Behind an office building at Oracle’s U.K. headquarters in Reading, two beehives are connected to the company’s cloud. One sensor on each hive captures the sound of buzzing; one captures humidity. Another measures the weight of the honey. In total, five or six sensors per hive send data to the cloud, where it’s analyzed along with other local data like the weather and pollution levels.
It’s the start of what Oracle, working with the nonprofit The World Bee Project, hopes will be a global network of beehives connected to their cloud and analyzed with artificial intelligence. In recent years, pollinator species like honeybees have dwindled dramatically, stricken by disease, climate change, pesticides, and stress. Through this new method of data collection and analysis, the partnership wants to give pollinators a shot at survival.
“It’s good for scientists, because they can see how individual hives are operating, and it’s good for the beekeeper, because we could actually give the beekeeper early threat analysis if there’s trouble ahead,” says John Abel, VP of Cloud for Oracle UK, Ireland and Israel, who is leading the project at Oracle.
Sensors on beehives aren’t new, but combining it with other publicly available data and using AI and machine learning to analyze it should yield new insights for researchers aiming to understand challenges for bees. In England, the honeybee population dropped 54% between 1985 and 2005. The data can help researchers study how land use, for example, impacts bee health, and better understand insect diseases and other threats.