Toronto startup lets you design your own electronics

A Toronto-based startup wants to let you build your own custom electronics. Currently incubated at the Cossette offices in Liberty Village, Wattage is a four-person team composed of members with expertise in digital design, hardware, platform architecture, and electronics.

Jeremy Bell, the co-founder and CEO of Wattage shows me around part of their workspace full of lots of electronics across four desks along with some some custom Wattage boards and prototypes the team has created to showcase and test their product.

Wattage is a platform that bridges the worlds of electronics, hardware, and software to help you become an inventor.

Several years ago, when Bell was a partner at a design firm called Teehan + Lax, he had the idea of abstracting electronics to make custom manufacturing more accessible for people. He mentioned the idea to colleague and Director of T+L Labs, Peter Nitsch, who would later become one of Wattage's co-founders.

About a year ago, Bell and Nitsch left their jobs at T+L and raised a $200,000 seed round from Cossette to start building Wattage. Today, the company has launched its alpha and is set to release its beta later this year.

To make something programmable that's unique to you, and something you would be proud to showcase in your living room is no easy feat. Wattage's WebGL and threeJS powered browser interface let's you pick choose, and shape the custom electronic you want without having to worry about how to bring the idea to life electronically.

An example that Bell is fond of using to illustrate a Wattage use case is that of a podcast radio. Instead of streaming podcasts from your phone to your home speaker system, you could create a custom Wattage piece that let's you program a radio that downloads your favourite podcasts and plays them when you get home.

Wattage electronics can be customized using sensors, screens, lights, displays, and Bluetooth and WiFi for easier connectivity with your mobile device.

While products like Raspberry Pi, and Arduino boards have tried to make electronics more accessible, they are targeted towards an audience that is well-versed in technology. Other products in the market, like Little Bits, a DIY electronics kit, is limiting in its possibilities.

Bell and the Wattage team want to bring bespoke electronics to the masses, and with their beta launch later this year, they will be one step closer to the dream. Wattage aims to focus on the end product, letting the software take care of everything else.

Digital fabrication, says Bell, is going to be the future of manufacturing. 3D printing technology has made waves lately with products like Mink, the 3D printer that prints makeup, and ChefJet, that prints edibles like sugar, chocolate, and candy in all sorts of shapes and colours.

But when it comes to manufacturing something that's more of an appliance than an object, 3D printing on its own tends to fall short. Wattage is using a combination of laser cutting, 3D printing, and custom electronic boards to make designing your own electronics accessible.

Using Wattage's platform, you can pick and choose the colour, materials, size, and components you want in your dream electronic device right in your browser.

Once you hit "buy" the Wattage software spits out all the required files for manufacturing and it gets sent to Hot Pop Factory, a Toronto-based 3D printing creative shop, where these parts are laser cut, etched with their unique IDs and mounting holes, and packed for shipping, complete with custom instructions on how to assemble them.

The beta version will ship in parts so you can assemble, program, and plug and play it yourself. In the future, Wattage hopes to be able to operationalize and make the assembly of the pieces feasible so they can ship you a programmed, assembled piece of hardware that you designed.

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