Gift of the Buzz from Blarney Castle; Monitoring and Measuring Your Beehive Health

Every year, Blarney Castle, Ireland, hosts thousands of tourists searching for the “gift of the gab,” or the gift of eloquent speech. But now it is taking on a different species—the bee—and seeking to preserve its buzz through colony health management. In its quest to marry the medieval castle’s history with the technology of the 21st century, Blarney beekeeper Darragh Stone set himself a challenge: to monitor the health and well-being of the multiple bee hives that stand within the castle garden walls. Darragh tells us how he surprised himself and his fellow beekeepers with how successful he has been with the MeasureWare ADMW1001 Pro Development Kit for measuring conditions inside the hive.

Being an avid beekeeper, Darragh knew that if he could monitor temperature, humidity, and, ideally, CO2 levels within the hive, he would have a good indication of the health of the Blarney bees and could potentially spot issues within the hive before they became serious. Given the number of hives in Blarney Castle, Darragh was also hoping for a way to detect when to harvest the honey without the need to physically inspect each hive. For this he decided he would need a weight measurement. He was looking for a simple, quick measurement solution that would enable him to get started fast.

Measurement within the Hive
Figure 1: Measurement within the Hive

“I had heard about MeasureWare from some other colleagues in the bee community and decided to give it a go. Not being an electronic engineer or having any experience with sensors and measurement, I was apprehensive. However, the MeasureWare site was easy to navigate, and the MeasureWare Designer made all the decisions for me.” He only needed to specify the variables he wanted to measure, which were temperature, humidity, CO2, and weight. Given he wanted flexibility to alter the measurement system elements and experiment with various communication methods, he selected the ADMW1001 Pro Development Kit with ST Nucleo host controller. “I can see that some of my friends in the bee community might like to try the Swift Development Kit, as it enables instant access to the measurement and doesn’t require any engagement with the electronics, but I wanted to have the flexibility to tailor the measurement system for the unique environment in Blarney, so selected the Pro. I wanted to be up and running quickly but still develop some understanding about the kit’s internal structure.”

The kit arrived with sensors, a USB cable, and BLE shield for connectivity. Reading through the MeasureWare site, Darragh knew that NB-IoT/Cat-M1 and 2G communications would soon be supported by MeasureWare, and these will be ideal for communicating with a remote hive using the cellular network. Darragh admits that he had not previously thought about how he would access the results from the hive, and this information from MeasureWare was a great help.

Once Darragh got the kit, he decided he would use the USB connection to communicate with the kit and get up and running without having to worry about communication difficulties. He downloaded the MeasureWare Lab and plugged in all the sensors as directed on the screen. He decided to test out the whole concept at home before going near a hive. He then powered on the device and commissioned it via the USB connection with the laptop. “Configuring the Pro Kit to support the selected sensors was so easy; I just assigned the design file from my MeasureWare account. This configuration had been set up and saved automatically to my cloud account when I made my original selections on MeasureWare Designer.” He was able to access his account directly from the MeasureWare Lab.

When Darragh got the Pro Kit and sensors up and running, he viewed the instant results on the MeasureWare Lab dashboard. “The Lab was so easy to use. I had the results presented to me in the units of measurement, and I could save them, zoom in, zoom out, et cetera. I tested the temperature sensors in water of different temperatures to ensure the readings were changing and tested the humidity sensors over steam. At this point I was beginning to feel like a pro myself.” He now had a working measurement solution. He then set about deploying the solution into an empty hive to test the concept and placement of the sensors. “This was the really fun part for me, as I love working with hives and tailoring them for different colonies.” To accommodate the sensors and make wiring placement easier, Darragh decided to build out the bottom of the beehive box to provide some additional room.

Measurement System Design
Figure 2: Measurement System Design

Once Darragh had figured out the best placement for the sensors within the empty hive, he set about accessing the data and used some of the MeasureWare extender daughter cards to enable connections back to the Pro Kit. He once again viewed the data on the MeasureWare Lab to see the hive conditions and detect trends in data and hive health. “I saw that the dashboard was customizable, so I was able to change the look and placement of the different measurement results, which was really helpful for me. I played around with the dashboard for a while, and then once I was happy saved it to my account as Blarney bees. This representation of the data is now something I can view on any device once I am logged in to my MeasureWare account.” He now had a measurement solution and measurement result tailored for his application.

He saved some sample data and stored it automatically to his MeasureWare cloud account. “This was so cool; I now could view the data anytime, anywhere and show it to the management team in Blarney Castle. The team at Blarney Castle was very impressed with my efforts and wondered if I could get a live feed to an interactive display in the visitors’ center. Back to MeasureWare I went as I remembered having seen something about future connectivity options.” Darragh is only getting started with this phase, but knows he has his MeasureWare Lab dashboard and cloud account as a starting point for his public data display.

“I was so surprised with how easy the MeasureWare Designer and Lab were to interact with and how simple it was to get the Pro Kit to measure real-world data. I am a hobbyist who loves to try out new things but would never have thought I could get a single beehive, not to mention multiple hives, connected to the cloud. I am now going to see what else in the garden, house, or castle I can automate.” Darragh has started his journey to becoming an IoT champion, and you can too. Darragh recommends everyone to have a go because “it’s simple with MeasureWare.”

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What Has MeasureWare Enabled?

What Has MeasureWare Enabled

  • The ability to get up and running fast with real, trusted measurement results
  • The monitoring of multiple different sensor types
  • The flexibility to iterate quickly and evolve the system design
  • Looks and acts like a prototype in minutes