Corporate Responsibility

Bee colonies enjoy their smart homes at Deutsche Telekom sites

Everyone is talking about the importance of bees: even children know that they wouldn't be able to enjoy honey, apples, or cherries without the efforts of these busy insects. But did you know that even coffee depends on the pollination services of the familiar hymenoptera ("membrane-winged” insects)?

Smart beehives on the campus at Deutsche Telekom's Bonn headquarters.

Smart beehives on the campus at Deutsche Telekom's Bonn headquarters. Download

Honeybees pollinate around 80 percent of our plants, generating an estimated 1.6 billion euros in economic value every year in Germany alone. Yet bees are threatened, along with many other types of insects: global warming, environmental pollution, intensive agriculture, pesticides, and the increasing loss of species diversity are all affecting these beneficial organisms. 

Due to their vast importance for food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has called for promoting "sustainable systems to aid pollinators", for example, letting flowers grow and not mowing too soon.

This approach is already being tested at a number of Deutsche Telekom locations: "bee meadows" have been created in suitable spaces at several sites, seeded with plants that are beneficial to bees – with a focus on the color magenta, of course, in cooperation with the seed producer. The plants are low-growing and have thin stems, which means the meadows can be maintained effectively with a standard lawnmower, even with longer periods between mowing.

In parallel, the successful pilot projects with connected beehives in Bonn and Munich are being followed with smart homes for more bee colonies this year, including Darmstadt and Hamburg. The clever thing: the beehives are fully equipped with IoT technology and linked with Deutsche Telekom's machine and sensor network (NarrowBand IoT). Our smart sensors collect and transmit many data points from a beehive, such as its weight, which provides an indication of the fill level of the honeycombs. They also collect temperature and humidity information. Beekeepers get all this data from the T-Systems Cloud in an app. As a result, they can monitor and assess the behavior and condition of their bee colonies remotely at all times.

Identify sick bees quickly

The soundscape within the beehive is an important source of information. It provides cues about the bees' health. It, too, is measured and the information is transmitted to the beekeeper, who can take targeted action if they notice any discrepancies. As a result, it is possible to react to potential problems quickly, yet at the same time avoid disturbing the bees unnecessarily.

A wealth of data

Since the smart homes for bees gather data in various places throughout Germany, the collected values can be compared with one another. This is how digitalization is making an important contribution to ensuring the survival of the species.

Employees are also setting up insect hotels, to ensure that the bees' wilder cousins aren't forgotten.