Innovation Starts Here: Technology moves from home to wrist

Jessica Stoiku UOIT professor Dr. Isabel Pedersen working at the DeCiMal lab at downtown Oshawa campus.

innovation 2

No longer the trinkets of geeks, athletes, and weekend warriors, wearable technology became a facet of daily life for 102 million new adopters in 2016. A global phenomenon that has drawn the eye of innovators and university professors alike, wearable technology is an industry on the upswing.

Encompassing smartwatches, fitness and activity trackers, as well as virtual reality devices, wearable technology serves many purposes.

The draw of these devices is tied to basic human desires such as health and fitness, as well as the desire to remain connected.

Entrepreneurial and innovation opportunities give technology and businesses the grounds to make further advancements. Aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators are given the tools to turn their ideas into realities.

Dr. Isabel Pedersen is the director of the Decimal Lab at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). She holds a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant for her research into wearable media.

Decimal Lab, also known as the Digital Culture and Media Lab, is a critical media collective affiliated with the UOIT. The lab explores personal technologies associated with the human body. Concerned with the emergence of wearable, implantable and ingestible digital technologies, it tracks the potential social, political and cultural consequences of this technological evolution.


Dr. Pedersen talks about Decimal Lab and the social impact of wearable tech.

Dr. Pedersen studies the evolution of the digital world and how humans will adapt to future technology. She is the author of Ready to Wear: A Rhetoric of Wearable Computers and Reality-Shifting Media.

According to Forbes, by the year 2020 wearable technology with sell approximately 411 smart devices worth about $34 million dollars.

“Wearables were originally proposed because we were sitting at our desks too long,” says Pedersen. “How can we deal with hardware that’s constantly asking for our attention, constantly asking us to interact for it instead of it interacting for us.”

Wearable technology was developed to enhance industrial, medical, and daily life needs. Wearable tech has been making these enhancements since the 1990s according to Dr. Pedersen.


According to Dr. Pedersen, wearable technology grew not out of necessity but out of innovation. Medical, military, and industrial applications came about long before the conceptualization of wearable technology as a commercial product.

“Technology is always trying to understand what people will adopt before they adopt it.”

These multi-faceted devices might seem to further serve to oversaturate our already technologically dependent world, but the plethora of wearable technology options serves to fill specified roles in our lives. They enhance our lives without demanding our time. Dr. Pedersen theorises wearable tech complements the diverse roles that we all embrace on a daily basis.

Looking beyond the theory behind wearable technology and jumping into the practice of implementing it, we must look to those innovators who are continuing to develop these technologies.

Gregory Barnes, chief technology officer and co-founder of Henlen Watches, an Oshawa, Ont. technology start-up is one of those innovators. Young, driven, intelligent, and insightful, Barnes and his compatriots saw room for improvement and refinement in the smartwatch sector of the wearable technology industry.


Gregory Barnes speaking about his experience with Henlen Watches at FastStart.


Henlen Watches conceptualized and created a convertible smartwatch that allows for user customization, both technologically and aesthetically. Realizing at the time of conceptualization that current smartwatches were one dimensional, with a single aesthetic. Barnes and his compatriots found a niche in a growing, developing, burgeoning industry.

Barnes and Kyle George, co-founder of Henlen Watches, heard about FastStart through UOIT. FastStart is UOIT’s and Durham College’s entrepreneurial training partnership for students interested in learning the skills to develop their own business.

Last summer Barnes and George participated in the three-day Brilliant Boot Camp run by Brilliant Entrepreneurship, partnered with FastStart and Incubate, Innovate Network of Canada (I-INC). Within those three days, Barnes and George participated in workshops that gave them the skills to turn Henlen Watches into a reality.

“Seeded with a $5,000 award from the university’s Firefly fund, Henlen spent its first year in the UOIT Brilliant Incubator for students, located in and served by the Spark Innovation Centre in downtown Oshawa. Last summer Henlen Watches won Spark Centre’s Youth Incubator Accelerator program and its top prize of $2,500,” according to UOIT’s newspage.

With estimated sales of thirty-eight million smartwatches in 2016, 75 million smartwatches in 2017, and 141 million smartwatches in 2018, Henlen Watches couldn’t have picked a better time to begin development.

With 102 million new adopters of wearable technology this year alone, the numbers speak for themselves. But what the numbers don’t represent are the concrete benefits that these devices bring to user’s lives. Easing communication, making us more self-aware, providing entertainment, making us healthier, and safer, wearable technology fuels our most basic human desires.

As the industry grows, evolves and reaches more users, wearable technology will not only become more prevalent, but more accessible. When the technology works for you, without your input, it harmonises lifestyles. Wearable technology has achieved that synergy.

With professors and research chairs such as Dr. Pedersen delving into the science, psychology, and motivations behind our adoption of wearable technology and innovators such as Barnes driving the technology and aesthetics further, wearable technology will continue to make new advances.

According to Barnes, Henlen Watches should be ready to ship to the public in a few months time.

“Initially we are looking to only do online sales with expansion into retail further down the line,” says Barnes.

Previous articleDaycare parents need a dollar cap
Next articleInnovation Starts Here: A 360 on work-life balance
Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.