These Bumblebees Carry Tiny Sensors to Measure Their Environment

The University of Washington researchers' Living IoT system uses bumblebees to gather data from the environment.
Jessica Miley

Science and design often take inspiration from nature. New research from researchers at the Paul G. Allen School of University of Washington has developed a wireless sensing system that actually straps onto the back of bumble bees. 

Called the Living IoT system, the device is considered to be a reasonable alternative to drones used in agricultural research and environmental monitoring to gather data on weather, humidity and light intensity.

Unlike drones, these augmented bees can gather data for up to seven hours without needing to recharge. 

The tiny tech backpack requires power only for computation. The system tracks the insect's position in 2D space as it flies around gathering the data which is stored in flight then uploaded at the end of the day using backscatter.

The tiny devices weigh just 102mg. The system could be used in agricultural applications such as precision irrigation to environmental monitoring. 

Recently these tasks have been done by mechanical drones, but short battery life and high costs motivated the researchers to explore other alternatives.

Living IT was developed by students Vikram Iyer, Rajalakshmi Nandakumar and Anran Wang in addition with help from faculty members Sawyer B. Fuller and Shyam Gollakota. 

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