Honey bees play a pivotal role, but they're also at grave risk of extinction. In the US alone, bee colonies have seen a 90% decline since the 1960s. This crisis is alarming experts and the food industry, with 70 out of 100 main food crops suffering shortages, according to GreenPeace data.
There are many reasons why the number of bees is plummeting, including lack of wild forage, disease and parasites. However, many people believe that Varroa destructor mites are the main cause, which leads to beekeepers using strong, harmful pesticides. These can end up causing more damage than good.
Tech is doing its bit to reduce the harm to the bee population. Gemalto, working in collaboration with agricultural communications firm Eltopia and the University of Minnesota, has developed a smart circuit board that's inserted into beehives to detect when mites enter and lay eggs.
This information is then relayed via the internet to an application that alters the hive's temperature, helping to destroy the mite eggs. The result is a pesticide-free solution that won't harm bees.
Easy-to-use and non-toxic, the device - dubbed 'MiteNot' - is simply a flexible screen printed on the circuit that looks just like a traditional beehive frame. It's been made out of renewable resources like cornstarch and is covered in wax so it blends into normal honeycomb.
On the tech side of things, there are a number of sensors on board which monitor the temperature of 32 different elements of the hive - indicating mite breeding stages.
To Manfred Kube, head of M2M (Machine to Machine) at Gemalto, IoT is more than just smart homes and connected cars. It's also capable of doing good for the environment and wildlife, and this is demonstrated through projects like MiteNot.
"While the possibilities of IoT are often viewed through a lens of business benefit and consumer convenience, IoT and M2M technologies can have hugely beneficial impacts on environments and wildlife, too," he tells TechRadar.
"In recent years, reports of the declining honeybee population have become more frequent. In a bid to solve this problem, we worked together with the agricultural tech company, Eltopia, using innovative IoT and M2M technology, to help reverse this decline.
"The University of Minnesota began the MiteNot project to address the issue, and commissioned our customer, Eltolpia to solve the crisis. This project shows the benefits IoT and M2M can bring to an increasing range of industries when it is applied in the right ways."
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Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!