Open Telekom Cloud for Business Customers

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.

Life in the beehive throughout the year

The annual cycle of bees is essentially dependent on two factors: the food supply in the environment and the climate conditions.

  • Spring (March to June): As soon as the outside temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius and the pasture and fruit blossoms begin to bloom, nectar abundance increases, and the colony begins to grow rapidly. From April onwards, there is an abundance of pollen and nectar, which serve as food for the queen to lay her eggs.
  • Summer (July to September): The queen bee lays up to 1,500 eggs per day. In summer there are around 50,000 bees in the hive. After July, the bee year ends, and the brood nest becomes smaller again. From August onwards, the bees prepare for the cold season by sealing the hive with bee resin. The forager bees now collect more and more nectar, which the hive bees process into honey. This is the supply for the cold season. Starting September, the queen lays eggs from which the first winter bees hatch. 
  • Autumn (October and November): If the temperatures allow it from October onwards, flight-worthy bees are occasionally out and about outside the hive collecting the last nectar. Even on colder nights, the workers have to keep their remaining brood nest at 35 degrees in order to get the last winter bees from this brood. These live much longer than their summer colleagues, as they have to keep the hive warm throughout the winter.
  • Winter (December to February): Now it gets really cold. All 10,000 or so winter bees now sit in the winter cluster and warm each other. They form a more or less tightly packed ball over several combs and shiver with their flight muscles, generating the necessary 35 degrees Celsius and protect the last brood. They rotate within the cluster so that they alternate between sitting on the outside and then warming up again further inside. The queen sits in the middle.
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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