So finally after many months of development, design, build, rebuild and writing of code. I have some data and information on my beehive! Its remarkable how much data you can get and learn about an environment by monitoring a few points over time. At the moment the BeeBetaBox is currently loading up, sending a HTTP  POST to an end point with lots of data about the beehive every 10 mins. This data is rolled into a database and then assembled together to generate graphs showing temperature over time Because I capture the GPS co-ordinates of the hive as well we can then use this to make a lookup against a weather service and provide the weather predictions for the next 3 days. Handy if your hive is remote and you want to see about a visit soon!

BeeSafe Graph

So after spending a considerable amount of time using Sakis – the 3G dongle software. I feel I need to write a better post on how to connect your Debian based system / Raspberry Pi to the internet using a 3G connection.

– Be warned, Data on the 3G network is RARELY all you can eat, ensure you have an appropriate data plan before you let your Pi loose.

– 2nd Warning.. 3G dongles consume huge quantities of power, if your running the project off a battery setup, write some code to disconnect the 3G stick when not in use to prevent it from eating all the power just staying connected.

With that being said, to download and install the 3G software:

sudo apt-get -y update

then

sudo apt-get -y upgrade

then

sudo apt-get -y install ppp

Once the updates have taken route and ppp has been installed you will need to download sakis;

wget “http://www.sakis3g.org/versions/latest/armv4t/sakis3g.gz”

then

gunzip sakis3g.gz

then

chmod +x sakis3g

finally

sudo ./sakis3g –interactive

This will take you to the interactive window used by Sakis, you can configure the 3G dongle here and then issue the connect command. The software has been set out to be easy to interact with.

Depending on the Simcard you have in the dongle, it may attempt to download the latest settings automatically and then offer them to you as a connection method.

If you don’t get that luxury you can manually enter your APN, username and password manually in the prompts.

One feature that I LOVE about Sakis is that you can call the connect command from within another program, lets say my Pi gathers some data up and then needs to send it somewhere on the net, you can tell the program to connect to Sakis like this:

./sakis3g connect APN=”CUSTOM_APN” CUSTOM_APN=”giffgaff.com” APN_USER=”giffgaff” APN_PASS=”password”

This string tells Sakis to connect to the Giffgaff network and can be followed by:

sudo ./sakis3g disconnect

How to add a custom APN to the sakis config file:
Using Nano create a file called sakis3g.conf stored in /etc/

sudo nano /etc/sakis3g.conf

Here you can add the APN details like this:

APN=CUSTOM_APN
CUSTOM_APN=”giffgaff.com”
APN_USER=”giffgaff”
APN_PASS=”password”

and then connect the 3G dongle by doing this:

sudo ./sakis3g connect

Super handy if you need to bring some 3G connectivity to your project! 🙂

With the PCB now built and soldered, my attention can turn to the software that powers the BeeSafe and the cloud API that it runs on.

The software is broken down into two parts; software run locally on each BeeSafe and software run in the cloud that manages all inputs, requests, alerts and data.

This post will focus on the software, hosted locally on the Raspberry Pi – the brain of each BeeSafe.

The focus of Raspberry Pi is to help teach people (children) the basics via Python (for more information visit: http://www.raspberrypi.org), so that is the language I have chosen to use on the Pi.

While the BeeSafe PCB has a variety of sensors (Temperature, GPS, Trip Switch and Accelerometer) the main one this post will focus on is temperature. On the board itself I have included a ds18b20 temperature sensor which uses the 1-wire thermal probe. Information on this can be found at: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/projects/raspberrypi/tutorials/temperature/ and http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruits-raspberry-pi-lesson-11-ds18b20-temperature-sensing/hardware

Once we have a powered and working Pi, we need to activate the 1-Wire probes, in the command line of your Pi type in :

sudo modprobe w1-gpio

then

sudo modprobe w1-therm

then

cd /sys/bus/w1/devices/

ls

On the page now you should have something that looks like:

w1_bus_master1 and another that looks like “28-000004bb8e9b“. The “28-000004bb8e9b” will be the serial number of the thermal probe, if you have more than one then, they should all be presented alongside each other.

