich. In combination with an environmental sensor, bee activity can be measured in relation to various air pollutants.

“Christmas” in the beehive: bees are like penguins

If we humans dress warmly or heat up well in winter, the question arises as to whether beekeepers also need to wrap up their hives warmly? Bees have developed an ingenious strategy through evolutionary adaptation. They all crawl close together in their hive and thus keep each other warm. By moving their muscles, they can control the temperature and keep it constant, regardless of the outside temperature. If the temperature in the hive falls below 12 degrees Celsius, the bee colony shivers to keep the hive warm for at least a day. To do this, they fold out their wings, but do not take off, and use their flight muscles to generate muscle tremors. The “heating periods” can occur at regular intervals and keep the hive warm for up to a day, after which the temperature drops again. After a few days, the process is repeated up until the winter finally ends. From an outsider's view, it looks like a game of soccer or like a hanging bunch of grapes. This is why beekeepers call it a winter cluster. The queen herself sits in the middle, where it is warmest.

After a while, the bees on the outside crawl back into the middle of the cluster to warm up. This automatically causes the bees on the inside to slide outwards. We also know this strategy from penguins, so the animals have the same “team strategy”! If the animals did not work together, the bee colony and queen would not survive the winter. All this happens inside the hive. Especially in snowy periods, the beekeeper would like to be certain that his bees are doing well. He cannot and does not want to open the hive. Thanks to the BeeAndme brood chamber sensor, which is located deep inside the hive, these worries can be alleviated or counteracted. It also measures weight and humidity so that the honey collected and the flowers pollinated can be measured from spring onwards.

Bienen in Sommer am herumtummeln und arbeiten.
Bees bustling and working in summer.
Bienen im Winter eng zusammengekuschelt, um sich warmzuhalten.
Bees huddle close together in winter to keep warm.

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