Wearable Tech Already Deployed In Australia... On Bees

Posted: Jan 16 2014, 5:36pm CST | by , in News

Wearable Tech Already Deployed In Australia... On Bees
Photo Credit: Forbes

At last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, wearable technology was supposedly the hottest new thing. A wide array of companies introduced headsets, activity monitors and smartwatches to compete with the likes of Google Glass, Fitbit and the Pebble watch. But in Australia, scientists are already releasing plenty of new wearable sensors into the wild… strapped to the backs of honey bees.

Thousands of sensors measuring 2.5mm square are being fit on to the backs of bees in Hobart, Tasmania that are then released back in to the wild. The project is being undertaken by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to research the drivers of bee Colony Collapse Disorder. The phenomenon has been decimating bee populations around the world, causing widespread concern, given bees’ important role as a pollinator of crops.

“Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee’s relationship with its environment. This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse disorder,” said CSIRO’s Dr. Paulo de Souza, who leads the “swarm sensing” project, in a release.

Specifically, the project will look at the impact of agricultural pesticides on the bees. The sensors used work in a manner similar to “E-Z Pass” toll-tracking mechanisms, with an RFID sensor on the bee recording when it passes a particular checkpoint. The data will then be passed to a central location, where information from all the tagged insects will be used to create a model of how the bees move through their surroundings.

“Bees are social insects that return to the same point and operate on a very predictable schedule… we’ll be able to recognize very quickly when their activity shows variation and identify the cause.” Dr. de Souza said.

So how to attach a tiny sensor to a small insect?

According to information from CSIRO, the answer is that the bees are literally forced to chill out.  The insects are refrigerated for a short period, putting them in a rest state long enough for the sensors to be applied to their backs with adhesive. Dr. de Souza says the process is not harmful and does not affect how the bees fly or go about their regular activities.

CSIRO is already working on more wearable tech for insects. Researchers are working on 1 mm sensors that can be affixed to mosquitoes and fruit flies.

Source: Forbes

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