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Master student in Advanced Product Design

Your smart food scanner



Project background

At the beginning of the course, we analyzed BOSCH’s current product line-up and gathered the signature design elements of BOSCH’s design language.
Then, we designed an abstract 3D object which visualized the identified elements in a conventionalized way. This method, called common core, made it easy to swiftly understand the core building blocks of a design language.

Based on the existing common core we developed two future design languages for BOSCH. Based on one of those we created our own wild-card projects where we chose our own topic and methods, in my case PRIO. The project is based on BOSCH’s knowledge and excellence in sensors.
I applied existing technology on a new, demanding problem field: the use of pesticides and their long-term implications on the human body.

Project result

PRIO is a portable device that empowers everyone to identify harmful substances quickly and easily. It uses a spectrometer analysis to discover the contents in our groceries.

Therefore, PRIO helps us to make sure we eat healthy food and to support farmers that responsibly use pesticides.


BraunPrize 2018
Special Mention

5 weeks

Collaboration partner
Robert Bosch GmbH

Created at
Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden

In 2012 the world pesticide usage
was more than 2,6 million metric tonnes.

United States Environmental Agency



Worldwide more than 1000 different types of substances (WHO) are used in monocultures to get rid of pests that would harm crops and hence yield rates.

Invisible residues

Residues of pesticides in crops are not detectable by consumers. Hardly any food source informs about their growing processes in a fully transparent way.


Pesticides can accumulate in the food chain. Depending on exposure, pesticides are toxic to the human body for instance potentially causing cancer or harm to the brain.


The use of pesticides creates lots of unwanted side effects. The chemical substances pollute the air, soil, and water where they remain measurable for years.


The pesticide dilemma

Effects of conventional agriculture

Through developments in biotechnology, crops have become high-tech products improved to incline the yield rates of the farmers. However, high cultivation has led to crops that are more vulnerable to plant diseases and pest infestation. If these crops are grown in conventional large-scale monocultures, they are easy to plant, to raise, and to harvest.

On the flipside, monocultures present a paradise playground for the proliferation of pests such as insects, weeds, and fungi. To protect their plants, farmers are using pesticides. The primary purpose of pesticides is to annihilate pests that would otherwise harm and destroy crops.

The use of pesticides creates lots of unwanted side effects. The chemical substances pollute the air, soil, and water where they remain for years. They can destroy the natural balance of habitats and accumulate within the food chain. Depending on exposure, all pesticides are also toxic for people. To the human body, they can potentially cause cancer, harm to the brain, or cause health damage to an unborn child during pregnancy.

Non-transparent information communication

Residues of pesticides are not detectable by the consumer. In most cases, it is unclear how groceries were cultivated and what treatments were used during the process. To trace food back to its origin, its producer, and getting to know the treatment process is a long and complicated process.

Certified food labels offer the potential to help the consumer to make an educated choice. Nevertheless, they fail to help since low-quality marketing labels flooded the markets creating a label jungle for the consumer.


Introducing PRIO

PRIO is a compact and mobile device that measures, analyses, and indicates toxic residues in your food.

Simply hold a crop underneath PRIO’s spectrometer sensor and press the button to scan. Hovering PRIO close along the surface of the plant will enable it to measure and identify any harmful substances on your food. After a few seconds of analysis, PRIO indicates the results with visual feedback.

In other words, Prio provides information about the foods treatment which is otherwise invisible to see. It is simplifying technology and making it accessible to anyone without the need for a technical background.

The name PRIO is inspired by the Latin word “praegustator” which means a food taster. It describes an ancient job for a person that tried the meal before it was served to the table. That way the wealthy and powerful made sure that their food was not poisoned.



Powerful analysis in a tiny package

PRIO contains a downsized spectrometer analysis sensor. Its technology scans the surface of fruits or vegetables and detects the components of the light’s spectrum. Through software analysis, PRIO identifies harmful substrates. It reaches a small distance underneath the surface to create a complete and balanced impression of the scanned matter.

PRIO Technology

Everyone can measure

PRIO Push Button

Push the button

Bring the spectrometer scanner at the bottom close to your apple. Press the button. PRIO indicates that it is ready to scan by shining a white light in the indicator area.

PRIO Measure


Move PRIO in a close distance along the surface of your fresh produce.
If you get too far from the surface, the scanning process will halt and show a pulsating blue light until you are back on track. 

Prio Result

Get the result

After a short analysis, PRIO indicates the analysis results with a red, yellow, or green light in the indicator area.


fast and simple analysis results

Prio Result Indication

Results as simple
as a traffic light

After a few seconds of analysis, Prio indicates the results with visual feedback. If it shines green in the indicator area, then Prio did not detect any harmful substances. A yellow light shows low signs of toxins, while red indicates hazardous or high amounts of toxins.


Seamlessly integrated into your home 

PRIO Magnetic Charging
PRIO Magnetic Charging Table

Magnetic charging dock

Designed to live in your home, PRIO charges through a magnetic docking station with a small footprint. It is always ready and charged whenever you need it.


Mobility & flexibility

The compact size provides a convenient form factor that fits in any bag and can be taken everywhere. Therefore, it can be discreetly used before buying your groceries.


STAYing informed VIA community

Prio App UI

Sharing your

PRIO pairs with your smartphone app to give you a more in-depth overview of your measuring statistics. Despite giving you tips around the topic food, it connects you to a scanning community that can help to map out stores with good scanning results.

Let’s assume you are searching for bananas, the app will show you a store where another person that was active in the community measured a good value. The mapping is a powerful feature that creates a new layer of transparency food and pushes the market towards a healthier treatment of groceries.


The impact
on society

With PRIO, information on how food was treated can conveniently be accessed before we buy or eat. It introduces a layer of transparency for the consumer that was obscure before. Therefore, shopping behavior will change.

It gives us the ability to know what kinds of food we can buy with confidence and which ones we should avoid. As a result, we choose groceries more explicitly.

This consumer response would create a chain reaction down to the producer since demands for toxin-free food rises opposed to polluted food. The project is shining a light on the consequences of pesticide use and creating awareness for the topic.


Design Process

At the beginning of the course, the core values and design identity of BOSCH were analyzed and compared. After that, each student designed two so-called common cores, an object that shows the brands signature elements and style identity.

One was showing the brand language as is and the other one the brand language that was developed to fit a future product category. The latter was used for the PRIO project. The project started with a workshop with the aim to let the attending persons generate ideas.

I set the workshop around the topic of sensors since they are at the core of BOSCH’s product development. The attendees should playfully think about applications for existing and made up sensors. The ideas were clustered, and opportunities identified. One identified area was food.

After looking at the social impacts of toxins in food, I chose to follow this direction. A hardware market research showed that the spectrometer technology has gotten to a stage where it was able to be implemented in consumer products.

Quick sketches followed by foam prototypes created in the model workshop helped to identify the shape and haptics of the product. The final project was built CAD software Rhinoceros 3D, milled in PU foam, and presented to the team of BOSCH.


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Thank you for your
interest in my projects!

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Thomas Helmer

Industrial Designer, MFA