ByOriginally published on IEEE Spectrum
Ever fiddle with a pile of round magnets, building and rebuilding it into a sculpture? One of the companies making that toy for adults came out of a Canadian company called Nanomagnetics, founded in 2009. A very cool and creative product, but it didn’t actually DO anything.
A research team within Nano Magnetics, back in 2014, started investigating ways to make cool things with magnetics that had more functionality. The first thing they came up with was a computer connector, similar to Apple’s MagSafe connector, but one that could transfer USB data, not just power. With that in prototype, and venture money from Horizons Ventures, the group in 2015 spun out as startup Nanoport Technology and packed up and moved to Silicon Valley.
Says founder and CEO Tim Szeto: “The investors told us to end our OEM relationships and business development efforts, focus on IP and product development, and move to the Valley.” He says the researchers, now 30 in all, have filed for more than 100 patents, and have a plan to change the way we think about discarded smart phones—and personal computing in general.
“When you buy your new smart phone, we want your old phone to become your home controller, or your baby monitor, or your security camera,” Szeto says. And he wants that to happen with minimal effort on your part—your phone should just know what you want it to be, depending on where it finds itself. Stick it on the wall, for example, and it becomes a smart light switch or home controller; stick it on a crib, and it becomes a baby monitor. Stick it on the refrigerator, and it’s your Alexa or recipe pad.
It’s all based, of course, on magnetics—and lots of software.
Read more on IEEE Spectrum.