SolutionBee, widely known within the beekeeping community for its HM-20 Hive Monitor introduced several years ago, has now made its next generation Hive Monitor product, the HM-5 available. The form factor and functionality of the new HM-5 is very similar to the earlier HM-20. It collects both the weight, external temperature and humidity every 15 minutes. The beekeeper uses a mobile phone or tablet to collect the data periodically to transmit to the SolutionBee cloud portal, and optionally on to the Bee Informed Partnership. The unit uses four load cells and consists of a robustly manufactured scale platform with a weather proof enclosure for the electronics. While SolutionBee’s original HM-20 proved to be a high quality and effective hive monitoring tool, popular among BIP sentinel apiary participants, the new HM-5 product makes several very important improvements that should be noted.
First of all, the HM-5 is available to beekeepers today via Brushy Mountain’s website for $290. This is a significant reduction in price over the original model. It is exciting to see a high quality hive monitoring unit like this being made available to the beekeeping community at an affordable price.
Second, the HM-5 utilizes NFC (near field communication) instead of Bluetooth. While these technologies are very similar (low power radio technology for local connectivity) there are some differences. The B-Ware app connects and downloads data from the scale much more quickly than when connecting to an HM-20 via Bluetooth. Also, since NFC requires the device to be within 4 centimeters of each other, the smartphone needs to be placed right up against HM-5’s electronic enclosure to pick up the data. NFC is also more energy efficient than Bluetooth, though the latest Bluetooth technology (Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE) is as energy efficient if not more efficient than NFC. Finally, one caveat to be aware of is that at the time of writing (1/3/2018) only the Android version of SolutionBee’s B-Ware app currently supports reading from the NFC-enabled HM-5. According to SolutionBee they hope to launch a NFC-capable version of B-Ware to iOS sometime in January. The feature will be available on iPhone 7/Plus and more recent devices, but not on older iPhones. Apple only recently open up access to the NFC chip on more recent iPhones running iOS 11.
Finally, another big improvement made in the HM-5 is that it uses a standard replaceable battery (ER 14250 1/2 AA 3.6V lithium battery). These batteries are widely available in retail outlets, and according to SolutionBee are projected to last around 5 years. The previous generation utilized a more expensive custom battery that was replaceable, but also had a shorter lifetime.
Operationally, the HM-5 works almost identically to the HM-20. On behalf of the Bee Informed Partnership, I had the opportunity to field test the HM-5 product this past fall and found it to be very easy to setup and utilize in the apiary. As of January 2018 the HM-5 has received the “BIP Ready” designation. The product is well-designed and should deliver many years of service in your apiary. We’re told that there are discounts available for BIP Sentinel Apiary participants, so be sure to ask Brushy Mountain about that if you order one! I highly recommend this new hive scale to hobby and commercial beekeepers alike.