Swedish invention that can solve the water crisis
During an innovation race in Shanghai, a Swedish professor had a flash of genius. By creating a special nozzle for water taps that converts wasteful jets of water into a more resource-efficient mist, water consumption could be reduced considerably. This led to the formation of the company Altered – which is currently predicted to play an important role in the fight against the global water shortage.
CEO Johan Nihlén gives a brief introducion to Altered's nozzle (2:57 min)
Today, over two billion people live in areas where there is a shortage of fresh water. The problem is growing with each passing year due to the rapid increase in population. At the same time, large proportions of the world's households, companies and restaurants use traditional water taps – where a significant amount of the water that flows from the taps just runs out into the drain without having served any real purpose.
This was the problem that Kaj Mickos, previously professor of innovation technology at Mälardalen University, identified and wanted to find a solution for when he teamed up with the Swedish Energy Agency to arrange an innovation race based on the theme "Better city, better life" at the World's Fair in Shanghai 2010.
– As a result of that, I had the idea that you could use the existing pressure in the water pipes in combination with a special nozzle to atomise the water from our taps into millions of small droplets, to a type of mist. The first prototype confirmed my thoughts that it was possible to use two per cent of the normal water consumption and still maintain full functionality, says Kaj Mickos.
Reduces consumption by 98 per cent
Although the simple but elegant solution was successfully tested in Shanghai back in 2010, it would take until 2016 before the idea had grown into the company Altered. Kaj Mickos also then had the assistance of the two co-founders, Johan Nihlén and Mikael Abbhagen.
The trio quickly became aware of the great interest in their innovation when the company launched a grassroots fundraising campaign in the same year for its first product – the Altered:Nozzle tap nozzle – via the Kickstarter website.
– Our nozzle went viral on the Internet. We got support from people all over the world. The campaign raised almost SEK 5 million from almost 7,000 participants", says Kaj Mickos.
The following year, in 2017, Altered received its first product development support from the Swedish Energy Agency, which had recognized at an early stage the potential of the simple invention when it came to saving energy and resources.
– In Sweden, we shower in drinking water. People don't do that in so many other places in the world. When it comes to washing hands, a large amount of the water you use doesn't even reach your hands but goes straight down the drain. That's a great waste. Altered's innovation can be installed almost everywhere and saves between 85–98 per cent of the unused water. The world has been waiting for this, says Andreas Stubelius, Portfolio Manager at the Swedish Energy Agency.
Inspirational support during product development
The support from the Swedish Energy Agency meant a lot when Altered started its production during 2017 and started to deliver the product it had successfully sold to its Kickstarter audience.
– The financial aspect played a major role for us, but the support and expertise from various people in the agency were equally as important. It was inspiring that there were so many at the agency who got personally involved to help us move forward, says Kaj Mickos.
During 2018 and 2019, the company further developed its range by creating a nozzle for showers and a nozzle for automatic taps, among other things. There has also been investment in growth in new markets, including the USA and the Middle East. Activity facilitated by Altered being granted new support from the Swedish Energy Agency in 2019.
– Being included in the Swedish Energy Agency's Cleantech Hub in New York and in an accelerator programme in San Francisco has also simplified the process, says Johan Nihlén.
For Altered – which last year launched its technology in a notable design collaboration together with Ikea, and which has already found its way to more participants in the Swedish market – the future looks bright.
– Now there are nine of us employed at the company and we have moved to our own premises. Our aim is to become cash flow positive this year. Now we are working on a couple of other products that are exciting, including water purification. We are starting to become a complete water technology company, working with various technical solutions in the water sector, says Kaj Mickos.