RFID Talk Blog

Intel RFID technology to track and monitor honey bees worldwide

Intel is on record that 200 billion items will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. That number will evidently include tens of thousands of honey bees.

The tech giant says that researchers from Australia plan to put Intel® Edison boards in beehives worldwide to monitor bee activity. The bees will wear tiny RFID tags and the small Intel Edison boards, the size of a postage stamp, act as checkpoints to collect data when bees pass by.

RFID is set to track and monitor honey bees around the world.

The research will be used to help protect honey bees, which pollinate one-third of food that humans consume. The research was announced this week in collaboration with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

The new research seeks to build on CSIRO’s work in in Hobart, Tasmania, where more than 10,000 RFID tags are already fitted to the backs of bees.

“Bee colonies are collapsing around the world and we don’t know why,” said Professor Paulo de Souza, Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader, Digital Productivity Flagship, CSIRO. “Due to the urgent and global nature of this issue, we saw the need to develop a methodology that any scientist could easily deploy. This way we can share and compare data from around the world to collaboratively investigate bee health. This united effort is a fantastic example of the Internet of Things.”

The sensors work in a similar way to a vehicle’s e-tag, recording when the insect passes the Intel Edison board as the checkpoint. Data captured by the RFID tag reader and additional environmental sensors attached to the Intel Edison board will provide valuable information to beekeepers, primary producers, industry groups and governments. This information will inform how best to protect the honey bee health population.

“The Intel Edison Breakout Board kit is the perfect platform for this type of research,” says de Souza. “It’s incredibly reliable, small in size, flexible with programming, and has low power consumption. It’s also easily customisable which means that if a scientist has a sensor they would like to add, they can virtually plug in and play.”

Intel Edison Breakout Board kit captures data from the hive and sends the information remotely to CSIRO’s Data Access Portal. Researchers use the signals from the sensors attached to the Intel Edison to build a comprehensive 3D model and visualize how the bees may be moving through the landscape. This gives researchers insights into bee movement, behaviours and responses to stressors that affect bee health and pollination.

In addition to monitoring bee activity, the Intel Edison board will also gather environmental information, including humidity surrounding the hive, temperature and solar radiation.

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