You can directly interface with the thermal probe by typing in

cd /28-000004bb8e9b

and then

cat w1_slave

This will present you with a 2 line read out of data from the thermal probe, it should look something like:

19 01 4b 46 7f ff 07 10 eb : crc=eb YES

19 01 4b 46 7f ff 07 10 eb t=17562

From the output you can see a value called t=17562 which is the temperature but presented raw format, The actual value here is 17.562C. What we need is some code to read this temperature device and give us a useful temperature value.

The code found on the tutorial page at Cambridge (http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/projects/raspberrypi/tutorials/temperature/) is a perfect starting point for building out with. A copy of the code is below:

# Open the file that we viewed earlier so that python can see what is in it. Replace the serial number as before.
tfile = open(“/sys/bus/w1/devices/YOURW1PROBE/w1_slave”)
# Read all of the text in the file.
text = tfile.read()
# Close the file now that the text has been read.
tfile.close()
# Split the text with new lines (\n) and select the second line.
secondline = text.split(“\n”)[1]
# Split the line into words, referring to the spaces, and select the 10th word (counting from 0).
temperaturedata = secondline.split(” “)[9]
# The first two characters are “t=”, so get rid of those and convert the temperature from a string to a number.
temperature = float(temperaturedata[2:])
# Put the decimal point in the right place and display it.
temperature = temperature / 1000
print temperature

Change to your user directory folder by:

cd ~

and open a new file by typing in:

sudo nano read_temp.py

Copy and paste the above code into the nano editor and be sure to change YOURW1PROBE to the serial number of your probe. If you saved this file as read_temp.py you can run it by typing in:

sudo python ./read_temp.py

it will read the thermal probe for data and print out the temperature in the correct format.. i.e. 17.562C not 17562

Now we can read real world temperature into our software! The next step is to install the libraries to allow us to send this data in an SMS message to our phones!

In your command line update APT using the following commands:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

Next we need to install PIP, this is done by:

sudo apt-get install python-pip python-dev build-essential
sudo pip install –upgrade pip
sudo pip install –upgrade virtualenv

and then

sudo pip install twilio

Twilio is a global voice and SMS API provider, they allow you to make & receive voice and SMS (as well as MMS) messages to and from phones to and web services. For this post we are particularly interested in the Sending SMS API which will allow us to send SMS messages from our local device to a cloud service to our mobile phone.

Twilio can be found online at: http://www.twilio.com

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for a trial account. You get $30 of credit to play with the Twilio system. Once you have signed up, you will need to buy a number (these cost $1 per calendar month, but will come out from the trial credit) and verify a phone number that you currently have (such as your mobile).

Once your signed up, in your account page you will need to note down your account SID and auth token. These can be found on the top of:  https://www.twilio.com/user/account

Now we need to start to form a more complex python code, fortunately we can build onto of the code we have written before! To maintain a logical evolution of our files we are going to make a copy of read_temp.py by typing in:

sudo cp ./read_temp.py ./send_sms_temp.py

This will make a copy of our read temp file and save it as send_sms_temp.py

Open up your text editor by typing:

sudo nano send_sms_temp.py

You should see an identical copy of the code we have written before; now we are going to modify this file so that it can assemble an SMS message from our temperature data.

Start by adding:

from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient

to the top of the page, this will call the Twilio REST API client when the file loads.

Underneath the temperature code, we need to add the following lines:

