Climate change and water stress are not single solution problems. They are not problems that will be solved by one great solution. It will need thousands, if not millions, of solutions to create a change. Creating one such change is Altered, an international, innovative Swedish company that is working towards water saving through its exceptional product range. It aims to reach as many people as fast as possible to turn the tide on water stress and climate change.
Co-founded by Professor Kaj Mickos, innovator of the revolutionary Altered:Nozzle, Johan Nihlén, CEO and Mikael Abbhagen, Head of Design in 2016, Altered uses proprietary technologies to develop products that reduce the use of water and energy with 85-98 per cent without sacrificing user experience, functionality or design. Altered products in the market – include Altered:Nozzle Dual Flow Pro, Altered:Nozzle Dome, Altered:Tap, the Altered:Soap. and Altered:Shower.
With its Scandinavian heritage, Altered embraces positive sides and benefits of problems and challenges. Its mission is to make things smarter in order to alter things for the better.
Altered uses lead free brass, called ECOBRASS, from global metal producer and specialist Wieland. ECOBRASS has been specially developed to meet the latest legal and hygienic requirements worldwide. ECOBRASS contains no toxic additives such as lead and nickel and shows excellent processing behaviour in machining, forging and cold forming. It has mechanical strength characteristics that fully match some steel grades and its corrosion resistance is significantly superior to that of conventional free-cutting brass.
“We have nothing to benchmark to, unfortunately. We have sold over 100,000 units all over the world today. But the demand will grow. There is basically a 40 per cent shortage of water globally in the world today. And it will not get better. We need to adapt quickly. Our solutions are very small and cost-effective to reduce water usage and save energy,” Mikael explains.
Making a difference
As much as 20 percent of household water use is through taps and 20 percent is through showers. In hotels 30 percent of water use is in hotel rooms. Each office employee use 6000 liters of water in bathroom taps every year. By creating super simple solutions, that anyone can install, Altered aims to reach as many people as possible as fast as possible. According to WWF, installing 1 billion units of Altered products would save 18 Billion liters of water and 150 million tons of CO2 per year.
With an aim to truly have a ‘global reach and impact’, Altered partners with major companies and institutions. For market penetration they have partnered with brands like IKEA and Unilever/Sunlight.
Altered has clients like Taj, Imperial New Delhi, Hotel Raas Udaipur & Jodhpur, Royal Enfield and different large manufactures all over India. “Since we have started we have had the most interest from India. We have a small team there that facilitates our clients,” says Mikael talking about their market in India.
“The water crisis issue is enormous in India but I would say most Indians aren’t that caring for water. It is very cheap and no real incentive to conserve. That is one of the reasons we see such huge problems. However, I think it will change, prices will go up. Money talks so there will be no way around it then to save and conserve. Manufactures, hotels and offices will come first. There is absolutely no need to have a faucet with 10 liters flowing out per minute hen 0,4 I enough to get clean,” he adds.
The Birth of an idea
Professor Kaj got the idea which led to Altered 10 years ago in Shanghai when he had a 72-hour innovation race. The theme was Better City Better Life. He thought it was a waste to use this huge amount of water. Most of it just passes your hands. He looked at ways to reduce the water and focused on ways to break the water up and found that he could atomize it, literally breaking it up in millions of droplets. He did tests and prototypes but it ended up in a drawer after a while. The timing wasn’t right apparently. Kaj, Mikael and Johan had discussions about doing something together since they had worked on and off in different constellations. They made a list of what they wanted to do. Johan talked about this list at a dinner with Kaj.
“It was then that Kaj walked to the drawer and pulled a prototype and asked if this was the thing we were looking for,” recalls Mikael.
“First three days nothing happened. We were quite disappointed. Suddenly it kicked off. Someone contacted me on twitter and asked how we got on to this American Facebook page called Now This Future. They had edited our Kickstarter film. It had 600,000 views then and we could not believe our eyes. So the crowd funding went very well after that. That video has now 12 million views and 150,000 sharing. Similar sites picked it up and did their version of it. I counted some time ago that we had like 30 million views on Facebook alone on similar videos that were made. What also happened was that somehow it got spread through the WhatsApp network in Middle East and India. We woke up one morning and had 500 emails in the inbox. Everyone was like how can I order? We saw your advertising, how can we order? They had no idea that we were just running a Kickstarter campaign,” says Mikael recalling their initial journey.
“We had a production test done so we were very far from on the market. We were just the three of us and me and Johan was sitting answering mails from all over the world day and night. I woke up one morning, answered 60 mails in the inbox. Had breakfast for 20 minutes and had 20 more mails than before. Royal families from the Emirates were contacting us. The biggest companies in India reached out, like TATA group and global players like Unilever, Pepsi etc. We are born global basically. There are so many stories that happened around these early months. We went from: Hey we got this idea that we think can save water in California to now have collaborations with global brands and interact with government officials,” says Mikael.
Mikael says they basically don’t have any advantage. “A lot of copy cats have emerged. Luckily we have a patented technology so we can protect our self,” he adds.
Rewards and Recognition
The company has received recognition from various organisations such as Swedish Energy Agency, Imagine H2O, Nordic Cleantech Open, Nordic Startup Awards and Norrsken Impact 100 amongst others. More recently won the 2019 E-prize in the Energy Efficiency category at the 11th E.ON awards. Altered was also recognised with the Climate Saver 2018 award by the World Wildlife Foundation and is part of the Permanent Collection of Design at the Swedish National Museum.
Next on Altered’s list of products is an amazing shower handle which saves up to 75 per cent water. “Feels great and we hope it will find its audience. We know there is a growing demand,” says Mikael.