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1. WO2015184198 - PARTIAL LOAD DIFFERENTIAL SENSING HIVE MONITORING

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

PARTIAL LOAD DIFFERENTIAL SENSING HIVE MONITORING

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 62/003,673 filed May 28, 2014, which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to the field of weighing devices for monitoring changes in mass of various objects and in particular devices that measure weight of objects for providing weight monitoring data through the internet to monitor objects of fluctuating weight.

[0003] More particularly, the present invention relates to improved methods, systems, and apparatus for monitoring changes in the weight of bee hives throughout the day as a bee colony goes about its daily activities.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0004] Using conventional scales to measure bee hive weight is well known. Grain scales, agricultural scales, electronic scales, luggage scales and the like are all examples of the various types of scales used to weigh bee hives. Grain scales and many agricultural scales use mechanical methods of measuring weight using levers and counterbalances which the hive is then placed on. Luggage scales have also been used in a lever system to measure the load of a beehive from a single point of contact, lifting the rear of the hive and placing a lever to apply pressure against the luggage scales to approximate the weight of the hive. However, each of these solutions has deficiencies and unnecessary complexity due to the nature of the scales and the requirement of placing the entire hive on the scale device.

[0005] Similarly, bee hives placed on electronic scales use transducers to convert applied pressure into an electric voltage. Traditional electronic hive scales employ a microcontroller, a configuration of load cells to capture weight, a storage device for the data, typically installed underneath a hive, and some with a cellular connection to transmit the data to the owner of the device. However, these electronic devices are designed to capture the entire weight of the hive which can be in excess of 400lbs, and measure only the activity of the associated hive that the hive scale is installed under. These devices are also costly due to the inherent nature of the electronics required to accurately monitor the weight of the entire hive, process the data, and transmit the data to the user.

[0006] It is, therefore, desirable to provide improved systems, methods, and apparatus for gathering, storing, forwarding, and aggregating real-time partial load differential sensor data on the relative change in weight of a hive using low-cost and reliable weight monitoring systems.

[0007] Other benefits and objectives of the present invention will be readily apparent from the Brief Summary and Detailed Description to follow.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides improved systems and methods for monitoring changes in the weight of various objects and in particular devices that measure weight of objects, including improved systems and methods for monitoring changes in the variable and dynamic weight of bee hives.

[0009] A partial load differential monitoring system may be used to monitor, among other things, fluctuation in weight of various objects including beehives of various types and styles. The weight data may be transmitted directly to a server via the web. Partial load monitoring means any sensing of some portion of the load of an object over time. While this can offer strong approximations of actual weight given the calculations of force in the system, it can also show accurate dynamic characteristics of the objects over time.

[0010] The weight derivative may be captured from several types of load transducers including, but not limited to, load cells, pressure sensors, strain gauges, wheatstone-bridge circuits, piezo-resistive materials, fluid or gas filled bladders. These transducers may transmit a weight reading in one or several forms some examples being voltage, a wired protocol such as i2C, a wireless protocol such as Bluetooth as well as a phototransistor approach through light sensitive materials transmitting communications to one or several routing devices. The transducers may connect with each other to direct data through to a routing device, another example may include several transducers wired to one routing device or communicating data through non-wired technologies. The device may store the readings on the device for later batch export or it may transmit the reading immediately.

[001 1] An embodiment example of the inventive subject matter may be the algorithmic analysis of weight fluctuations derived from separate objects being monitored by partial load monitoring web connected devices or some other weight monitoring devices or both as they relate to one another or other objects. This may include but is not limited to the objects that are any distance apart, similar or not similar to each other in terms of composition, structure or any other characteristic.

The algorithmic analysis may trigger an action given defined programmatic conditions. For example the algorithmic function may trigger an alert to another system when the weight fluctuations and characteristics of one object are different than or the same as another. Another example may be the algorithmic function triggering an analysis of data associated with several objects to compare the several objects weight fluctuations and or other characteristics to one another or some other monitored object or some object not being monitored, for further analysis or to alert some other system of the result of the analysis.