account_sid = "ACXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX"
auth_token = "YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY"
client = TwilioRestClient(account_sid, auth_token)
message = client.messages.create(to="+12316851234", from_="+15555555555",
body="Hello there! The temperature is: " + srt(temperature) + "c")
Substitute the account SID and auth tokens with the ones you wrote down from your user account page: https://www.twilio.com/user/account, then you will need to adjust the ‘to’ value to be a number you wish to SMS. Twilio uses international number standards, so a number in the United States would be ‘+14155555555’ and one from the UK would be ‘+447971234567’.
You will also have to adjust the ‘from’ variable to be the number you have provisioned when you signed up for your trial account. A word of warning, not all numbers from Twilio support SMS messages, particularly SMS messages across geographic locations.
To check which counties can receive messages from which number, check out: https://www.twilio.com/international – when you have signed up test your number works by sending yourself a message from your account portal  (https://www.twilio.com/user/account/developer-tools/api-explorer#POST/2010-04-01/Accounts/{AccountSid}/SMS/Messages.{format})
The srt(temperature) is us telling python to convert the numerical value of temperature into a string value so that it can be added to our outgoing SMS message. Strings and Strings go together, Numbers and Numbers go together, Strings and Numbers do not.
By now your code should look something like this:

from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient

# Open the file that we viewed earlier so that python can see what is in it. Replace the serial number as before.
tfile = open(“/sys/bus/w1/devices/YOURW1PROBE/w1_slave”)
# Read all of the text in the file.
text = tfile.read()
# Close the file now that the text has been read.
tfile.close()
# Split the text with new lines (\n) and select the second line.
secondline = text.split(“\n”)[1]
# Split the line into words, referring to the spaces, and select the 10th word (counting from 0).
temperaturedata = secondline.split(” “)[9]
# The first two characters are “t=”, so get rid of those and convert the temperature from a string to a number.
temperature = float(temperaturedata[2:])
# Put the decimal point in the right place and display it.
temperature = temperature / 1000
print temperature

account_sid = “ACXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX” #Replace this with your account SID
auth_token = “YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY” # Replace this with your auth token
client = TwilioRestClient(account_sid, auth_token)

message = client.messages.create(to=”+12316851234″, from_=”+15555555555″,
body=”Hello there! The temperature is: ” + srt(temperature) + “c”)

This is our complete SMS temperature application!

You should now be able to send yourself a temperature based SMS message by typing in:

sudo python ./send_sms_temp.py

Tada! If all has gone according to plan you should have sent yourself an SMS with the temperature your Raspberry Pi has read from the thermal probe.

How. Cool. Is. That!

Now that you have the basics, the world is your oyster. Imagine being sent a text message when your house is getting too cold. Or a morning message of the temperature outside before you leave the house. Or sending data from an SMS device into a database.. But thats another post..

After many (many!) attempts and learning’s.

Everything from PCB design via software, PCB manufacture via toner transfer and ensuring your board is soldered correctly has had to be designed, re-engineered and put into practice on almost a production line state of mind.

Finally the initial board is ready to rock!

Completed BeeSafe Board, Version 1

Completed BeeSafe Board, Version 1

This board features, 5 LED’s; 4 of which are configurable. 3 Temperature Sensors, input for a switch and an I2C based accelerometer. *NB* The board above only has 1 of the three temperature sensors attached as at time of writing the other two sensors were in the post.

This board connects into a Raspberry Pi via the large 26 Pin header in the top left. Connected to the Pi is a USB GPS and USB 3G Data stick. *NB* the Pi’s on board USB ports aren’t able to provide enough power to support the 3G Data stick so an additional hub or secondary PCB will have to be provided should 3G be needed (Which I suspect it will!).

In total the BeeSafe project has the following sensors and communication gateways:

Circuit Temperature BeeSafe Board
Brood Temperature BeeSafe Board
External Environmental Temperature BeeSafe Board
XYZ Accelerometer BeeSafe Board
5 x Status LED’s BeeSafe Board
Switch Sensor BeeSafe Board
GPS Raspberry Pi
3G Data Modem Raspberry Pi
Ethernet Connection Raspberry Pi

With the hardware now complete (for the moment!); my attention has turned to the software to power BeeSafe. This is comprised of two parts: Software localised on the device and software hosted in the cloud to collect, store and interpret all the data.

A lot of people have asked why I chose to use the Raspberry Pi to power this device, a micro-controller such as Arduino would have been more than capable of reading temperature sensors, XYZ data, parsing GPS data and submitting it all via a comm’s device to the cloud. But the Pi stands out as a standalone computer. It’s capable of hosting its on database, serve pages and data to other computers and networks. An Arduino works in a single hive, but a Pi could work with many.

