Hövding: the revolutionary Airbag Helmet making safety stylish
What do the cyclists of Sweden do when faced with a new law that makes helmets mandatory? They invent a stylish revolutionary alternative that offers superior safety to the traditional helmet of course. Designer duo, Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt present Hövding, which disguises itself as a collar-like structure until faced with impact, at which point it transforms into a protective airbag for the cyclist's head. Alstin sat down with Mr. Wolf to talk about the Hövding journey, her favourite scenic cycling routes and the business world of inventing.
Firstly, why do you think people will love Hövding?
The ambition with Hövding was to make more people protect their heads in traffic. That’s why we had to start with understanding why so many people are not using conventional helmets. We did a lot of early market research and talked to cyclists about what they wanted. People asked for something that was practical, discrete, would not interfere with their personal style or destroy their hair, and could match their everyday clothes. We took all of those wishes in consideration when developing our alternative bicycle helmet and Hövding is the result and the solution to all the problems that people experience with traditional helmets. It’s really obvious to me that people have been longing for a better solution, because people really do want to be protected. They just don’t want to compromise with their individuality, their way of expressing themselves and their sense of freedom when cycling.
Is the design as safe as a regular helmet?
Using airbag technology has actually allowed us to set a completely new standard for safety in the bicycle helmet industry. Compared to ordinary bike helmets, Hövding is in a class of its own. Providing more than three times better shock absorption, it also protects much more of the cyclist’s head, neck, throat and face than traditional helmets. The airbag maintains constant pressure throughout the course of the accident, which means it can withstand multiple impacts in the same accident (where a conventional helmet will break at first impact).
How long has the design process taken you?
The project started as a master thesis in industrial design and the diploma work resulted in a design concept. The development and realization took about seven years. In October 2011 the product was finally CE-marked and ready to be sold. Today we are a company of 19 employees.
Are you a cyclist yourself? If so, how has that impacted your journey towards creating Hövding?
Yes, I go cycling every day. Cycling is freedom for me, and one of the reasons why me and Anna took on the challenge of developing a new bicycle helmet was that there was a law introduced in Sweden making it mandatory for everyone up to the age of 15 to wear a helmet when cycling. Ever since, there has been a debate here on whether or not that law should be extended to adult cyclists as well. In Australia, they have a bike helmet law for the whole population and there has actually been a decrease in cycling because of the law. People would rather stop cycling than wear a conventional bike helmet. Personally I don’t think that people should need to change. It’s always the products that need to change.
Throughout this journey I have certainly become a nerdy expert in bicycle accidents, and I know how badly you can get injured even in minor accident. Knowing this, and that Hövding is a far better head protection than any other bike helmet makes me never go cycling anywhere without using a Hövding.
What is your favourite bike riding route in Sweden?
Malmö (where the Hövding office is situated) is a wonderful city for bicycling that has been named best bicycle city in Sweden three years in a row and was recently listed as no 7 on the world’s most bicycle friendly cities by Copenhagenize.com. There are many great bicycle paths and since I love the ocean, one of my favourites is along the boardwalk by Ribersborgs strand.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many female inventors in our society, what advice can you give to aspiring women looking to break conventions and start inventing?
Be prepared to face a lot of skepticism. Most powerful positions in the business world are still held by elder men and they are particularly common within the world of venture capital – often needed for innovations. Try to turn their skepticism into a motivation and a driving force and make it your goal to prove them wrong. Remember that when developing radically new ideas that the world has never seen before, no one is more of an expert than you are. Diversity is needed for new ideas, creativity and innovation to grow.
For more information, or to purchase your very own Hövding, visit: www.hovding.se
Words: Emily Hutchinson