[0012] In the drawings and descriptions of the embodiments of the inventive subject matter to follow, one skilled in the art will appreciate that the present teachings can be practiced with embodiments other than those disclosed. The disclosed embodiments are presented for purposes of illustration and not limitation. Various components are presented for the purpose of describing example embodiments. A component described with respect to an example embodiment does not limit that component with respect to the inventive subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the attached Figures, wherein:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring;

[0015] FIG. 2 shows various configurations of the invention as applied to the base of a bee hive including location and number of load cells in communication with a controller;

[0016] FIG. 3 shows an alternative configuration of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, where the weight of the bee hive is transferred to one or more load cells of the invention supported by one or more tripod legs.

[0017] FIG. 4 shows an alternative configuration of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, where the weight of multiple bee hives arranged on a pallet is transferred to one or more load cells of the invention supporting the pallet.

[0018] FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of one or more load cells in communication with the controller portion of the invention and the controller components thereof;

[0019] FIG. 6 illustrates two methods of applying user metadata to partial load differential sensor data to construct user-defined calibration values for converting sample values to user preferred units of measure;

[0020] FIG. 7 depicts the generalized method of the present invention for receiving, converting, estimating, storing and/or forwarding partial load differential load cell monitoring system data;

[0021] FIG. 8 shows one embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0022] An embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system as applied to beehive monitoring is shown schematically in FIG. 1. The partial load differential monitoring system may be installed of a base 104 of the bee hive, the system including a controller 101 and load transducer 102. Herein, a load transducer may be alternatively referred to as a load cell, weight sensor, and the like, and may refer to one or more load transducers without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0023] In FIG. 1, load transducer 102 may be placed under and in contact with the base of the hive being monitored while the remaining weight of the hive rests on at least one point of contact through block 103. Block 103 distributes at least some portion of the weight to the ground without passing through load transducer 102. In this manner the sensing of load by load transducer 102 is responsive to the partial load of the hive upon base 104. Base 104 may support any object in addition to the illustrated example of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, and base 104 may be in any configuration or structure such that a supported object's weight may be distributed to two or more points of contact such that one or more load transducers may be placed responsive to the weight bearing on one or more, but not all, of the points of contact. Furthermore, block 103 may be one or more such blocks supporting one or more weight bearing points of contact of the base or of an object, and the weight bearing on any point of contact may have no separate block or blocks or supporting structure without departing from the partial load differential monitoring aspects of the invention.

[0024] FIG. 2 shows variations of the present invention employing one, two, and three or more load transducers arranged under base 104 to measure partial load of the supported object. Single load transducer configuration (1) distributes a portion of the weight supported by base 104 to one or more weight bearing points of contact. Two load transducer configurations (2a), (2b) and (2x) may include load transducers arranged under any two or more load bearing points of contact with base 104 supported by one or more blocks or the like. Two load transducer configurations may have adjacent "front" load transducers as shown in variation (2a), or "side" load transducers as shown in variation (2b), and/or diagonal or opposing load transducers as shown in variation (2x). Further shown in FIG. 3, three load transducer configuration (3) provides at least one other point of contact to distribute a portion of the weight supported by base 104 or the weight of an object supported thereby. Three load transducer configuration (3) makes contact with the base or object being weighed while one or more other points of contact may distribute a portion of the base or object's weight to the ground. In other embodiments, any number of transducers, weight bearing points of contact of the base or object, and any number or support blocks or no support at points of contact may be configured, without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0025] FIG. 3 exemplifies one of many possible configurations where the partial load differential monitoring system load transducer is not directly in contact with the object being weighed. As shown in FIG. 3, partial load monitoring is achieved by placing load transducers to measure weight distributed through a supporting object, such as a tripod supporting a bee hive. In this example, two load transducers are in contact with two points of contact of the supporting object at the two legs of the tripod, while one point of contact, i..e. the third leg of the of the tripod distributes some portion of the weight of object of interest to the floor or ground.

