Internet of Things

Deutsche Telekom demonstrates how NB-IoT can combat bee mortality at CeBIT 2017

Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, presented to Chancellor Angela Merkel, as part of her traditional CeBIT tour, a technology that can help beekeepers protect their bees.

The narrowband wireless technology NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) transmits the data collected by intelligent sensors, straight from the beehive to the beekeeper. This data includes temperature, air humidity, air pressure, beehive weight (how full the combs are) and activity of the bees. The beekeeper simply needs to look at their smartphone or tablet app to find out whether their bees are healthy. 

The example shows that digitization can even make an important contribution to preserving a species. A beehive is the world's smallest industrial plant with 40,000 workers on half a square meter. As with Industry 4.0, sensors and Narrowband-IoT continually monitor and provide timely assistance before a bee colony is damaged. NB-IoT already offers a wide range of possibilities and the technology is being further developed rapidly.

This technology is important because “bees are dying” says research. According to figures from the German Beekeepers' Association, the number of bee colonies has fallen in Germany alone from 2.5 million in 1952 to less than one million today. Winter also keeps taking its surprisingly heavy toll on the bee colonies, alarming the public in the process. A ten percent depletion is seen as the norm.

Surveys conducted among beekeeping businesses revealed average losses of around 30%. The exact causes of bee mortality are unknown; possible causes include the use of pesticides, monotonous landscapes, lack of food sources, the loss of the natural habitat of the animals, and parasites such as the varroa mite. 

The CeBIT partner country Japan is also familiar with bee mortality and is getting to grips with this phenomenon in an unconventional way. As part of the Ginza Honey Bee Project, 300,000 bees and eight beehives got a new home on a Tokyo office tower in the Ginza shopping district.

Cities offer bees greater protection, with fewer natural predators in the urban environment than in the countryside. In the very first year, the high-rise bees produced 440 kilograms of honey, which is now sold as Ginza honey in the local department stores or is even used as a cocktail ingredient in a local bar. Even local confectioners have got a taste for the urban honey, with commercial imitators setting up in over 70 locations in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers are already thinking about a world without insect pollination and developed a mini-drone as a bee substitute at the start of the year. Despite this and similar inventions worldwide, bees are indispensable.

The almond industry in California alone needs 1.8 million hives with around 35 billion animals so that three billion almond tree blossoms can sprout every year. With a current price of 100 dollars per drone, the technical alternative is an expensive undertaking.