Canadian teen poised to launch smart watch

Another Canadian entrepreneur is pitting himself against technology giants like Samsung and Sony by building his own smart watch. Nineteen-year-old Simon Tran of Montreal believes his Neptune Pine smart watch has got what it takes to break into the burgeoning wearable technology market.

So far Tran has raised $200,000 on the online fund raising site Kickstarter. He hit his target of $100,000 in just 24 hours and he has 30 more days to raise funds. With its 2.4-inch, full-colour, capacitive touch screen, the Neptune Pine is a bit larger than other smart phone devices now in the market.

However, Tran said it was designed this way in order for it to be a really useful device for Web surfing, video viewing and reading emails. Some analysts firms forecast that the global wearable technology market could reach more than $12 billion in the next few years.

In 2011 alone, no less than 14 million wearable devices were shipped and they estimate that number to grow to 171 million by 2016.

Tran is not the only Canadian to take a stab at the smart watch market.

Last year Eric Migicovsky, a 21-year-old student at the University of Waterloo, became an Internet sensation when he was able to raise some $10 million through his Kickstarter campaign which aimed to raise $100,000 to enable him to build 100 units of his Pebble smart watch.

Earlier this year Migicovsky reported receiving $15 million from George Zachary and Charles River Ventures of California.

There have been some delays in the delivery of Pebble phones.

Some 250,000 units of Pebble phones are reported to have been sold. But only about 70,000 Pebble watches have been shipped to original investors and 15,000 more units are outstanding, according to reports in September.

In the process of sourcing a factory in China to build his watch, Tran said he learned that it is much easier now for startups to go up against giant corporations.

“…it’s actually possible for small startup companies like us to develop products as competitive as what the big guys are coming up with because material costs have been going down for years and they’ve been made accessible – all the different chips and components – not only to large orders but to small orders as well,” he said in an interview with online news site

He said that the Neptune Pine is different from other smart watches because rather than focusing on a single function, it is meant to be a multi-tasking tool.

For instance, some smart watches are meant to pair with smart phones and others are good for monitoring health.

The Neptune Pine Web site, said the watch provides users with “pure, untethered connectivity on your wrist.” It does not need to be paired to another device because it can access the Internet by itself with 2G or 3G support, W-Fi and Bluetooth capability that enable users to send and receive phone calls and browse the Web.

The device comes with a front-facing VGA camera for vide-chatting, a rear-facing 5 megapixel camera and a touchscreen QWERTY keyboard. The watch can also function as a sports performance device with a built-in GPS, pedometer, compass and fitness apps including one that monitors heart rate.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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