[0026] Similarly, FIG. 4 exemplifies a partial load differential monitoring system monitoring more than one object of interest with points of contact on a support object such as a pallet. In one configuration, load transducer is in contact with one point of contact of the support object while two or more additional points of contact distribute some portion of the total weight of the supported objects of interest to the floor or ground. Various configurations and means for supporting an object and employing the partial load differential monitoring system to measure the supporting means indirectly may be used without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0027] FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system 501. One or more load transducers 502 are input to analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and amplifier 504. ADC/Amplifier 504 in communication with the micro-controller unit (MCU) 506 which performs processing on the output of ADC/Amplifier 504. MCU 506 processes the output based on method further described herein for partial load differential monitoring. MCU 506 may further store in memory 508 and/or transmit or forward by transmitter 510. MCU 506 may additionally or optionally receive data via receiver 512. Power source 514 with regulator 516 may provide power to the MCU and other components of the system. One of ordinary skill in the art would readily recognize other arrangements, configurations, and interconnections with or without additional components for performing the functions described herein for the partial load monitoring system, without departing from scope of the invention as disclosed.

[0028] FIG. 6 illustrates methods of applying user metadata to partial load differential sensor data to construct user-defined calibration values for converting sample values to user preferred units of measure. A "sample" as used in the methods described in relation to FIG. 6 is a specific reading of output from a load cell at a given point in time. A sample may be a direct analog reading or the output of some other signal conditioning including analog to digital conversion. A "value" is a sample that has been read and potentially manipulated. Values may be stored in memory. A value may have its own embedded metadata. A value may also have additional metadata added to it within the value itself or by creation of an object comprising a value and its associated metadata. "Meta" is metadata associated with a value or group of values. An "object" is a construct of multiple values and or metadata into a single data object such as but not limited to a string, array, JSON, etc. An "output value" is the output of a function based on input values. A "subtractor" is a process that takes two or more inputs and outputs a delta between them into a differential value. A "divisor" is a process that takes two or more inputs and divides the first input by the second input to produce a new value.

[0029] "User Input" as used in the methods described in relation to FIG. 6 receives input from the user via an interface, the input including, but not limited to, numerical values, text, form inputs and user settings. User input may be a default value that can be manipulated by the user. A calibration object is a value/meta pair that defines a conversion factor for translating a differential value into desired unit of measure. A "calibrated value" is a differential value converted to a desired unit of measure. A "MCU Register" is a memory of a microcontroller. A "server" includes but is not limited to a remote device with storage. "Forwarding" as used in FIG. 6 is a buffer, storage, or process that allows data going in to be available to other functions, storage, buffers, machines, servers. This may include transmission to other devices, network gateways, servers etc.

[0030] As illustrated in FIG. 6 (a), two samples from a load cell are read at different points in time. Each sample is input to a subtractor which outputs a value representing the delta or differential of two input samples. The delta or differential value is input into a constructor process which takes user input describing the unit of measure for the differential value input into the process. The constructor outputs an object with the differential value as a calibration value with metadata describing the unit of measure defined by the user input. The calibration value object can be stored in the MCU Register memory and/or sent to a forwarding process where the object may be stored on a server. A second sample is taken from the same load cell at another point in time. The sample is subtracted from a historical value and a differential value is output from the subtractor. A calibration object is requested from the server and/or from the MCU Register memory as an input to a divisor process. In the divisor process, the differential value is divided by the calibration value of the calibration object and assigned metadata to create a new calibrated value. The new calibrated value is then sent to a forwarding process to be sent to another process or transmitted to the server.