An Example; quite often bee hives are clustered together and are known as apiaries. If each beehive had a 1-2-1 connection to the internet that would mean each hive would require a 3G stick, its own sim card and data plan. Quickly the costs of keeping an apiary online would rack up.

Using a Raspberry Pi you could create a star network, one device could become a host. Using a USB WiFi stick to create a local WiFi access point (like your WiFi at home, one hub serves many users with an internet connection). This could keep costs and maintenance down as each apiary would only need one connection to the internet.

Additionally, if there is no cell signal, a Raspberry Pi could be used as a localised storage option for all the data collected. While this means you would loose some of the advantages of monitoring your Bee Hive remotely, the data is still invaluable and could be downloaded at a later point.

The next steps for BeeSafe include a start up program that will scan the hardware and configure everything into appropriate sections. For the moment I am doing this manually using a mix of python scrips to test the internet connection, GPS data, LED’s, temperature and XYZ position.

My ultimate goal is to produce a initial start up script that will on boot, self-test the LED’s, check for internet connection, scan for temperature sensors, check for the presence of an Accelerometer and then store all this data within an XML file to be used by the default BeeSafe program.

An example of the XML configuration file is below:

<?xml version=”1.0″?>
<BeeSafe>
<BeeSafeDeviceID></BeeSafeDeviceID> #Unique Serial Number used to identify the BeeSafe
<RedLED><RedLED> #GPIO Pin number for Red LED
<AmberLED></AmberLED> #GPIO Pin number for AmberLED
<GreenLED0></GreenLED0> #GPIO Pin number for First Green LED
<GreenLED1></GreenLED1> #GPIO Pin number for Second GreenLED
<BoardTemp></BoardTemp> #Identifier for Board Temp Sensor
<BroodTemp></BroodTemp> #Identifier for BroodTemp Sensor
<EnvironmentTemp></EnvironmentTemp> #Identifier for External Temp Sensor
<MagSwitch></MagSwitch> #GPIO Pin number for Magnetic Switch
<XYZ></XYZ> #Identifier for I2C Accelerometer
</BeeSafe>


The BeeSafe Device ID is used to track and log the data submitted by a BeeSafe device, my initial thoughts were that I could use the serial number from the Raspberry Pi attached, but this quickly led to issues as should a user wish to swap out the Pi for another one, the serial number would change and the data would be lost. Additionally I did not want to tie a BeeSafe device to a specific email address as should an individual user have more than one BeeSafe active, managing each device this way could prove to be problematic.

So whats the solution?
A BeeSafe’s Device ID will be generated on demand from the cloud, as a new device comes online and communicates with the cloud for the first time, it will be assigned a device ID which will be saved to the XML config file. While this ID will not be dependent on the PI it is connected to, the Pi’s serial number will be submitted so that should the worst occur and the SD card with the config file be lost, if the same Pi attempts to reconnect to the cloud, as a new user, it will be assigned the same device ID.

From a human perspective; one user can be in control of many BeeSafe devices.
Should the worst occur and the user need to be contacted, if more than one device has an alert status (such as a whole apiary) the user would be alerted once rather than receiving multiple alerts for a cluster of hives suffering the same issue. For example, if a cluster of BeeHives have collapsed, a single alert would be sent out stating that X number of hives currently need attention, rather than bombarding the user with an alert for each individual hive.

As part of my project; a small monitoring tool to monitor beehives dubbed ‘BeeSafe’ I have been designing and assembling a small printed circuit board – PCB, to collect all the sensors together.

Previous parts of this build can be found at:

http://www.mathewjenkinson.co.uk/beesafe-concept-development/

With the board printed and etched it was now time to solder on all the components and begin testing.

As you can see from the picture below; soldering is a skill I’m still to master!

Version 1 of BeeSafe PCB

Version 1 of BeeSafe PCB

Following what I thought to be a simple design I quickly found out that I had errors both in the pin layout and the physical spacing of the components used on the board.

