Hövding : reinventing the helmet

Although one may not consider them as the most endangered riders, cyclists are no exception to the rule: a bike accident kills as surely as a car accident. France is quite representative: in 2014, cyclists represented 4.7 % of the deaths on the road[1], corresponding to an 8.2 % increase from 2013[2].

fFigure 1 – Cyclist accidents in France in 2013 and 2014

There is an urge to address this issue considering the reborned popularity of this mean of transport in Western countries and its massive use in developing ones, particularly in Asia. Indeed, environmental issues and government initiatives put emphasis on the importance of developing cycling. For instance, in Sweden, a law on mandatory helmet use for children under 15 triggered a debate on whether cycle helmets should be mandatory for adults too. Therefore, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, who were pursuing a master thesis at the time wanted to “develop a cycle helmet that people would be happy to wear– whether they had to or not.” That was how Hövding was borned.

Those two designers broke the identity of the dominant design for a cyclist helmet. The dominant design [3] is the set of key technological features that became a de facto standard. Starting from the first objective of a helmet, namely to protect the head of its user, and by analyzing related markets (e.g. automotive) without considering the “usual” helmet design, Hövding has reinvented the helmet: an airbag for urban cyclist.

According to their website “Through advanced sensors, Hövding can sense the cyclist’s movement patterns and will react in case of an accident. The unique airbag will then inflate, fixate your neck and provide the world’s best shock absorption. “ The product comes in the form of a collar device which inflates in case of an accident protecting the head and neck without obstructing the field of vision.

gFigure 2 – Computer-generated image illustrating Hövding operation for an accident case

One can consider Hövding’s performance quite astonishing. Indeed, for the Folkman’s cycle helmet test involving an accident at 25 km/h, the risk of serious head injury is 90% lower than with a traditional helmet. The absorption of impact forces is three times better with a Hövding. Hövding is even CE marked[4].
The acquisition cost might seem high (299€) but considering the reduced replacement price (199€) and the partial assumption of the cost by insurances, it appears to be a valid alternative to a conventional helmet.

This example shows the whole process of the reinvention of a product. By starting from its objectives and core characteristics and by rejecting the dominant design, a new product, exhibiting an unattainable performance under the dominant design, can emerge. While this can make the product adoption process longer, the product can eventually reach unexpected users or markets. For example, the product has proved to be effective also for scooters.


[1] O.Razemon, Combien de morts, chaque année, à cause du vélo ? [accessed 17/10/2016],

[2] Association prévention routière website [accessed 17/10/2016], https://www.preventionroutiere.asso.fr/2016/04/22/statistiques-daccidents/

[3] James M. Utterback and William J. Abernathy, A Dynamic Model of Product and Process Innovation, Omega 3(6) (1975) 639-656.

[4] Hövding website [accessed 10/17/2016], http://www.hovding.com/

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Vivien Billaud

Vivien Billaud

Entrepreneur, engineer and innovation passionate, I use my muldisciplinary skills in the service of an ever more responsible progress.

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