[0031] In FIG. 6 (b), a series of output objects are forwarded to the server, either in batch or in sequence over time. The server sorts the incoming objects into a sequence based on metadata within the objects. The server takes the first two objects from the sequence as inputs to a subtractor process which outputs a differential value to the server memory. The differential value is input into a constructor, which also takes as input user input describing the unit of measure for the differential value input into the process. The constructor outputs an object with the differential value as a calibration value with metadata describing the unit of measure defined by the user input. The calibration value object is stored in server storage and may be accessed at a later time. Another object in the sequence is subtracted from a previous object in the sequence through a subtractor process to produce a differential output value. A calibration object is requested from the server's storage and/or from the originating device memory as an input to a divisor process. The differential value is divided by the calibration value of the calibration object and assigned metadata to create a new calibrated value. The new calibrated value is then sent to the server's storage where it may be accessed by other processes.

[0032] FIG. 7 illustrates a generalized method of the present invention for receiving, converting, estimating, storing and/or forwarding partial load differential load cell monitoring system data. At step 700, the system receives an output from one or more electronic load cells. At step 702, the system converts the output to a value representing the weight of an object on one or more load transducers. At step 704, the system receives at least one historical value of the weight of the object and estimates a differential weight value of the object based on the comparison of the historical weight value, then at 706 stores and/or forwards the differential weight value.

[0033] FIG. 8 depicts one configuration of the partial load differential monitoring system 801 , two load cells 803 and a controller 805 may be housed within an enclosure. The enclosed system may be placed under one side of a bee hive with a basic structure such as a block supporting the opposite side to keep the hive level 802. Composing the enclosure may be a top cover 807 and two bottom feet 809. Within the enclosure two load cells, in this configuration of a single point or beam type, are encased in the enclosure as well as a controller. The load cells are fastened to the top cover of the enclosure and the bottom feet of the enclosure on opposite ends using threaded spacers 811 and 813. The threaded spacers

may be fasted to the enclosure top cover and bottom feet through various methods including but not limited to screws, bolts, glues and adhesives. The controller may be fastened to the top cover as well using the methods of fastening including but not limited to screws, bolts, glues and adhesives. Functionally, this configuration supports a portion of the hive's weight and distributes the load on the top threaded spacers 811. The spacers transfer the load across the load cell into the bottom threaded spacers 813. The strain across the load cells caused by the transfer of load effect the output signals of the load cells which are connected to the controller which computes the differential value of the signals over several readings.

[0034] Some embodiment examples of the inventive subject matter described herein may be applied to monitoring the dynamic load of a beehive as bees leave the hive and bring back pollen and nectar thus changing the weight of the beehive over the course of a single day. The weight fluctuations and derivative of change over time, independent of the actual weight, give great insight into the physical activity of the beehive, the rate at which pollen and nectar are entering the hive as well as the rate of evaporation of the nectar as it is turned into honey.

[0035] Another embodiment example of inventive subject matter may be the monitoring of a cylindrical mass such as a beer keg, over time as more liquid is dispelled from the beer keg the weight of the beer keg also decreases signifying several metrics such as a pour has been drawn, the relative size of the pour and the time at which the pour was made. Aggregating the metrics with product information and bartender identifiers one could determine the performance of the product or bartender.

[0036] Another embodiment of the inventive subject matter may be the monitoring of physical inventory in warehouses and retail establishments on a platform such as a wooden pallet. While only measuring a portion of the weight of an entire pallet of product, any product removed from the pallet will produce a derivative of change from the original value measured.

[0037] In another example the derivative of change caused by removing one product from a pallet of similar products would allow for the monitoring of the number of products removed from the pallet and when the products were removed.

[0038] While the foregoing written description of the invention enables one of ordinary skill to make and use what is considered presently to be the best mode thereof, those of ordinary skill will understand and appreciate the existence of variations, combinations, and equivalents of the specific embodiments and examples herein. The invention should therefore not be limited by the above described embodiments and examples, but by all embodiments and for all application examples within the scope and spirit of the invention as claimed. The above-described embodiments of the present invention are intended to be examples only. Alterations, modifications and variations may be effected to the particular embodiments by those of skill in the art without departing from the scope of the invention, which is defined solely by the claims appended hereto.

