Honeybee health is critical to humans because the pollination that they perform is necessary for production of much of our food. Monitoring the temperature and weight of beehives can alert beekeepers to potential bee health problems early enough for interventions to be effective, rescuing bees.
Broodminder (https://broodminder.com/) is a Wisconsin-based organization that has developed wireless beehive telemetry devices to monitor critical internal hive conditions, including temperature and humidity (with the Broodminder T-H product) and hive weight (with the Broodminder Scale). These devices have built-in Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) modules, allowing data they collect to be transmitted to a mobile phone. Hives can also be monitored remotely by transmitting hive data to Broodminder WiFi or Broodminder Cell solar-powered uplink devices, which then transmit the data via WiFi or cellular services further on to the cloud.
In many rural areas where bees are kept, however, neither cellular nor WiFi services are available. In such situations, the beekeeper must physically visit the hive to collect the data, a trip that may be unnecessary for healthy hives or potentially too late if a problem has occurred. No other technology is available to collect data from such remote hives. Low Power Radio (LoRa) is a technology to provide long-distance, low data-rate uplinks. Recently introduced devices like the Laird RM1xx combine BLE and LoRa capabilities in a low-power module and thus are ideally suited for harvesting real-time data from Broodminder devices. Installing a LoRa relay near the hive could allow beekeepers to remotely collect data from beehives 10 miles away or more. Power for the LoRa device could be generated in remote locations using small solar panels like those currently used by the Broodminder WiFi and Broodminder Cell products.
Many Broodminder users upload their data to Bee Counted (https://www.beecounted.org), a Citizen Science project to share bee health information across users and gain geographic and temporal information about global bee health. By using a PyCom LoPy device as a LoRa gateway, the data sent from the LoRa uplink module can be re-formatted for transmission to Bee Counted, just as Broodminder WiFi and Cell uplinks do today, providing round-the-clock bee health updates from hives out of range of cellular or WiFi services.
This proposed project involves development of software running on both the LoRa uplink module and on the LoPy link to Bee Counted. Demonstration code for both modules is already available. This code requires optimization, and a solar-powered enclosure for the remote LoRa uplink needs to be designed. This uplink chain would be offered for sale to Broodminder customers. The tangible deliverables of this project will be the solar-powered BLE-to-LoRa uplink module, packaged in a weather-resistant box, and a Pycom LoPy module capable of capturing data from the LoRa module and transmitting it to the cloud.
Beekeepers who wish to be alerted to trends or problems with their bees will then be able to use the LoPy gateway to send data to Bee Counted or other cloud-based services such as If-This-Then-That (https://ifttt.com) or The Things Network (https://www.thethingsnetwork.org).