developing app for bumblebees

Are you wondering what Tooploox has in common with bumblebees? Well, we decided to use our expertise and support a very unique project run by Stowarzyszenie Natura i Człowiek which aims to protect the population of bumblebees. It turned out to be very interesting cooperation! Intrigued? Keep on reading to discover more.

Unique initiative

At Tooploox we build digital products for our partners across the world, but we’re also eager to support inspiring local projects & engage in CSR initiatives. This time we had an opportunity to join a really inspiring initiative created by Stowarzyszenie Natura i Człowiek, a non-governmental non-profit organization, which focuses on monitoring the population of bumblebees in Poland and protecting these endangered insects.

You might ask – why bumblebees? These little creatures live in tough times and their population is declining fast. Although they’re protected by law, our environment still poses a great risk to them. Because bumblebees evolved with native plants, they are the only pollinators for some varieties of wild plants like toadflax, wolf’s bane or red clover. It means that without them, these plants may go extinct! As a result, for instance, feeding livestock would become almost impossible (red clover is currently used for feed production). Bumblebees are also pollinators of tomatoes, cranberries, and blueberries.

Monitoring the population sounds like a perfect way to support the species and save endangered ones. The question was: how to contribute that?

Time for developing a mobile app: Bumblebee Detector is up

In fact, the question was not only how to create a solution that automates the process of data collection properly (previously it was a really time-consuming action for the organization’s members), but also how to engage the community to support the organization’s activities around bumblebees. In this case, innovation won and developing mobile app sounded like a perfect way to achieve those goals! Currently, every user of this app can help quickly and easily.

Although Android app was already done by Etteplan and you can easily download it over here, there was still a need for iOS app. We formed a team consisting of two iOS developers, two product designers, and PM support to deliver the best solution based on our skills and expertise. We didn’t have time to lose as spring was in the air. That’s why we set an ambitious goal – 2 weeks to deliver the project, so our team had to stay organized and focused for the whole time.

Two weeks, one team, one ambitious goal: the development process from our perspective

We knew we wouldn’t be able to implement multiple features with such a tight deadline so we had to plan all the work wisely and decide which are the most important for the scientific work. We picked the following:

  • taking a photo and sending it to the scientists from Stowarzyszenie Natura i Człowiek,
  • presenting a Knowledge Base about bumblebees for educational purposes.

Developing a Bumblebee Detector app was both fun and challenging. We knew that we couldn’t lose an hour, so we got down to work immediately and then… we came across the first problem 😉 At Tooploox, we always try to deliver the best quality possible. However, in that case, we couldn’t afford to use one of our battle-tested solutions. They require a bit of time for setup and the development in the early stage is a bit too slow for such a small app.

 

So we decided to start from Clean Architecture approach and simplify it in a way that preserves the most crucial features of it but allows us to develop things much faster from the first day. We used some ideas brought from functional programming for that, which is not very common in the iOS world. So as a side effect, we could play with something new” – Karol Wieczorek, iOS Engineer.

UX part of the project in the designers’ hands

Our project included delivering stunning designs and high-quality user experience – this part was dedicated to our Product Designers, so let’s have a look at their perspective.

Although we had to work quickly and effectively to meet the short deadline we decided not to transform the design of the Android app to iOS but design it from scratch. After a few hours of conceptualization, we managed to simplify the flow and thanks to that narrow the scope of the project. The idea was to let the user do the main task – catch the bumblebee in the picture – immediately after launching the app. That’s why the camera is the first and main screen of the app and other features are built around the core feature. We used mostly native iOS elements to make the implementation easier “- Kasia Górska, Product Designer.

Results of that work turned out to be really promising – within only 2 weeks we managed to create a useful solution that helps organization saving the population of bumblebees.

App features in the practice

You can easily download the app from the App Store and then you’re invited to the unique world of bumblebees! The app allows you to take a photo of any bumblebee that you see and send it to the organization with a GPS location for further processing. It’s a crucial step for planning future activities in terms of protecting the population.

The application fits our needs perfectly – we can easily create maps with the areas of species’ occurrence in Poland. It helps us to determine the environment preferred by every species and create solutions to protect them (for instance through the appropriate selection of plants in this area). What’s more, we identified 6 endangered species since the app is in use. Bumblebee Detector is extremely useful when it comes to following the dynamics of the bumblebee population over the years, and it’s a valuable source of information about these beneficial insects” – Marcin Sikora, Stowarzyszenie Natura i Człowiek.

As Marcin mentioned before, the app is filled with interesting facts about bumblebees and contains inspiring knowledge base, so it’s perfect for educational purposes. You can broaden your knowledge in terms of common species of bumblebees, their body composition, habits as well as environmental threats which pose a risk to them.

We’re proud to be part of this unique project. Working on developing the app was a fantastic challenge and contributing to environment protection was an unforgettable and invaluable experience.

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