PARTIAL LOAD DIFFERENTIAL SENSING HIVE MONITORING

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 62/003,673 filed May 28, 2014, which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to the field of weighing devices for monitoring changes in mass of various objects and in particular devices that measure weight of objects for providing weight monitoring data through the internet to monitor objects of fluctuating weight.

[0003] More particularly, the present invention relates to improved methods, systems, and apparatus for monitoring changes in the weight of bee hives throughout the day as a bee colony goes about its daily activities.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0004] Using conventional scales to measure bee hive weight is well known. Grain scales, agricultural scales, electronic scales, luggage scales and the like are all examples of the various types of scales used to weigh bee hives. Grain scales and many agricultural scales use mechanical methods of measuring weight using levers and counterbalances which the hive is then placed on. Luggage scales have also been used in a lever system to measure the load of a beehive from a single point of contact, lifting the rear of the hive and placing a lever to apply pressure against the luggage scales to approximate the weight of the hive. However, each of these solutions has deficiencies and unnecessary complexity due to the nature of the scales and the requirement of placing the entire hive on the scale device.

[0005] Similarly, bee hives placed on electronic scales use transducers to convert applied pressure into an electric voltage. Traditional electronic hive scales employ a microcontroller, a configuration of load cells to capture weight, a storage device for the data, typically installed underneath a hive, and some with a cellular connection to transmit the data to the owner of the device. However, these electronic devices are designed to capture the entire weight of the hive which can be in excess of 400lbs, and measure only the activity of the associated hive that the hive scale is installed under. These devices are also costly due to the inherent nature of the electronics required to accurately monitor the weight of the entire hive, process the data, and transmit the data to the user.

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[0006] It is, therefore, desirable to provide improved systems, methods, and apparatus for gathering, storing, forwarding, and aggregating real-time partial load differential sensor data on the relative change in weight of a hive using low-cost and reliable weight monitoring systems.

[0007] Other benefits and objectives of the present invention will be readily apparent from the Brief Summary and Detailed Description to follow.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides improved systems and methods for monitoring changes in the weight of various objects and in particular devices that measure weight of objects, including improved systems and methods for monitoring changes in the variable and dynamic weight of bee hives.

[0009] A partial load differential monitoring system may be used to monitor, among other things, fluctuation in weight of various objects including beehives of various types and styles. The weight data may be transmitted directly to a server via the web. Partial load monitoring means any sensing of some portion of the load of an object over time. While this can offer strong approximations of actual weight given the calculations of force in the system, it can also show accurate dynamic characteristics of the objects over time.

[0010] The weight derivative may be captured from several types of load transducers including, but not limited to, load cells, pressure sensors, strain gauges, wheatstone-bridge circuits, piezo-resistive materials, fluid or gas filled bladders. These transducers may transmit a weight reading in one or several forms some examples being voltage, a wired protocol such as i2C, a wireless protocol such as Bluetooth as well as a phototransistor approach through light sensitive materials transmitting communications to one or several routing devices. The transducers may connect with each other to direct data through to a routing device, another example may include several transducers wired to one routing device or communicating data through non-wired technologies. The device may store the readings on the device for later batch export or it may transmit the reading immediately.

[001 1] An embodiment example of the inventive subject matter may be the algorithmic analysis of weight fluctuations derived from separate objects being monitored by partial load monitoring web connected devices or some other weight monitoring devices or both as they relate to one another or other objects. This may include but is not limited to the objects that are any distance apart, similar or not similar to each other in terms of composition, structure or any other characteristic.

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The algorithmic analysis may trigger an action given defined programmatic conditions. For example the algorithmic function may trigger an alert to another system when the weight fluctuations and characteristics of one object are different than or the same as another. Another example may be the algorithmic function triggering an analysis of data associated with several objects to compare the several objects weight fluctuations and or other characteristics to one another or some other monitored object or some object not being monitored, for further analysis or to alert some other system of the result of the analysis.

