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Robot bees and monitoring; building the future

June 25, 2018

Robot bees and monitoring; building the future

This post is also available in: Spanish

Robot bees: Will they be our best and only alternative?

The bees are dying. It’s no joke, neither should you take it as such. Nobody truly knows why, but the facts are that the number of bees is decreasing on a global scale, and it’s an increasing phenomenon. But, who cares, right? Well, you should.

A study published in 2013 by San Francisco University’s Department of Biology states that, from 2006, between 30 to 40% of the honeybees colonies were lost in the United States. It is not a matter of loss of interest in apiculture. Simply, there are every day fewer and fewer bees. It’s a phenomenon that is happening in every developed country around the world.

Experts point multiple causes; from certain kinds of mites to the use of some types of pesticides – the ones known as neonicotinoids-, up to factors of a greater scale, like the loss of habitats or the climate change.

The effects on nature and the human being of such loss aren’t small. Bees are the main responsible for the pollination process, vital for the formation of the fruit and seed on plants, and ultimately is what feeds us human beings. Yes, all of us. That includes you, dear reader.

To give you an idea of the problem: according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), from the 100 farming species that produce 90% of the food in the world, around 70% relies on bees for the pollination process to be possible.

You might be thinking that there are other insects capable of pollinate, and in fact, they exist, but its participation in the process is minor: bees are 95% of all the ‘visits’ from flower to flower.

Let’s make this clear. Nowadays, without bees, the human being would starve to death. Probably, millions of people would die all over the world. What can we do to prevent this disturbing vision?

Although there are no doubts about making the bee population rise and stabilize would be the best solution, some people are already looking for alternative solutions in case someday we see ourselves in the circumstance of living in a world lacking bees.

Maybe the most striking solution is the creation of robot bees.

This has been the matter of work of several teams of scientists for years now.

During the last decade, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Northwestern University has developed the first robot bee, as part of the known as RoboBee Project. With a weight of 80 grams and a size of a small coin, it has two tiny wings of 3cm which could be flapped 120 times per second.

In 2016, a group of scientists from Varsow Polytechnic University would have created the first prototype of robot bee capable of pollinate flowers.

The device -a tiny drone of around 100 grams of weight-, would be capable of locating a flower, pick its pollen, and take it from the masculine flower to the feminine to complete the fertilization process.

That same team has already carried out some tests on the field, producing, as a result, the first seed obtained thanks to artificial pollination.

Even if bees don’t become extinct, the future of this sort of devices is really interesting, for its possible uses in what is known as ‘precision agriculture’. For instance, they could be programmed to pollinate just certain areas or flowers, which would be of great interest in the future of agriculture.

Not only this but also they could be set to release precise doses of pesticides or fertilizers in each plant of a certain crop. Using the right pesticides -for example, biological ones- maybe we could also protect the real bees.

Can you imagine a vast crop overflown by a hive of robot bees working in a precise and coordinated way, living together and completing the work of the ‘biological bees’? Some might find this idea terrifying; some others dream at such a wonder of technology.

So… what has this anything to do with monitoring?

As you might already know if you are an avid reader of this blog -and if it’s not the case we’ll now explain to you- computer system monitoring is in charge, roughly speaking, of controlling the working status of devices, infrastructures, and software, etc.

Why not monitor robot bees in the future?

Imagine that the system in control of making the robot bees to come back when its battery is low fails and, as a result, they are left useless and it’s needed to be picked one by one. Wouldn’t you like to order them to come back before that happens?

Imagine that some of them are lost and can’t find their way home. Wouldn’t you like to get notified the malfunctioning and recover them thanks to geolocalized monitoring?

And what if the weather changes and the system that gives the order to return fails? Wouldn’t you like to send them back home before it starts to rain or the wind breaks them?

What if one of them was to be faulty and starts spreading pesticides in the wrong places? Wouldn’t you like to check if it’s doing right its job?

How about if a failure in the software makes the hive to leave some areas without its needed pollination? To avoid this to happen -which would turn a great part of the crop to waste- a monitoring system could control if the job is being completed properly.

As you can see, monitoring is closely related to the good functioning of computer systems. At present, although robot bees are not its main use, it is in charge of surveying the activity of multiple IT systems. In the future, system monitoring could control the proper development of robot bees hives as well as other technologies which today we can barely imagine.

The dream of a world in which technology is capable of improving human being’s life and help to the conservation of the planet is a quite stimulating vision.

Every day we strive for Pandora FMS to be part of this future.

What about you? Would you like to build this future with us?


    Sancho es el creador y fundador de Pandora FMS. Entre sus muchas aficiones están la fotografía, la ciencia ficción y deportes como la esgrima o el boxeo.



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