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The Innovators

The Latest Wearable Tech Buzz: It's For the Bees

The Latest Wearable Tech Buzz: It's For the Bees
Image credit: Ricks

Far Out Tech

It seems like every other day we read about some far-out, new technology that makes us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?" In this series, we'll take a look at all types of crazy new gadgets, apps and other technologies -- and the entrepreneurs dreaming them up.

Wearable tech is the next big thing, with everything from smart rings to fitness monitors built into clothing creating buzz. Scientists in Australia, however, already have a jump on the trend. The tiny sensors they've created are hovering around flower gardens all over the state of Tasmania, attached to honeybees.

Measuring just 2.5mm square, the sensors work much like the E-Z Pass toll-road mechanisms used around the U.S. An RFID sensor on each bee tracks when it passes a particular checkpoint and that data is then passed to a central location and will be compiled with data from other bees. The scientists will then be able to build a model of where, when and how the bees move about their environment.

Why all the concern about the movements of bees? Dr. Paulo de Souza, a scientist at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, and leader of the project, explained in a press release. "Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee’s relationship with its environment. This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse."

Colony Collapse Disorder is a poorly-understood phenomenon that has been causing the destruction of bee colonies around the world, raising concern among scientists and farmers alike as bees serve an incredibly important role in the pollination of crops.

“Bees are social insects," said Dr. de Souza, "that return to the same point and operate on a very predictable schedule… we’ll be able to recognize very quickly when their activity shows variation and identify the cause.”

One might wonder how a scientist would go about attaching anything to a tiny, buzzing insect. The answer might surprise you. The bees are actually refrigerated for a short time, which puts them in a state of rest, essentially sending them into hibernation long enough for the sensors to be affixed to their backs with adhesive.

Dr. de Souza assured anyone potentially concerned for the bees' safety that neither the process nor the sensor itself is harmful, and neither affects how the bees fly or act in their day-to-day activities.

Now imagine if someday we could affix super-tiny GoPro cameras to bees. That would be one frenetic video clip.

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.

Katherine Gray is a freelance writer, photographer and desktop publisher based in western Maryland.

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