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“We know the tech industry”

UOIT trio launches Kickstarter for innovative smartwatch creation

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UOIT engineering students Ryan Nasara, left, and Kyle George are two members of a trio that started Henlen Watches, the company behind their interchangeable smartwatch invention. They are hoping to push the watch into the production phase through an online Kickstarter campaign.

kickstarter_watchBy Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

In the world of technology, it would seem there’s a device and a style for everyone. However, when it comes to smartwatches, your options are signifanctly slimmer. Well, a trio of UOIT students has set out to change that.

Henlen Watches – the brain child of Kyle George, Gregory Barnes and Ryan Nasara, all engineering students at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology – has created a smartwatch that not only allows the functionality of the best smartwatches on the market, but allows you to switch the tech between different styles of watchbands depending on yours style.

For George, it’s a niche that many of the large tech companies haven’t even considered.

“Why shouldn’t smartwatches be like that? It’s possible. It’s not that hard, but all these companies are just focused on the tech, and they’re trying to build it like a smart phone, not a smartwatch,” he says.

Along with the interchangeability, Nasara says the Henlen sets itself apart by acting as an assistant to the smartphone, rather than just a smaller version of one.

“It’s supposed to be a companion to your phone and not another distraction, another phone on your wrist,” he says.

Dubbed “the Cell,” the watch’s technological heart is built off the Google Android operating system, with the design hinging on the so-called “three-second rule” – it shouldn’t take the user more than three seconds to access the information they need.

With the help of the Spark Centre, the idea has grown from a simple side project for three engineering students into a full-on tech startup in Oshawa’s downtown. Henlen worked its way through Spark Centre’s Brilliant Incubator program in the spring of last year as they worked their way through market research and a business plan. This was followed by the Youth Incubator, which helped them to network and develop the prototypes of their product.

George credit’s the downtown start-up space with a big part of their success to this point.

“It’s been great,” he says. “I don’t think we’d be doing this if we didn’t have this place, the advising, all the other companies, I don’t think we would’ve gone this far.”

Now, the group is looking to the broader community to get things to the next level.

Launching a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month, the group has already raised more than $26,000 of its $100,000 goal in order to boost the watch into the production stages. The Kickstarter wraps up at the beginning of June. If successful, the product could be developed and shipped to backers at the start of 2017.

The trio are confident they can take things to the next level.

“We know smartwatches, we know the tech industry, we are the consumer, what we know is good,” George says. “We’re engineers, we have everything we need to make this a reality.”