We've always had a strong technology angle on our project - if nothing else, it has made the whole thing far more enjoyable by allowing us such intimate observation in the lives of these amazing creatures. But actually, more than that, it has allowed us some fascinating observations and data collection that sheds (some possibly new) light on their normally private and underground existence.
A lot is known about bumblebees, but that doesn't mean everything is - and particularly as the climate and macro and micro environments change, so too bumblebees are surely affected. So, we feel that observing, collecting data and reporting our findings is also an important part of our project - and the technology is a big part in that.
There's a fun side to it too - From the outset I've wanted an internet connected bumblebee nest (see Internet of Things), so that we can remotely monitor data, but also do fun things, like have the bumblebees send tweets. This kind of technology, while seemingly frivolous, is actually an important part of our future, in terms of environmental understanding and monitoring. It's the kind of technology that is monitoring habitats, storms, oceans, tidal waves, severe weather and so on. Someone has to explore the "art of the possible" so that we can understand and predict our planet better.
For our first year I dabbled a bit with some "interconnectedness" - got a few tweets coming out of the CCTV system when it detected movements, but it really was dabbling round the edges. I was also comtemplating a new system called "Twine" which provides temperature and movement detection in a small plastic "soap bar" that can connect to the internet. But it's expensive.
For this year, however, I'm excited to discover iobridge. This clever little modular system connects to your network and internet and a whole range of different types of sensors. You can easily configure its operation and rules through the iobridge website and cloud service, as well as get the system integrated with other webservices, and of course twitter :-)
I plan to document what I'm doing with this on my technology page rather than within the blog, so it's all in one place.
Suffice to say, there are a lot of possibilities with a connected bumblebee nest, for example:
- warnings of temperature too high / too low
- measuring activity levels and correlating with weather and light
- measuring light levels and entrance / exit behaviour
- counting bumblebees in and out
The beauty is, all this data can be published on an online dashboard, viewed on the iPhone/iPad and also integrated with other services, as well as sending alerts and messages via email and twitter etc. There really is huge scope to monitor and collect some great data, and completely automate the process. I can even embed some of the realtime data in other websites, such as this blog.
I've been making good progress so far getting it configured. For example, I have an LED which is green before sunset and red after sunset (so we know when the bumbles should be in), a small alarm that goes off if the temperature gets above 30C (and tweets some warnings in advance), and I'm currently working on counting the breaks in a light beam so we can start to count the bumbles coming and going.
Can't wait to get it all hooked up in situ!