A necessary condition for high-quality honey is a healthy bee colony which the beekeeper must take care of. For this, he needs to have long-term comprehensive experience to be able to observe individual dependencies and the natural relationship between bees and their environment. A beekeeper must also feed the bees depending on weather, time of year and the stocks of feed; harvest honey and add frames to beehives at the appropriate time; understand the mood of the bee colony; and have information about agricultural activities and other beekeepers in the vicinity. It is important for beekeepers to have relevant information from the beehives in order to be able to make correct and timely decisions. If beekeepers make a major mistake, they can only remedy it during the next season.
T-Mobile and IBM have decided to jointly dedicate time to understanding this area. They held a number of conversations with beekeepers and experts and specified the particular areas in which technologies could help beekeepers – monitoring of beehive parameters, security features against theft, advice for beekeeping hobbyists, and communication between beekeepers and farmers and among beekeepers themselves.
In the next step, T-Mobile and IBM, together with the Faculty of Economics and Management of the Czech University of Life Sciences and with financial assistance from Česká spořitelna, decided to launch a pilot project comprising a website called vcelstva.czu.cz, which aims to make work easier for beekeepers. The website will consist of an interactive online portal featuring information intended for beekeepers and the general public. It will enable registration and keeping records of beehive locations, and recording data from smart scales and other electronic devices that will be installed in beehives, which will transmit data about the condition of the beehive via the SIGFOX IoT network. “Beekeepers no longer have to disturb the bees and can think over relevant information about their behaviour at home,” says Ondřej Kožina, Innovations Manager at T-Mobile.
The portal will also assist beekeepers with the mandatory paperwork in relation to authorities and beekeeping associations, including the beehive location notice form and the form for registration in the central register, and will enable sending warnings of sprayings by farmers. The portal will also feature beneficial information for the general public: it will enable the purchase of honey online directly from participating beekeepers in the particular region. “The issue of keeping electronic records of bees, which would be free of charge and tailored to suit the needs of small beekeepers while also ensuring protection of personal and sensitive data, has not been successfully resolved in the Czech Republic yet. The Faculty of Economics and Management of the Czech University of Life Sciences will offer the broader beekeeping and farming communities a solution in the form of the vcelstva.czu.cz portal. The project also includes a Facebook page that will enable discussion and education in the area of bee protection and beekeeping with the support of modern technologies,” says Jan Bartoška of the Faculty of Economics and Management of the Czech University of Life Sciences.
IBM is bringing to the project expert analysis of anonymised data on the Watson platform, which uses advanced functionalities of cognitive technologies, machine learning and image and sound analysis. Data will subsequently be enriched with information from other areas, such as meteorology, so that the platform provides as accurate analyses as possible. Technologies together with specialists’ expertise will help gain deeper knowledge aimed at predicting future situations and activities. This will subsequently be provided to beekeepers in the form of a “guide” on the vcelstva.czu.cz portal.
“We have recently witnessed the penetration of the most advanced technologies into all areas of industrial production, and therefore we are happy that they are also beginning to find their way into traditional areas, such as agriculture. The current project thus shows how technologies can be used also in beekeeping as an important part of precision agriculture,” says David Enc, Chief Technology Officer at IBM.
The participating entities plan to expand the portal in the coming months with a catalogue of devices for non-invasive beehive data monitoring via the SIGFOX network, an open interface for connectivity from any device for beehive monitoring, automatic connection of weather data into beehive-registration cards and, on the basis of anonymous data analyses using the IBM Watson platform, provide recommendations to beginning beekeepers. Another objective is to create several reference beehives for the entire Czech Republic, whose data will be available to all users of the portal.
A video on the project and photographs can be downloaded HERE.