Are you annotating your hive scale data?

The Bee Informed Partnership’s Electronic Hive Monitoring program gathers data from hundreds of electronic hive monitors located all over the USA.   Much of this data is publicly available to the beekeeping community in a variety of actionable formats.  For example, if you go over to the BIP research portal at research.beeinformed.org and click on Hive Monitors you can see a public gain/loss map that shows the 7 day moving average weight loss/gain of the hive monitors within that state.

screenshot of the hive monitoring public map
Bee Informed Partnership’s Hive Scale Heat Map – shows average loss / gain in weight over last 7 days by state.

We are also doing algorithmic work on the data and attempting to discover more actionable information about colony health from this vast collection of electronically captured data.  If you are a participant in BIP’s hive monitoring program, we would like to share some advise with you on how you can make your data more useful to the research community.   One of the most important things we need you to do is to login to the research portal using the same credentials that you registered your scale with.  Once logged in we need you to actively interesting changes in the data via our annotation interface.  For example, if you’ve added an empty honey super to the hive, you’ll likely see a 20 lb increase in weight on that day.  We need you to find those types of changes in weight and tell us what happened to cause it.  In the future this additional info will be very helpful in helping us improve our machine learning algorithms which we hope will ultimately help the beekeeping community make better colony management decisions.

To help simply this task for you, we’ve already introduced a feature to our research portal to automatically find all the changes in weight that likely require some sort of human annotation. Every night when you’re getting your rest after a long day of beekeeping activities, our algorithms kick in and analyze all the data received over the past 24 hours.  Any changes in weight that likely need annotation will be flagged and reported to you the next time you login to our portal.  To get a better idea of this works, take a look at the YouTube demonstration video below.

We hope this short demonstration of how easy it is for you to annotate your data has motivating you to login to the BIP research portal and get busy marking up your data!  Remember, the more annotations you provide on your data, the more useful your data becomes as we continue to try to build even better machine learning algorithms!

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SolutionBee delivers new NFC-enabled hive monitoring product

HM-5 Hive Monitor
SolutionBee’s new HM-5 NFC-enabled Hive Monitor.

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.  Virtually all up-to-date Android phones support NFC.  The NFC reading capability is also available on iPhone 7/Plus and more recent iPhones. Older iPhones will involve purchasing a 3rd party accessory to support data collection via NFC.

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.

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How To Annotate Your BIP Hive Scale Data

Hopefully by now you all have your mites under control and are well on your way in preparing your hives for winter!  If you are operating a hive scale and forwarding your data to the Bee Informed Partnership, as your beekeeping season begins to wind down and you have more time to spare, we’d strongly encourage you to login to the BIP hive scale portal and annotate your scale data.

While many of the “BIP Ready” scales available to beekeepers today collect data well beyond hive weight, the weight of you colony is perhaps the most informative in understanding what is going on in the colony.  Technically, it is not the weight so much but the change in weight over time that provides us with a better understanding of the condition of the colony.  The weight of the colony is often impacted by factors that are external to the activities of the bees themselves.  For example, you the beekeeper, may add or remove equipment, harvest honey, or feed your bees.  These activities of course impact the weight of the colony.  The weather may also effect the weight of the colony.  For example, in a northern climate a major snow storm might result in a significant amount of snow accumulating on the hive’s cover, and subsequently melting over several days.

To help the Bee Informed Partnership better understand / interpret the scale data you send us, it is very important that you login to the portal and annotate these types of events that may impact the weight of your colony.  While its better to annotate your data regularly over time, even if you haven’t done this at all in the past, you should be able to tag the most important events for the entire beekeeping season within a few minutes or less.  Actually, all of the data (past seasons as well!) is available to you on the portal, so if you tweak the date range on your hive scale graph you can also retrieve and annotate previous seasons as well.