[0012] In the drawings and descriptions of the embodiments of the inventive subject matter to follow, one skilled in the art will appreciate that the present teachings can be practiced with embodiments other than those disclosed. The disclosed embodiments are presented for purposes of illustration and not limitation. Various components are presented for the purpose of describing example embodiments. A component described with respect to an example embodiment does not limit that component with respect to the inventive subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the attached Figures, wherein:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring;

[0015] FIG. 2 shows various configurations of the invention as applied to the base of a bee hive including location and number of load cells in communication with a controller;

[0016] FIG. 3 shows an alternative configuration of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, where the weight of the bee hive is transferred to one or more load cells of the invention supported by one or more tripod legs.

[0017] FIG. 4 shows an alternative configuration of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, where the weight of multiple bee hives arranged on a pallet is transferred to one or more load cells of the invention supporting the pallet.

[0018] FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of one or more load cells in communication with the controller portion of the invention and the controller components thereof;

[0019] FIG. 6 illustrates two methods of applying user metadata to partial load differential sensor data to construct user-defined calibration values for converting sample values to user preferred units of measure;

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[0020] FIG. 7 depicts the generalized method of the present invention for receiving, converting, estimating, storing and/or forwarding partial load differential load cell monitoring system data;

[0021] FIG. 8 shows one embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0022] An embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system as applied to beehive monitoring is shown schematically in FIG. 1. The partial load differential monitoring system may be installed of a base 104 of the bee hive, the system including a controller 101 and load transducer 102. Herein, a load transducer may be alternatively referred to as a load cell, weight sensor, and the like, and may refer to one or more load transducers without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0023] In FIG. 1, load transducer 102 may be placed under and in contact with the base of the hive being monitored while the remaining weight of the hive rests on at least one point of contact through block 103. Block 103 distributes at least some portion of the weight to the ground without passing through load transducer 102. In this manner the sensing of load by load transducer 102 is responsive to the partial load of the hive upon base 104. Base 104 may support any object in addition to the illustrated example of the invention as applied to bee hive monitoring, and base 104 may be in any configuration or structure such that a supported object's weight may be distributed to two or more points of contact such that one or more load transducers may be placed responsive to the weight bearing on one or more, but not all, of the points of contact. Furthermore, block 103 may be one or more such blocks supporting one or more weight bearing points of contact of the base or of an object, and the weight bearing on any point of contact may have no separate block or blocks or supporting structure without departing from the partial load differential monitoring aspects of the invention.

[0024] FIG. 2 shows variations of the present invention employing one, two, and three or more load transducers arranged under base 104 to measure partial load of the supported object. Single load transducer configuration (1) distributes a portion of the weight supported by base 104 to one or more weight bearing points of contact. Two load transducer configurations (2a), (2b) and (2x) may include load transducers arranged under any two or more load bearing points of contact with base 104 supported by one or more blocks or the like. Two load transducer configurations may have adjacent "front" load transducers as shown in variation (2a), or "side" load transducers as shown in variation (2b), and/or diagonal or opposing load transducers as shown in variation (2x). Further shown in FIG. 3, three load

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transducer configuration (3) provides at least one other point of contact to distribute a portion of the weight supported by base 104 or the weight of an object supported thereby. Three load transducer configuration (3) makes contact with the base or object being weighed while one or more other points of contact may distribute a portion of the base or object's weight to the ground. In other embodiments, any number of transducers, weight bearing points of contact of the base or object, and any number or support blocks or no support at points of contact may be configured, without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0025] FIG. 3 exemplifies one of many possible configurations where the partial load differential monitoring system load transducer is not directly in contact with the object being weighed. As shown in FIG. 3, partial load monitoring is achieved by placing load transducers to measure weight distributed through a supporting object, such as a tripod supporting a bee hive. In this example, two load transducers are in contact with two points of contact of the supporting object at the two legs of the tripod, while one point of contact, i..e. the third leg of the of the tripod distributes some portion of the weight of object of interest to the floor or ground.

