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Smart beehive: Species protection with the cloud and IoT

Beekeeper in front of an open beehive in a meadow with fruit trees

Beekeeper in front of an open beehive in a meadow with fruit trees Smart technologies help beekeepers with their work and provide a safe home for these hard-working wonders.

In this article you will read about,

  • why bees are so important for humans and the environment 
  • how the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence can protect them, and 
  • what cloud computing has to do with it.  

Monocultures, pesticides, habitat destruction: The threat to bee colonies is increasing rapidly worldwide. While environmental toxins and one-sided farming methods are a problem for bees in rural areas, city bees are mainly fighting deadly pathogens. 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 the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Their pollination generates a gross national product worth 70 billion dollars worldwide. This makes honey bees, along with pigs and cattle, one of the most important farm animals. The decline in the global bee population could have devastating consequences for humans and the environment. But modern technologies offer beekeepers new solutions to protect these valuable creatures. Deutsche Telekom has been testing one of these for three years on the roofs of its own office buildings in cooperation with the startup BeeAndme.

A smart home for the bee family

In order to improve the well-being of the bees and make the beekeepers' work easier, the Montenegro-based startup equips beehives with intelligent sensors. In addition to information on temperature and humidity, the smart sensors also record how full the honeycombs are and transmit the collected data to the Open Telekom Cloud via the mobile network. Since beehives are not only located in cities, but also far away in rural areas, the company uses NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) radio technology for data transmission. This radio standard, which was specially developed for the Internet of Things (IoT), not only penetrates thick walls, but also scores points with its long ranges and low energy consumption. As a result, the batteries in the beehive rarely need to be replaced. If there is a sudden sharp rise in humidity and temperature, the system alerts the beekeeper via app or a web-based dashboard.

Open Telekom Cloud delivers the suitable infrastructure

In the beginning, the servers were still kept under the startup’s desks, but as the number of customers and requirements increased, the entrepreneurs quickly reached their limits. Support and hardware maintenance took up a large part of their work, leaving little time for the actual core business. So, Telekom's offer to switch to the Open Telekom Cloud came at just the right time. Now the BeeAndme software is provided 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 from unwanted access to the website and from Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS). Wherever possible, standardized services are used to minimize the support effort required. In order to carry out and manage deployments more efficiently in the future, the startup is working with T-Systems to rebuild the cloud environment in Terraform. "We want to make the technical setup as simple and standardized as possible," says Patrick Koehler from T-Systems, who supports BeeAndme in the technical implementation and is himself an enthusiastic beekeeper. "In this way, we can provide a smooth and uncomplicated cloud environment that can be configured to meet specific needs without spending a great deal of time on it." 
Artificial intelligence is also used: The company counts how many bees fly in and out with the help of TensorFlow and Open CV.

Magenta honey

From digital beehive to interactive honey jar

In the meantime, Telekom’s rooftops and premises are buzzing. 1.3 million bees currently live at 13 company sites. They are cared for by the company’s own employees, who pay the rent for the space they occupy in the form of a little honey. Deutsche Telekom is putting this honey into jars equipped with NFC chips - currently still on a trial basis. This is made possible by an innovative printing process developed by glass manufacturer Rastal in collaboration with Telekom Deutschland, T-Systems Multimedia Solutions, and the technology agency NOA. When honey connoisseurs switch on the NFC reception on their cell phones or tablets, they are taken to the Telekom bee portal, where they can find fascinating information about bees. The current locations of the beehives can also be viewed on a virtual tour. Next year, all the glass jars will be equipped with NFC chips and the bee initiative will also be expanded by 10 additional locations. Telekom offers the magenta-branded honey in its Love Magenta Store in Bonn. All proceeds go to reforestation programs to reduce CO2 emissions and to protect the habitat of the honey bee and other animal species. 

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