The placement of the GPIO connector (13 x 2 lines of pins) meant that the board was in an awkward position and the cable pushed up against the accelerator / motion detector.

Physical component wise, the LED’s were situated too close to each other, meaning that when it came to solder them, they were all on-top of one another.

Its important to stress that while this PCB hasn’t been a success, it hasn’t been a failure either. This PCB came from a new manufacturing process where I used a laminator and gloss paper as the toner transfer method. As you can see from the image above the process itself was a success!

From here, the PCB design will go back to square one. I want to switch from using Adobe Illustrator to a proper PCB design software such as Eagle PCB which will allow me to design better more complex boards that can include things like silk screen’s and will be easier to scale up production should this be required.

 

Continuing again with my Raspberry Pi adventures and further developing my ‘BeeSafe’ project. One of the components I need to integrate is GPS module that would allow me to track the BeeHive / box should someone decide to move it.. To this end I purchased a few GPS units from ebay. This guide should get you up to speed on how to access GPS data via your Raspberry Pi / linux setup.

USB GPS with magnetic base

USB GPS with magnetic base

Plug the USB GPS into the pi, you should be able to see it detected in

sudo lsusb

Mine came up as: Bus 001 Device 004: ID 1546:01a6 U-Blox AG

Using:

dmesg | grep -i usb

I worked out that my USB GPS was paired to ttyACM0

At this point you can test your GPS device is functional and sending data by:

sudo cat /dev/ttyACM0

The next thing we need to do is pipe the GPS feed into GPSD (the gps demon) for it to interpret the data and hopefully give us something useful to use later.

sudo gpsd /dev/ttyACM0 -n -F /var/run/gpsd.sock

this command connects the output of ttyACM0 to the gpsd socket

NB: I had to ensure that the -n flag was present in this command, as trying without the flag resulted in a time out.

You should now be able to test the GPS using

cgps -s

Which will bring up a small window showing the GPS data.

Things to note; If you have any problems and cgps always displays ‘NO FIX’ under status and then aborts after a few seconds, you may need to restart the gpsd service you may have to kill and reboot the gps demon by typing

sudo killall gpsd

and then

sudo gpsd /dev/ttyACM0 -n -F /var/run/gpsd.sock

 

which will restart the gpsd service and pick up the new settings.

Now you should be able to use the GPS data for whatever your project needs; in my case I want to build a GPS fence so that if my beehive is detected leaving a known area (such as a field) then it will alert me and provide me with a GPS co-ordinate feed.

I used the Lady Ada guide on how to setup GPS devices to help me; the link is:

http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-ultimate-gps-on-the-raspberry-pi/setting-everything-up

Following on my project to develop a Bee monitoring tool dubbed ‘Bee Safe’.

The next part of my project is to provide the remote raspberry pi with access to the internet via a USB 3G dongle.

Fortunately in the world we live in now; finding old / used 3G dongles is very easy to do. The one I’m using was purchased from Cex for the pricey sum of £6.

£6 3G Dongle

Newly purchased 3G Dongle

While cellular data speeds and modems have vastly improved over the recent years this project only requires sending small snippets of text with the occasional photo so high speed isn’t a priority on this project.

To pair a USB dongle with a Raspberry Pi (the computer used to power Bee Safe) you need to download and install some packages; PPPD & sakis3g

To start with download PPPD via APT-GET:

sudo apt-get install ppp

Then download sakis3g:

wget "http://www.sakis3g.org/versions/latest/armv4t/sakis3g.gz"

Unpack and make the file executable:

gunzip sakis3g.gz
chmod +x sakis3g

Then execute the script which will run with a basic GUI within terminal:

sudo ./sakis3g --interactive

Sakis has a fairly comprehensive list of connections available.

Once you have been through the setup guide the modem *fingers crossed* should be online and operational. You can now exit sakis. You will stay connected.

