Broodminder Asks: Can Data Science Save the Bees? CASE STUDY
Pro-Active Engineering Fixes Field Failure Fumble
About the Client
Broodminder makes scientific instruments for the backyard beekeeper. These devices monitor the temperature, humidity, and weight of a beehive and share this information wirelessly with mobile devices. Beekeepers may also share their data with a national network of beekeepers called Beekeeping.IO. This data helps users spot problems in their hives earlier and faster. Beekeepers
can use this information as a powerful means of protecting and growing their hives. The sensors also generate a wealth of data for analysis and to spot regional trends.
Originally an Indiegogo funded project developed by an engineer named Rich Morris the project was quickly funded because of the burgeoning backyard beekeeping market. Interest has been intense, and as of March 2017 there are more than 3,000 units reporting data for beekeepers.
Electrical engineer turned entrepreneur Rich Morris married his product development experience with his beekeeping hobby to use technology to help save the bees. Morris’ device monitors key data points in a beehive to catch problems faster without having to open up a hive in inclement weather. Morris ran into a myriad of issues power drains, component failure, and a complete product recall. Pro-Active Engineering was able to work with Morris to replace the faulty component and help Broodminder get devices back to eager beekeepers everywhere.
Problem: Tight Fit
To fit Broodminder into a beehive and not disturb the inhabitants the device had to be compact. Rich Morris the owner of Broodminder, and an electrical engineer by trade, was concerned about precision component placement on his dense board. Multiple components needed to be placed within 1mm of each other-- a difficult task for hand placement.
Pro-Active Engineering used their Mycronic pick and place machine with some of the best process capability index ratings in the industry, to assure the most accurate and precise placement of each component.
Problem: Mysterious Battery Drain
Broodminder uses the BLE Bluetooth technology so that a single battery can operate in a hive for over a year. Remotely transmitting beehive data to a phone so a beekeeper doesn’t have to open a hive in winter endangering the bees. However, the early prototype
of Broodminder was burning through its batteries; something was draining the energy.
Pro-Active Engineering analyzed the prototype and determined the circuit board was built within specifications. Despite being within specification, the problem persisted until Pro-Active engineers were able to trace a current drain to a single capacitor. The drain was remedied by switching from a large ceramic capacitor to a similar tantalum capacitor solved the issue, and the battery now lasts over a year.
Problem: Field Failure
After an enthusiastic Indiegogo campaign and early problems solved, Morris shipped out his first batch of Broodminder devices when he got the bad news. A well-known component maker, issued a worldwide recall of their humidity sensor, the same one
Broodminder was using. The humidity sensor in every product he shipped was faulty.
Broodminder issued an apology and a total recall of every product. Pro-Active Engineering and Broodminder worked quickly to source a replacement sensor. Pro-Active Engineering shuffled their production schedule and rapidly created prototypes to test the replacement
sensor. Communication and coordination solved the problem and customers had a replacement product in their hands in less time than originally quoted.
“I value the customer service Pro-Active Engineering
was able to provide, getting us through our challenges”
-Rich Morris, founder of Broodminder
Success After the Storm
Despite the early hiccups Broodminder and Pro-Active Engineering worked through, customer interest has only increased in the device. Good communication, responsive customer service, and an easy to use product has led to solid sales to the backyard beekeeping market. Currently, there are over 3,000 users of Broodminder who are contributing to the Beekeeping IO data science project. This information will be used to improve the lives of bees worldwide.