Wearables and IoT all the rage. We see both new and experienced entrepreneurs entering the field.
With the affordability of smartphone technologies and the new ubiquity of digitally connected life, the market for wearables has exploded. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have allowed fledgling ventures to test consumer interest for their projects and have even launched exciting new hardware startups with some serious capital. Tech’s big players including Google, Amazon and Facebook have jumped in too, investing or buying robotics, home automation, drone and internet infrastructure startups.
Montreal is making great connected hardware too. ReelyActive recently won the World Startup Award, Hexoskin and OmSignal are dominating the biometrics clothing market and local startups are funding campaign after campaign on Kickstarter. We’re here today to talk to Ari Ramdial who wants to get hackers, designers and entrepreneurs excited for Wearhacks, Montréal’s first wearable computing hackathon.
NewTech (@heri) Hi - can you present yourself, and what motivates you in wearable computing?
My name is Ari Ramdial (@AriRamdial) and I am the co-founder of WearHacks, Canada’s largest hackathon focused on wearable and connected computing. I’ve been working on wearable technology for the last 4 years (both as a researcher and a hobbyist) and I’ve always wanted to enter a hackathon where people worked on wearable tech projects but I couldn’t find any happening in Montreal, so I decided to make one. I was always fascinated by the idea of ubiquitous computing and I think wearable technology will really help us get closer to a world where computers are pervasive, non-intrusive and most importantly, they need to be incredibly useful.
NewTech : Wearable computing is nothing new. Geeks have always tried to add LEDs or sensors on clothing or bracelets. Why work on wearable computing now?
I think that innovations in sensor technology energy has been a major boon for wearable tech. Today, you can pack a bunch of different sensors onto a chip the size of a coin, with a battery life of a few years! The form factor of hardware has also gotten to the level where it’s now feasible to consider embedding a complex sensor systems into clothing and accessories.
Add to this the fact that nowadays you don’t need to be an expert to build great applications for wearable devices (SDKs and APIs abstract away the hard parts of hardware) and you have a legitimate case for working on wearable technology and I think the industry’s growth in the last decade has reflected that.
NewTech : There are many examples of amazing wearable projects worldwide. What inspires you the most right now? What do you see in the future of wearables?
As a maker, the Intel Edison Module is really exciting to me. I can see so much potential with it and I’m sure before the year is out, there will be more than a few wearable startups who made their prototype with it! As a consumer…there are really too many cool devices for me to pick one!
In my opinion, for wearables to really make an impact, they will have to become a mundane aspect of our daily lives, something that people don’t talk about; Wearables that do their job well won’t stand out in a way that makes you notice them all the time. For example, we might enter a future where a plain white tee will measure your heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure as a standard feature. (We’ll probably be telling stories to incredulous children about how we just had normal white t-shirts in our day!)
The next step will be context aware devices that fit into a network of other connected devices. For the mass consumer market, standalone devices will not last long, nor should they. Companies like IFTTT are showing how the evolution can take place.
NewTech : Coming back to Montreal, what resources exist for wearable entrepreneurs? Where would one go to start a serious project?
As a new entrepreneur, you can take advantage of multiple resources if you are trying to kickstart your project. You can check out Helios Maker Space in order to have access to tools; they provide the perfect toolkit for wearable startups.
Helios Maker Space
Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Centre can link wearable entrepreneurs with a community that fosters collaboration and innovation. The newly formed Hardware Guild was created with the express purpose of guiding hardware startups from idea to prototype. Finally, Montreal is lucky enough to be home to the great accelerator program, Founder Fuel; they will help teams go from a great prototype to a great business.
NewTech : You’re working on WearHacks, a hackathon set at the end of September. What’s the BIG idea behind the hackathon?
WearHacks is first and foremost an experiment. We want to give students and amateur enthusiasts the opportunity to play with cutting edge connected devices in a safe and welcoming environment.
The vision is to have an array of smart devices and let the hackers choose and build anything from a tweeting lamp to home automation devices. We don’t necessarily want hackers to feel tied to one platform for the hackathon. In fact, we encourage them to explore, fiddle and mix devices as they please to make new and better products.
We also want to showcase the potential of the Montreal hardware community. Local companies like Heddoko, Neptune Pine, OMSignal and HexoSkin are all breaking into the wearable industry. We should support them and work hard to build more companies like them!