A better future for beekeepers thanks to industrial design and technology

By Manuel Léveillé, October 9th, 2018

As we explained in our previous article, bees are threatened globally by the use of certain pesticides. Their health and its impact on our way of life is almost unimaginably important. Beekeepers, meanwhile, are looking for new tools to enhance their day-to-day operations. They need a way to connect systematically with real conditions in all their beehives, besides using their instincts and experience, which too often are all they have to rely on.

Enter Nectar – an ecosystem of connected objects acting as a friendly interpreter between beekeepers and their bees. A tool that lets them take fast, focused action in case something may be going wrong.

In this second article, we’ll share the general process of analysis and strategic innovation that led to this product’s creation – the design, technical features, and technology.


Because we’re industrial designers, when we step in, the result is something tangible and concrete – often an entirely new product or experience. However, our job means much more than turning out a material object with certain functions. The product must be truly adapted to its purpose, with a useful lifetime ahead.


At ALTO, our first step on every project is a process of analysis and research to thoroughly understand the users and how, when, and where the new product will be used. We call this the innovation strategy phase. Well in advance of any concrete solutions, we gauge the complexity of the problem. We also identify potential glitches and drawbacks that we can turn into design opportunities – and, ultimately, design criteria.


To define the product and its world, we opted for the mind mapping method to yield an exhaustive, detailed breakdown of elements that could influence the ecosystem Nectar products operate in. This approach lets us illustrate the product as a world unto itself, then highlight all the issues and constraints to consider in the course of design and development. At this stage, it was crucial to obtain not only the broadest possible range of expertise – the benefits of every specialist’s knowledge in their field – but especially a unique perspective on the project. Which is why experts on connected objects joined us from Motsai to cover the technological aspects of the project.


Major findings that emerged in the mind-mapping exercise:

- The standard bee suit worn by beekeepers significantly affects their visual perception. Also, since they work outdoors in broad daylight with a great deal of glare and noise around them, the feedback provided for activating and operating the object must be easy to notice.

- Moisture sensors require apertures to function properly, but bees tend to fill any existing holes in the hive with a substance called propolis.

- Beehive dimensions are approximate and highly variable, so it’s very important to know how much space is available between the frames and supers in the hive. Weight can also influence how the Beecon sensor unit works.

- Because honey is a dense aqueous substance, it muffles quite a large part of any waves passing through it. Which means an ideal location must be found to position the Beecon so that it can capture the hive’s vital signs and transmit that information to the Gateway with as little interference as possible.

- Since the Beecons are located inside the hives, they must be battery-powered. This demands the right balance between battery autonomy and energy efficiency in the components, so that the beekeepers need to extract and recharge the units as seldom as possible. They must also be easy to associate with a given hive.

These observations helped us frame our objectives and guided our decision-making throughout the project.


To understand the users – their behavior, personalities, and needs – we worked closely with the Nectar team to generate a stereotyped profile – a beekeeper character or persona. Among other things, creating this synthetic portrait of the user in real life helped us maintain a human-scale perspective on the context of use, the problems to be solved, and the user’s state of mind.



Since our primary purpose is to make life simpler for beekeepers and to allow an intuitive product experience, it’s essential to be aware of every detail of their daily life and seasonal cycle. The tool we use for this is called the user journey. It’s a real-life schematization of the beekeeper’s interactions with the product and its world on a precise timeline – in this case, the entire seasonal cycle of bee farming and honey making.

The user journey helped us establish the best times for recharging the Beecons. This new information directly influenced our selection criteria for battery autonomy and charging technology. The goal was to integrate recharging time into the beekeeper’s regular workflow.

By noting the high frequency of inspections, we determined specific mounting and placement criteria for the Beecon. These criteria are intended to ensure that the unit isn’t bulky, fastens securely in place, and can be handled repeatedly without breakage.

The user journey also showed us that the arrangement of the beehives is likely to change during the season. The location of the hives is directly related to the pollination period, which differs from one bee farm to another. Any given hive can be moved to more than X places during the season. Knowing this, the placement criteria for the gateway have been specified to allow versatility and mobility.

Finally, thanks to this journey, we have a better understanding of the hibernation stage. In this off-season period, when specific aspects of the environment change dramatically, from an external context to a controlled indoor environment. These opposing realities have directly influenced the type of recharging and arrangement of the Nectar ecosystem inside the hive.


The strategic innovation phase is crucial for fully understanding the world of the product and its users. Without this key step, several design criteria would have remained unknown, and even if the product had been technologically very efficient, it would have been poorly adapted for the user or context of use. Once identified, these criteria became a solid foundation for a well-designed product that will increase its chances of adoption by consumers. Stay tuned over the next few months, when we’ll be sharing the final results.

Meanwhile, here’s where you can learn more about the Nectar project:

Web :
Facebook :
Instagram :

Share this content