[0026] Similarly, FIG. 4 exemplifies a partial load differential monitoring system monitoring more than one object of interest with points of contact on a support object such as a pallet. In one configuration, load transducer is in contact with one point of contact of the support object while two or more additional points of contact distribute some portion of the total weight of the supported objects of interest to the floor or ground. Various configurations and means for supporting an object and employing the partial load differential monitoring system to measure the supporting means indirectly may be used without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0027] FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of a partial load differential monitoring system 501. One or more load transducers 502 are input to analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and amplifier 504. ADC/Amplifier 504 in communication with the micro-controller unit (MCU) 506 which performs processing on the output of ADC/Amplifier 504. MCU 506 processes the output based on method further described herein for partial load differential monitoring. MCU 506 may further store in memory 508 and/or transmit or forward by transmitter 510. MCU 506 may additionally or optionally receive data via receiver 512. Power source 514 with regulator 516 may provide power to the MCU and other components of the system. One of ordinary skill in the art would readily recognize other arrangements, configurations, and interconnections with or without additional components for performing the functions described herein for the partial load monitoring system, without departing from scope of the invention as disclosed.

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[0028] FIG. 6 illustrates methods of applying user metadata to partial load differential sensor data to construct user-defined calibration values for converting sample values to user preferred units of measure. A "sample" as used in the methods described in relation to FIG. 6 is a specific reading of output from a load cell at a given point in time. A sample may be a direct analog reading or the output of some other signal conditioning including analog to digital conversion. A "value" is a sample that has been read and potentially manipulated. Values may be stored in memory. A value may have its own embedded metadata. A value may also have additional metadata added to it within the value itself or by creation of an object comprising a value and its associated metadata. "Meta" is metadata associated with a value or group of values. An "object" is a construct of multiple values and or metadata into a single data object such as but not limited to a string, array, JSON, etc. An "output value" is the output of a function based on input values. A "subtractor" is a process that takes two or more inputs and outputs a delta between them into a differential value. A "divisor" is a process that takes two or more inputs and divides the first input by the second input to produce a new value.

[0029] "User Input" as used in the methods described in relation to FIG. 6 receives input from the user via an interface, the input including, but not limited to, numerical values, text, form inputs and user settings. User input may be a default value that can be manipulated by the user. A calibration object is a value/meta pair that defines a conversion factor for translating a differential value into desired unit of measure. A "calibrated value" is a differential value converted to a desired unit of measure. A "MCU Register" is a memory of a microcontroller. A "server" includes but is not limited to a remote device with storage. "Forwarding" as used in FIG. 6 is a buffer, storage, or process that allows data going in to be available to other functions, storage, buffers, machines, servers. This may include transmission to other devices, network gateways, servers etc.

[0030] As illustrated in FIG. 6 (a), two samples from a load cell are read at different points in time. Each sample is input to a subtractor which outputs a value representing the delta or differential of two input samples. The delta or differential value is input into a constructor process which takes user input describing the unit of measure for the differential value input into the process. The constructor outputs an object with the differential value as a calibration value with metadata describing the unit of measure defined by the user input. The calibration value object can be stored in the MCU Register memory and/or sent to a forwarding process where the object may be stored on a server. A second sample is taken from the same load cell at another point in time. The sample is subtracted from a historical value and a differential value is output from the subtractor. A calibration object is requested from the

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server and/or from the MCU Register memory as an input to a divisor process. In the divisor process, the differential value is divided by the calibration value of the calibration object and assigned metadata to create a new calibrated value. The new calibrated value is then sent to a forwarding process to be sent to another process or transmitted to the server.