You can check your connection and details with this command:

sudo ./sakis3g connect info

This post was pulled together from various sources, the main two being:

http://shkspr.mobi/blog/2012/07/3g-internet-on-raspberry-pi-success/

and

http://raspberry-at-home.com/installing-3g-modem/

Following on from my previous posts about a tool or piece of technology that can be used to monitor bee hives and the status of bee’s; I’m pleased to announce the next step of my development of this project.

Originally code named ‘BeePi’ because I was building on the Raspberry Pi computer system, I have developed it further and it has evolved into ‘BeeSafe’ – a micro monitoring tool used to monitor the status of a bee hive.

BeeSafe Features:

Accelerometer External Environment Sensor
Abient Temperature Sensor Magnetic Switch Alarm
Brood Temperature Sensor LED Status Lights

Which will allow me to work out:

Current temperature of Bee cluster in the Hive – Are the Bees still alive
Current temperature of the environment around the hive – Are the bee’s likely to be active
If the Hive is open – Is someone doing something to the Hive
If the hive has fallen over – Has an animal or something caused the hive to fall over exposing the inside of the hive
If the hive is being moved – Useful if you think your Hive is being stolen
Quick Traffic light: Red, Amber or Green Status of the Hive

This is the first picture of the base PCB that will operate BeeSafe:

Bee Safe Base PCB

Bee Safe Base PCB

As you can see, it still requires a lot of work including soldering all the components to the board and then programming the system to detect and report from the various sensors.

From a software perspective at the Hive level, I need to start writing how and what the software will do, how often it will record measurements, what the traffic light system will show to the users, what data will be submitted to the cloud for capture and in what frequency.

Next stop is the cloud.. While I have ideas on what data I want to capture. I need to nail down specifications on what I want the cloud to do and how I want the cloud to be engaged by users.

Web, Email, Text and API are all things I want included in the project but the balance is finding out the best way to include them. If your Hive was broken into – would you want a text message saying that? What about on-demand reporting about how your hives are doing? What about logging in to your hive in the middle of winter to confirm that the bee cluster is overwintering well and that the temperature internally isn’t dropping too low (a sign the bees are starving and dying off).

I hope to manufacture these boards in greater numbers once I have developed this initial PCB, confirming that all the components work in the way they should and that I have suitable demand for the BeeSafe Project.

 

In a previous post (http://l-k.me/J) I described an idea I had to make use of a Raspberry Pi as a local sensor tool on a bee hive, a project I’ve dubbed ‘BeePi’.

Below is a small requirement chart for the projects needs and potential:

Requirement Must Have Would Like To Have Nice To Have
Internal Hive Temp Sensor Yes
External Hive Temp Sensor Yes
XYZ Accelerometer Yes
High Capacity Battery Yes
Solar Charging Battery Charger Yes
WiFi Transmitter Yes
WiFi Hub Yes
3G Connectivity Yes
Hive Disassembly Sensor Yes
RFID Antenna Yes
Weather Station Yes

While all of these could be rolled into a singular project, but it makes sense to break up development into phases based on real world requirements and (of course) money.

A lot of what is required for this project exists in singular projects already published by the Raspberry Pi community, a large following of users are making use of the Maplin USB Weather Station (http://l-k.me/I), GPIO Temperature Sensor(s) (http://l-k.me/K) and RFiD Reader (http://l-k.me/L). The use of a 3G and / or WiFi dongle makes sending data exceptionally easy as the OS will handle any of the connecting to the internet / network leaving any software to make / receive API calls and store the data where appropriate.

The use of the BeePi as a WiFi Hub is also worth considering if you have more than one hive in a location it makes sense to have a singular hub / data collecting server that all of the other BeePi’s connect to. There are many tutorials on the internet that show you how to turn your Raspberry Pi into a WiFi hub and make use of a singular 3G dongle to connect them all to the internet (Or even host the database locally).

After a bit of juggling and budgeting my Phase One build will look like this:

Internal Hive Temp Sensor
External Hive Temp Sensor
XYZ Accelerometer
High Capacity Battery
Solar Charging Battery Charger
USB WiFi Transmitter

I don’t want to host the data from the hive locally (on the BeePi), so I will write a program to gather up the sensor data periodically and then send the data to a database hosted somewhere (more to come on that as it is developed).

