How Vodafone is helping an Irish start-up busy saving bees

Vodafone has teamed up with Irish start-up ApisProtect to provide advanced internet of things (IoT) technology for its hive monitoring system in a bid to slow the global decline in bee populations.

Cork-based ApisProtect will use Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network technology to optimise its device for hobbyist beekeepers to install in their beehives.

The device has sensors that monitor activity inside the hive, collecting data on information such as temperature, noise and movement. This data is collected from beehives all over the world using different long-range networks.

ApisProtect then uses artificial intelligence to process and convert the large amounts of raw data into actual information that beekeepers can use to optimise their work – such as moving a hive that is overheating into a shaded area.

The NB-IoT technology will now enable ApisProtect devices to have longer battery lives and wider coverage, helping beekeepers better evaluate the condition of each colony and attend to the ones that need particular attention.

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy, co-founder and CEO of the former SiliconRepublic.com Start-up of the Week, said that NB-IoT has allowed more beekeepers to use the device because of the wider coverage area.

“The broader use of our technology will help towards the goal of nourishing and feeding the 9.7bn people on planet earth by 2050 using the pollination service honeybees provide,” she added.

‘S-Warning’ to prevent swarming

ApisProtect has also announced the pilot of a new feature called S-Warning, which warns beekeepers when their bees exhibit behaviour that indicates they might start swarming – an event when large numbers of bees leave the hive to form a new colony somewhere else.

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The S-Warning pilot is being launched to beekeepers in Ireland and the UK ahead of the 2022 beekeeping season.

“This new feature will help our beekeepers to target their hive management and act early to prevent losing honeybees during the summertime to swarming,” said Edwards Murphy.

Now celebrating its fifth year, ApisProtect said it is expecting a significant growth in demand for its devices in the near future, projecting “tens of thousands of new sign-ups” globally as interest in beekeeping continues to rise.

The start-up is targeting significant expansion in the German market while also expecting growth in Ireland.

Colin Barrett, Vodafone Ireland’s IoT country manager, said that with bee colonies in decline across the world, the new “practical and easy-to-use” technology can help beekeepers reverse the trend and prevent any “worrying impact on our environment”.

“This partnership is a shining example of how connectivity solutions such as NB-IoT can make a real difference to biodiversity projects and the broader effects of climate change,” he said.

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