To encourage you to complete this important task soon, we’ve put together a short video tutorial (only 4.5 minutes!) which you’ll find embedded below.  Please watch the video and then help improve the quality of the scale data you send us by making sure you annotate our scale data as soon as possible.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3tI_F3PAXCs

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Adding Your Hive Scale to the BIP Public Map

BIP Public Scale MapCongratulations!  You’ve purchased a shiny new hive scale from one of Bee Informed Partnerships “BIP Ready” hive scale vendors, and opted to share your scale data with BIP for the good of beekind and your fellow beekeepers on the BIP public map.   Our users often ask how they can get their scale on the map, so consider this the definitive guide in getting your scale on the BIP map!

It is possible that we are being a little presumptive here.  Perhaps you’ve got a BIP Ready scale setup in your apiary, and you’re scratching your head wondering why you would want your scale data on the public BIP map?  There are several reasons why you should consider placing your scale on the public BIP map.

  • Serve as a real-time sentinel apiary to other local beekeepers.  Your data can help other nearby beekeepers (who may not have a scale) understand the current level of nectar flow or the lack thereof.  Having a good understanding of the timing of local nectar flows is an important component in colony management.   
  • Provide historical / comparative data to the beekeeping community. Beekeepers can consult the public map to better understand nectar flows historically and also compare more distant scales to those in their own areas.  
  • Help grow community / awareness around honey bees.  Nowadays, data is cool and people love it.  By placing your scale on the public BIP map you are helping us create a fascinating public resource that engages the general public and helps the bees and beekeeping.   Sharing your hive scale data on the public map is the beekeeping equivalent of adding a personal weather station to the wunderground.com website.  A personal weather station by itself is useful to its owner, but the data generated by many weather stations provides a very useful resource to the broader public.  

Assuming at this point you are convinced, sharing your scale on the BIP public map can be accomplished in three simple steps.  (Note that at this point we’ve assumed you’ve followed the instructions provided to you by your scale vendor to install your scale, and successfully opted to forward your scale data to BIP.)  

Step 1: Login into your account on http://hivescales.beeinformed.org and click on the Hives option on the navigation bar on the left.  Click on the hive you would like to publicly share to go to the hive detail screen.

Step 2: In order to place your hive on the public map, you need to first record its location.  To accomplish this, click on the button labeled “Settings” on the hive detail screen.  On the right side of the hive settings screen, you will see an embedded Google map.  You can click to add a marker or if there is already a marker drag it to your desired location.  You can pan the map or enter an address in the map’s search bar to quickly zoom to the desired location.  Once the marker is in the desired location simply click on the button labeled “Update Hive”.  You will be returned to the hive detail screen once the settings are updated.

Step 3: Click on the button labeled “Share” on the upper right hand side of the hive detail screen. There are two share options on this screen.  You want to enable Share Option #2 (public link share option) by simply clicking on the button labeled “Share” under this option.  Note that if this share option is already enabled, instead of a button labeled “Share” you will simply see a public link (URL) displayed.  

At this point you’ve shared your hive’s scale data publicly.  BIP staff will manually review your data and add it to the public map.  Note that this last step is completed by BIP, so it may be 4-5 days before your scale actually appears on the public map.  In the meantime, the web link that is displayed can be copy/pasted into emails to friends / colleagues or embedded on your own web pages as it is publicly accessible.

We’ve prepared a instructional video demonstrating the above procedure as well as some additional data sharing features supported by the BIP Hive Scale portal and posted it on YouTube.  You can click on the embedded video below to view it.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=CfmFReVgRn0

One last potential concern we would like to address – what if your hive scale is in a remote area and you don’t want to draw attention to your apiary’s exact location?  This is an understandable concern especially for larger commercial beekeepers who keep bees in more remote yards.  In this case, instead of marking the exact location in Step 2 above, place it a few miles away, or in the center of the zipcode area.  That is close enough to still provide value as a sentinel area and avoids divulging the exact location of the apiary.

That’s all there is to it!  Happy hive scale data sharing!  If you have comments or questions on any of the above, be sure to follow up below by posting a comment.

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