I want to capture the internal brood temperature, external atmospheric temperature, XYZ geometry of the hive. The BeePi will be powered by a chunky long life battery which will be maintained by a solar panel. The hive will be connected to my WiFi network via USB WiFi stick.

To aide development and keep phases in line with each other I will design any PCB’s to include the optional bits; RFiD reader, Hive Disassembly Sensor, 3G data stick. So that should I need to add these to my project or as requirements change I don’t have to go back to square one and make a new base-board.

For the sensors I am going to be using; I’ve chosen to keep things simple:

Internal and External Temperature Sensor: DS18B20 3 Pin 1 wire temperature, these are particularly handy and cool as you can connect several to the same GPIO pin but capture data from them all separately via serial interface. The tutorial guide I am using is: (http://l-k.me/K).

XYZ Accelerometer: ADXL345 a simple I2C accelerometer which you connect  via the BeePi’s GPIO Pins (http://l-k.me/M).

Power and Solar: Power will come from a 12V 7AmpHour battery which will be charged via solar panel regulated with a solar charge controller. The board I will design will take 12V and step down to 5V which will be used to power the Raspberry Pi, WiFi and connected devices. The hope is that the battery and sun will maintain the project indefinitely however as this is all theoretical (at time of writing!) I may need A) a bigger battery B) a bigger solar panel C) BOTH.

While you can source all of these components from UK distributors, I HIGHLY recommend looking at eBay and sellers who are based on HK or china as I have found the price difference to be considerable between UK and Asian sellers.

More to come as the project develops!

*FYI this idea is still a concept and needs to be ironed out!*

It’s worth mentioning one of the great technology releases of 2011 / 2012 was the Raspberry PI (www.raspberrypi.org), a credit card sized computer powered by an ARM processor which can run a select few flavours of Linux.

One of the great selling points of the Pi, are it’s GPIO Pins (General Input Output Pins) which allows you to connect up a vast multitude of sensors, lights, relays directly to the Pi and engage with it via the command line or computer program.

As an avid bee keeper I have spent my last few summers tending to a few bee hives, growing up two colonies to hopefully gather up lots of honey for me! (a treat I love!).

At a recent bee keeping event I ran into a man who had developed a bee hive sensor that is able to be placed inside the bee hive to capture a number of different aspects of a bee hive, such as; temperature, hive geometry to name a few. It was a great product but A) well out of my price range and B) not flexible enough to further development.

So I thought to myself, could I make something similar and what would it look like. Well the short answer is yes, and below are the (incomplete) specifications for what I would want my ‘BeePi” to look like and operate.

Project BeePi; An autonomous data gathering tool use to sense, collect and report back on a bee hive and hive surroundings.

It will feature;

Sensors:Hive internal temperature sensor, external temperature sensor, XYZ accelerometer and hive disassembly removal sensor.

Communications: The BeePi can connect via Wifi to a hub, Wifi to a master BeePi (collecting data from a whole apiary) or communicate via a 3G/4G dongle. Potential exists for a RFID based  ‘Check-In & Check-Out’ style system – useful if many people manage the hives in a particular area.

What will these sensors do?

Well, imagine your bee-hive(s) is located in an area where you suspect animals (or people) could knock the bee hive over. Using the accelerometer when the box is turned at an angle (for example being knocked over) the BeePi could send a message (via sms, pre-recorded message or email) with details about the hive, its location and at what time the event occurred.

Using an internal temperature sensor placed close to the cluster of the hive in the brood box it will give you an indication on the current status of your bees, including if the queen is laying and overall health of the hive. Typically happy brood = happy hive.

An external sensor placed close to the enterence the hive will give you an indication on if the bees are flying, as generally lower than 13 – 10c and they will stay inside and keep warm.

Hive disassembly sensor will alert you to when your hive is being dissembled, this could be handy if you believe someone is stealing from your hive and you wish to track times and events.

I believe that this is a valuable idea and project and will document my progress as I develop it further.