Klaus vom Hofe


When animals provide moments of surprise

What does U.S. Democrat Bernie Sanders have to do with telecom hives on the Internet of Things? Nothing, per se. But I'm bringing this together. On World Bee Day. 


Imagine: You're giving a speech or presentation or standing in front of a camera - and something unexpected happens in the middle of it. You can't influence it. It may throw you off your game.

Bernie Sanders from the Democrats in the USA has experienced something like that. Just like my colleague Patrick Köhler, who launched the bee project at our company. 

Bees in the Deutsche Telekom network, eh? Before things get more and more colorful, let's take it one step at a time: 

April 2021, I'm following an online event: at the "DT Partner Summit for Green Future," Deutsche Telekom and partner companies are exchanging ideas about their joint path to climate neutrality. Beforehand, there was a call on our Deutsche Telekom intranet for employees who care about sustainability to send in personal contributions. The contributions are displayed during the event. 

Authentic reactions 

The video of my colleague Patrick Köhler runs across the screen, see above. He is standing in a meadow in front of his "Networked Hives". It's one of Telekom's "Magenta Bee sites." What strikes me is that he succinctly and vividly summarizes what it's all about. Sensors in the beehive measure temperature, weight, humidity and much more. Evaluated via the "Open Telekom Cloud," Patrick, as a beekeeper, receives the results on his cell phone. The Internet of Things (IoT) thus becomes a baby monitor for his bees. He always knows how healthy they are.    

And suddenly: a bee lands on Patrick's hand. Just as he is explaining the IoT technology. Patrick pauses, laughs (also because the bee tickles him). He includes the little animal in his lecture. Explains why it landed on his hand, just attracted by the warmth on a cool spring day. He emphasizes how harmless the bees are. The spontaneous interlude shows: My colleague is deeply convinced of the role of beekeeping in sustainability - and just as convinced of the Internet of Things. That touches me.

Involuntarily, I think of a different but similar incident. A campaign speech by U.S. Democrat Bernie Sanders in 2016. Suddenly, happy excitement in the audience. Onlookers point at something, apparently a small bird nearby. Sanders sees it, interrupts his speech, laughs along and rejoices. And suddenly: the animal lands on his desk. For a few moments, the bird and the politician stare at each other, it seems. Sanders smiles. As the little visitor flies away, he says, "I think there maybe some symbolism here. I know it doesn't look it, but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace. No more wars."  

Reactions in such moments of surprise say a lot for me. How authentic everything is. Well, Bernie Sanders I know less 😉 but with Patrick I feel directly how much he cares about the bee project and the "Connected Hives". Patrick holds the strings here. What he started in 2017 as an initiative at the Innovation Center Munich of Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems soon attracted like-minded colleagues. They grew into a large team. 

Now also with artificial intelligence

They now look after 1.3 million bees at 19 locations in three countries of our international group, and the number is growing. At last count, the networked colonies produced 250 jars of Magenta honey. And the innovations continue, as Patrick tells me enthusiastically: He has recently started using artificial intelligence to count the animals in the hive. A sensor records how many fly in and out. Intelligent pattern recognition ensures that only bees and no other insects are counted.       

Telecom bees inspire the imagination for the IoT

Patrick is also part of an internal Telekom sustainability initiative called "Green Pioneers." His goal is to show how modern technology can protect honeybees and thus set an example for environmental protection and sustainability. Which is what the IoT and cloud expert has achieved with it: Abstract terms such as IoT or digitization become tangible. The visitors to the Innovation Center confirm this. Because, as much of an advertising block as that is necessary here 😉: Our T-Systems is paving the way for other companies to enter the Internet of Things. 

The bees inspire the imagination: What else can't be networked ... For smart cities, production, agriculture, transport and much more. And for a world worth living in tomorrow. Thank you, Patrick. And: Happy World Bee Day!  

If you want to follow the bees live at the Innovation Center Munich, click here on the "Bee Cam". The camera is pointed at the flight hole, i.e. the entrance to the beehive. Patrick and his colleagues use it to detect, measure and analyze every bee that leaves and arrives. However, not much happens in bad weather.

You can see the locations of the Magenta hives in Europe here.