[0031] In FIG. 6 (b), a series of output objects are forwarded to the server, either in batch or in sequence over time. The server sorts the incoming objects into a sequence based on metadata within the objects. The server takes the first two objects from the sequence as inputs to a subtractor process which outputs a differential value to the server memory. The differential value is input into a constructor, which also takes as input user input describing the unit of measure for the differential value input into the process. The constructor outputs an object with the differential value as a calibration value with metadata describing the unit of measure defined by the user input. The calibration value object is stored in server storage and may be accessed at a later time. Another object in the sequence is subtracted from a previous object in the sequence through a subtractor process to produce a differential output value. A calibration object is requested from the server's storage and/or from the originating device memory as an input to a divisor process. The differential value is divided by the calibration value of the calibration object and assigned metadata to create a new calibrated value. The new calibrated value is then sent to the server's storage where it may be accessed by other processes.

[0032] FIG. 7 illustrates a generalized method of the present invention for receiving, converting, estimating, storing and/or forwarding partial load differential load cell monitoring system data. At step 700, the system receives an output from one or more electronic load cells. At step 702, the system converts the output to a value representing the weight of an object on one or more load transducers. At step 704, the system receives at least one historical value of the weight of the object and estimates a differential weight value of the object based on the comparison of the historical weight value, then at 706 stores and/or forwards the differential weight value.

[0033] FIG. 8 depicts one configuration of the partial load differential monitoring system 801 , two load cells 803 and a controller 805 may be housed within an enclosure. The enclosed system may be placed under one side of a bee hive with a basic structure such as a block supporting the opposite side to keep the hive level 802. Composing the enclosure may be a top cover 807 and two bottom feet 809. Within the enclosure two load cells, in this configuration of a single point or beam type, are encased in the enclosure as well as a controller. The load cells are fastened to the top cover of the enclosure and the bottom feet of the enclosure on opposite ends using threaded spacers 811 and 813. The threaded spacers

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may be fasted to the enclosure top cover and bottom feet through various methods including but not limited to screws, bolts, glues and adhesives. The controller may be fastened to the top cover as well using the methods of fastening including but not limited to screws, bolts, glues and adhesives. Functionally, this configuration supports a portion of the hive's weight and distributes the load on the top threaded spacers 811. The spacers transfer the load across the load cell into the bottom threaded spacers 813. The strain across the load cells caused by the transfer of load effect the output signals of the load cells which are connected to the controller which computes the differential value of the signals over several readings.

[0034] Some embodiment examples of the inventive subject matter described herein may be applied to monitoring the dynamic load of a beehive as bees leave the hive and bring back pollen and nectar thus changing the weight of the beehive over the course of a single day. The weight fluctuations and derivative of change over time, independent of the actual weight, give great insight into the physical activity of the beehive, the rate at which pollen and nectar are entering the hive as well as the rate of evaporation of the nectar as it is turned into honey.

[0035] Another embodiment example of inventive subject matter may be the monitoring of a cylindrical mass such as a beer keg, over time as more liquid is dispelled from the beer keg the weight of the beer keg also decreases signifying several metrics such as a pour has been drawn, the relative size of the pour and the time at which the pour was made. Aggregating the metrics with product information and bartender identifiers one could determine the performance of the product or bartender.

[0036] Another embodiment of the inventive subject matter may be the monitoring of physical inventory in warehouses and retail establishments on a platform such as a wooden pallet. While only measuring a portion of the weight of an entire pallet of product, any product removed from the pallet will produce a derivative of change from the original value measured.

[0037] In another example the derivative of change caused by removing one product from a pallet of similar products would allow for the monitoring of the number of products removed from the pallet and when the products were removed.

[0038] While the foregoing written description of the invention enables one of ordinary skill to make and use what is considered presently to be the best mode thereof, those of ordinary skill will understand and appreciate the existence of variations, combinations, and equivalents of the specific embodiments and examples herein. The invention should therefore not be limited by the above described embodiments and examples, but by all embodiments and for all application examples within the scope and spirit of the invention as

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claimed. The above-described embodiments of the present invention are intended to be examples only. Alterations, modifications and variations may be effected to the particular embodiments by those of skill in the art without departing from the scope of the invention, which is defined solely by the claims appended hereto.

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