Innovation in Sweden: The company keeping cyclists safe

As part of our Innovation in Sweden series, SI News introduces you to companies leading the change. This week, we caught up with Anna Katarina Skogh from the PR and Communications department at Hövding.

Innovation in Sweden: The company keeping cyclists safe
Photo: Hövding

Founded in 2006, Malmö-based company Hövding tackles the issue of road safety for cyclists by replacing the traditional bicycle helmet with an airbag collar. 

Besides looking considerably more fashionable than a helmet (and protecting your hairstyle), the airbag helmet was found to be ‘near perfect’ in terms of protecting cyclists’ head and neck in the event of an accident and eight times better protection compared to traditional bicycle helmets, according to a Stanford University study

“Worn like a collar, Hövding uses multiple sensors that enable it to read and identify when an urban cycling accident is imminent,” explains Anna Katarina referring to the algorithm behind Hövding’s technology. 

“As it records a cyclist’s body movements at 200 times per second, it can activate before an accident. Once triggered, the in-built airbag is fully deployed in 0.1 seconds, providing full protection for both head and neck before impact,” she adds. 

The idea for Hövding was developed in 2005 by Industrial Design students Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin. The Swedish government had just passed a new law making the use of bicycle helmets mandatory for children up to the age of 15 years old. 

Both students wanted to find out if it was possible to develop a bicycle helmet that people would happily wear, whether they had to by law or not.  

It might have taken seven years for Hövding to become an approved and certified product, but the airbag collar caught attention for its innovative design right from the start by winning the Venture Cup competition, where young entrepreneurs get to develop their idea into a sustainable business plan.

Innovation has always been at the centre of Hövding’s mission: “We are constantly working with innovation and development of our product. We maximise safety and customer need, that is the essence of Hövding,” says Anna Katarina Skogh. 

Hövding makes cycling safer; however, it also promotes a more sustainable lifestyle in a similar vein to many Swedish companies. 

“We believe the world will become a better place if more people choose the bicycle – for inner city environment, health and climate reasons”, said Fredrik Carling, CEO of Hövding

What better place for Hövding to be based then, than inMalmö, the sixth greatest cycling city in the world. There might be a lot of talk about Stockholm and its innovative atmosphere, but Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, is not to be disregarded in the field. 

Drawing inspiration from Stockholm and Copenhagen, several initiatives have begin to pop up in Malmö over the past few years such as Malmö Startups, which aims to to create a community for future star businesses. 

Sweden’s famously innovative spirit has been of definite benefit to Hövding, believes Anna Katarina. 

“We have been able to create an internal innovative atmosphere and been able to recruit people with the right mindset,” she says. 


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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.