SAS seizes World Bee Day to promote analytics

Data analytics supplier SAS alighted on World Bee Day today to promote three projects related to the honey-making pollinator.

Firstly, the company said it had decoded bee communication through machine learning in order to maximise bee food access and boost human food supplies.

The second project it highlighted was what it described as a “non-invasive way to monitor real-time conditions of beehives through auditory data and machine learning algorithms”.

The third project was a World Bee Count project, undertaken with Appalachian State University, aimed at visualising world bee population data. 

Oliver Schabenberger, COO and CTO of SAS, said in a statement: “By applying advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to beehive health, we have a better shot as a society to secure this critically important part of our ecosystem and, ultimately, our food supply.”

In an SAS hackathon in March this year, a team from Beefutures and Amesto NextBridge, a SAS reseller, carried the day with a machine learning project focused on bees’ access to food. This is important because bee populations are in decline because of monoculture farming. When bees find a good food source, they come back to the hive to communicate its exact location through a “waggle dance”.

Kjetil Kalager, lead of the Amesto NextBridge and Beefutures team, said: “Observing all of these dances manually is virtually impossible, but by using video footage from inside the hives and training machine learning algorithms to decode the dance, we will be able to better understand where bees are finding food.

“We implemented this information, along with hive coordinates, sun angle, time of day and agriculture around the hives into an interactive map in SAS Viya [a suite of cloud-based SAS analytics tools] and then beekeepers can easily decode this hive information and relocate to better suited environments, if necessary.”

SAS also said researchers from its internet of things (IoT) division are developing a bioacoustic monitoring system to non-invasively track real-time conditions of beehives using digital signal processing tools and machine learning algorithms available in SAS Event Stream Processing and SAS Viya software.

This system helps beekeepers to better understand and predict hive problems which could lead to colony failure, including the emergence of new queens – something they would not normally be able to detect.

The company also took advantage of World Bee Day to promote a data visualisation that maps out bees “counted” around the globe for the World Bee Count, an initiative co-founded by the Centre for Analytics Research and Education at Appalachian State University.

Joseph Cazier, professor and executive director at the university’s Centre for Analytics Research and Education, said: “The World Bee Count allows us to crowdsource bee data to both visualise our planet’s bee population and create one of the largest, most informative datasets about bees to date.

“SAS’s data visualisation will show the crowdsourced location of bees and other pollinators. In a later phase of the project, researchers can overlay key data points, such as crop yield, precipitation and other contributing factors of bee health, gathering a more comprehensive understanding of our world’s pollinators.”

In early May, the World Bee Count app was launched to add data to the Global Pollinator Map. Within the app, beekeepers can enter the number of hives they have, and any user can submit pictures of pollinators from their camera roll or through the in-app camera. Through SAS Visual Analytics, SAS has created a visualisation map to display the images that users submit via the app.

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