Air Bag, not helmet, for a New Bicycling World
15 years ago two Swedish industrial designers came up with an idea for an alternative to the bicycle helmet: an air bag worn around the neck. Three innovation prizes, an IPO and three product generations later, the Hövding, as the product is called, checks the bodily movements 200 times per second and when the motion indicates an accident, an upholstered hood opens within 0.1 seconds to protect the neck and entire head. Scientific tests show that this round-about protection offers more protection than a helmet. Hövding is also the name of the company, which exhibits features of Deep-Connect value in its external demand interfaces.
The air bag is accompanied by an app, which can be used to monitor the load in the air bag’s battery and which, in case of an accident, notifies contact persons who have been entered into it. The app also tracks the customer’s bicycling tours and, with the allowance of the customer, enables Hövding to collect data on the bicycling behaviour of the customers, in general and specifically in accidents. A product reviewer reported that the average Hövding wearer rides five times per week at an average speed of 14 km/h for a total of 18.7 kilometres. The data collection via the app is the basis for the new paradigm as in Deep-Connect value: the company wants to create a better future by understanding bicycling more completely. Hövding wants to influence city planners to create cities that are more bicycle friendly. By agreeing to join the Hövding community and share data, customers can make their contribution to realising this better world.
The essential connections have already been named: between the wearer’s bodily movements and the air bag, between an injured wearer and the emergency contact persons, between the rider and the tracked routes, within the community of Hövding customers who share data, and between Hövding and city authorities to create cities more suited to bicycling.
The air bag represents an absorbing solution in the novelty of safe bicycling with the head free to enjoy the wind as the only impairment to the hairstyle, as well as the many ways in which the protection is superior to that of a conventional helmet, both for the head and for contacting help.
The solution sells itself in that there has been much publicity and media attention for the innovative product throughout the company history. In addition, there are many satisfied customers who pledge their allegiance to the product on social media. One Swiss customer enthusiastically wrote a post about swearing by the product for four years; in addition his wife avoided severe head injuries due to wearing the Hövding.
The product represents the convergence between safety solutions in two kinds of vehicles: automobiles and bicycles. There is also the convergence in the technologies between a product, the air bag, and a service, the app with its functions.
It should be noted that the air bag is best suited for an upright body position on the bicycle and not when leaning forward as e.g. with a racing bicycle; functions only for persons who are older than 15 years due to the algorithms for bodily movements; and will not protect the wearer against obstacles at head height, e.g. low-hanging branches or garage doors tilted at an unfavourable angle.
Summing up, Hövding the company and Hövding the product, now in its third generation, are leading the way to a new paradigm of inter-connected elements in which bicycling is comprehensively improved: safer, more comfortable and better accommodated in cities.