The real buzz: NarrowBand IoT in agriculture

Bee and Me

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live”: This famous quote – often attributed to Albert Einstein – expresses how important healthy bees are for sustainability and the environment. To keep them alive and well, the Montenegrin start-up BeeAnd.Me uses NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) to operate a smart bee monitoring solution.

“Basically, we developed a baby monitor for bees.” That’s how Elma Hot, software developer and co-founder of BeeAnd.Me describes the smart solution. She and her business partner Alija Dervic, responsible for hardware design, established their start-up in Podgorica, Montenegro, one and a half years ago. Now, with the help of Deutsche Telekom’s NB-IoT Prototyping Hub, they set out to distribute their solution all over Europe. At the Mobile World Congress 2017, they presented it at the Deutsche Telekom booth and attracted great interest.

Tailor-made IoT solution for beekeepers

The solution consists of three basic components: A measuring station, an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, and data analytics software. With that, beekeepers – professional ones as well as those, who only have beehives as a hobby – can keep their bees safe and sound. “The measurement stations, of which you need one for every ten beehives, have four sensors each that gather the weight of the beehives, temperature and humidity of the surroundings, and the sound of the bees,” explains Dervic. This information gets transmitted via NarrowBand IoT to BeeAnd.Mee’s IoT platform that users can access via web or mobile applications. There, the data are being processed and analyzed to tell beekeepers whether their bees are healthy or not.

Scientific support

But what can beekeepers learn by means of this data? The weight of the beehive indicates how many bees live inside. If there are too many, they start buzzing and humming in different frequencies and amplitudes and the beekeeper might lose this bee colony. So, too much weight is an indicator to provide additional beehives. Temperature and humidity are important factors to assess the risks for pests and diseases. If the beekeeper knows in advance that the risk is high, he can take actions against it. But the most exciting measurement is the sound of the bees: In cooperation with the University of Graz, BeeAnd.Me will conduct studies to link the sound of bees to their well-being. “Depending on how they buzz, we can tell not only whether the bees are healthy or not, but also what kind of illness they have”, said Hot. Additionally, the application combines information from beekeepers in certain areas to alert farmers if there is a pest outbreak or a high occurrence of pesticides near their beehives.

Environmental and economic value

The benefits are obvious: Beekeepers can keep their bees safe and healthy as well as avoid losing them. That’s not only good for species protection. Since bees play an important role in many nature processes, their continuing occurrence ensures sustainability and a healthy environment overall. But the smart agriculture solution not only benefits humankind as a whole, individual beekeepers can also make their work more efficient and profitable. BeeAnd.Me reduces the death and loss rate of bees significantly as well as ensures a higher honey yield due to fit bees. This enhanced profit goes hand in hand with fewer costs, for example for medicine or maintenance. “With our product, beekeepers can save 20 to 30 percent on maintenance cost and more than double their number of beehives,” is Dervic’s opinion.

NarrowBand IoT: The perfect network

But why choose NarrowBand IoT to deploy the solution? “This network technique is a great fit because of its good coverage, low power consumption, and low costs”, describes Dervic. So, even beehives in rural areas or in the mountains can continually send data to their keepers. The maintenance is low and the implementation of the solution easy and affordable. “Smart farming solutions like ours are the future of agriculture; NarrowBand IoT is the future of communication. And we want to be part of both,” says Elma Hot.

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