This page is a summary some of the technology we are using in our project. Most of it has been introduced organically, because the project started out merely as a conservation project and the technology elements have been brought in later.
[Don't forget you can read all our tech-related blog entries under the category technology.]
We are using tech to monitor various aspects of our bees' lives: visual, sound, temperature and weather - by piecing together all this information and data we can learn about their behaviour from first principles. Even when you can read about how bees have been studied and see descriptions of their behaviour, there is nothing like seeing it for yourself.
Also, you get a completely different and more-holistic view of their world than when you read about how bees can count, or how they breathe. These are all very detailed studies, which without biological lab facilities we can't come close to researching. But what we can do, is piece everything together and learn about the bumblebees in terms of their life and life-patterns and real-world activity, which are utterly fascinating.
[to be completed]
IOBridge internet-enabled sensor system
This is the latest addition to the system for 2012.
It's the iobridge sensor system which provides internet connectivity for a range of modular sensor types.
I am using it to monitor:
- temperature inside the bumblebee nest
- outdoor temperature
- ambient light level
- activity via a flap sensor and light beam system
And using it to provide status alerts, such as:
- audio alarm when nest exceeds 28C
- red/green visible LED to show sunrise/sunset
- LED and audio warning to show flap open
- Regular nest temperature tweets
- Warning tweets (e.g. high temperature warning)
- Bumblebee Activity Tweets
The iobridge board is mounted in the garage, with sensors coming out to a weatherproof box and in the nest.
[to be completed - still in proof of concept stage]
Video System Overview
Stills & Macro: Canon EOS10D, Canon EOS 5D mkII, iPhone 4
Video: various Maplin Analogue "Covert" cameras - 420 lines composite; Canon EOS 5D mkII
AV Tech K674 DVR
Audio capture - iPhone 4 (VC Pro Audio)
All video cameras have integral mics.
iobridge sensor board with network connectivity
ifttt.com (If this then that) for inetgration with internet services
Weather & Temperature
Wireless Weather station with USB download
Infra-red temperature gun [this has been invaluable - one of my nest purchases]
Notekeeping & Analysis
Tableau public edition
I won a Parrot AR Drone from New Scientist for describing our project and how we could make use of it. It is a remote controlled "Quadcopter" equipped with two video cameras and controlled from the iPad. It will help us explore the more inaccesible environments where we find bumblebees.
Costs have been a key consideration in this project. It is possible (if you have the money) to go out and spend thousands of pounds on industrial and scientific technology to build into a project like this. But, can it be just as fun on a tighter budget? Yes, it can.
Re-use and recyling is core to our philosophy. So, for example, many of the cameras I have used have been sourced previously for use in my in-car video projects. Wherever possible we have re-used waste materials in the DIY elements of the project - such as cardboard, plastic tubs and glass jars from the recycle bin.
Total costs have been in the region of a few hundred pounds to date. It depends on your point of view as to whether this seems expensive or not - but most of these costs have been investment in items that will be re-used year after year for as long as we keep bees.
The single most expensive item has actually been the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) CCTV box that runs and records our cameras. It was £120 off eBay - and will actually serve as a home security system when not in use for this project, so will deliver value every day for many years to come. The ioBridge internet sensor system was about $100 and the next most expensive item was about £20.
The iPhone and iPad have been indispensable resources in this project, however I haven't included the costs above as they were already owned, likewise the Canon camera gear.