A team of RMIT engineering students has won a Telstra innovation award for a prototype platform that aims to counter the decline of bee populations by enabling real-time monitoring of beehives.
The $2000 award was part of the 2017 Telstra Innovation Challenge, which invited teams of developers and creatives to work on an “internet of things” prototype to solve a problem faced by the Australian agricultural industry.
Student Ananda Utama said the Bee Secure data fetching platform enabled beekeepers to monitor the health of their beehives online, in real time.
“The decline in the bee population is a major issue with global relevance,” Utama said.
“Without bees, one third of the fruit and vegetables in the world would disappear, as they rely on the pollination the bees provide.
“Our Bee Secure platform allows users to easily monitor a range of metrics that affect the lifespan of a bee colony, such as humidity, temperature, and weight.”
The team’s win recognised their solution as the most innovative from among the six finalists – three from the university stream, and three from the public stream.
To pitch their project to an expert panel at the final, the Bee Secure team had already been judged among the top three entries from more than 50 teams who entered the university stream.
To bring the prototype to fruition, the students t - Utama, Nisha Tobgui, Jamal Elamsy and Dean Bongetti - brought to the project the varied skills they have been developing in their electrical and electronic engineering and computer and network engineering degrees.
These included project management, hardware and software development, interface design, customer consultation, value propositioning, technology analysis and power management.
The team will share the $2000 prize money, but more importantly for their future careers, the competition allowed the students to gain valuable industry exposure and contacts, with representatives from companies such as Telstra, Cisco and Intel all involved in the Challenge.
Senior Lecturer Samuel Ippolito has been supervising student teams entering the annual competition, previously known as the Telstra University Challenge, for several years.
He says it provides a wonderful opportunity for third-year engineering students, who are required to do a group project for their degree program, to put their mind to solving a real-world problem.
According to Utama, what impressed the judges about Bee Secure was that it represented “an untapped market with a lot of potential for securing the future of agriculture”, as beekeeping is the only agricultural sector yet to be automated.
Håkan Erikksson, Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, had suggested the product could potentially boost productivity in blueberry farms, and other judges thought it could be applicable for the Manuka honey industry.
So what’s next for Bee Secure?
“We’re going to further fine tune our product,” Utama said.
“By implementing the hive’s weight measurement and forecasting features, the keepers can be aware of not only the colony’s growth, but also upcoming extreme weather conditions. As we collect and process data over time, we hope to further improve the mortality rates of bee colonies.”
Story: Yvette Hollings