Like a bee colony, our hardware architecture is centered around the Hive. Bees, our own hardware, send messages to the Hive and carry out tasks as directed by the Hive. This constant communication between the Hive and Bees is implemented by a long-range and low-power local wireless network.
In nature, each bee accomplishes one task for the good of the hive. Our Bees can be customized to sense and direct virtually any task when the appropriate tools are connected to them. Everything from a weather station, a greenhouse monitor, or automation system to switch lights on and off can be implemented from a Bee simply by connecting the appropriate tools.
The Swarm can be monitored by a user-interface hosted as a local web page by the Hive. An Internet connection can enable off-site management, but it is not necessary for full functionality. Simply connecting to the local WiFi, enables the user to monitor and manage the network, since all the data and web-pages exist locally.
Our system is localized, customizable, and robust. It provides the flexibility and reliability that diversified farms desire and need. Importantly, all of our technology will be maintained open-source, allowing user-customization and outside-contribution to make Apitronics the platform they need. Apitronics provides these networks as a service to farms and also distributes the hardware to co-developers and prototypers.
The Hive is a small embedded Linux computer; currently we are using the Beaglebone Black platform running Arch Linux ARM. It databases readings locally using CouchDB, a flexible noSQL solution. A lightweight web page is served up locally, allowing the user to monitor the network, explore recent readings, configure alerts from sensors, manage a calendar for the switches on the network, and setup simple automation algorithms called “Bots”.
This solution works with or without Internet. Given the limitations of the Hive’s memory, only recent readings may be preserved. An additional server is recommended to allow unlimited data storage; our online services provide a simple solution, but it is possible to configure a custom solution.
The Bees are our own Arduino-compatible design. They features an ATXMega microcontroller with pins directly mapped to the Akafuino; this exposes multiple SPI ports, multiple I2C ports, and many other bells and whistles from this new AVR generation. In addition, it preserves the classic Arduino headers allowing compatibility with some existing Arduino shields as well as a comfortable prototyping environment.
However, our Bees boast many additional on-board features: microSD card, RTC clock with calendar, low power consumption, NiMH battery, solar charging circuit, Xbee header, and a GPS header compatible with Adafruit modules.
The devices are enclosed in a weatherproof enclosure which expose 9-pins via a waterproofed plug. In addition, exterior binding posts allow the attachment of solar panels with output voltages between 6 and 24V.
The plug allows any array of sensors or actuators to be attached. We offer many different premade plugs, ranging from weather stations to arrays of humidity and temperature sensors. In addition, we offer unmounted plug connectors so that users can craft their own personalized sensor arrays.