Parkland graduate is co-founder of battery-saving startup
By SARIT LASCHINSKY
Special to The Press
While new phones, tablets and other mobile devices are released every year, degrading battery life remains an enduring issue which often leaves those new devices hooked up to a charger.
Nick Kshatri, a 2016 Parkland graduate, and his fellow teammates Mohamed Morsy and Matt Rosenblatt, however, have devised a new product aimed at preventing batteries from quickly running out of juice.
The three, co-founders of the startup company Canal Electronics, recently spoke with The Press about their device - the Canal Battery Guard.
Kshatri is a fifth-year undergraduate student at Pitt studying bioengineering.
Morsy and Rosenblatt recently graduated the same university with degrees in electrical engineering and bioengineering, respectively.
The trio began working on solving the issue of low-battery life during their freshman year at Pitt in an engineering class called “The Art of Making.”
“This was basically our capstone project,” Morsy said.
“We were supposed to identify a problem and prototype a tech solution to solve it, so the problem we identified was low-battery life, specifically quick battery life degradation.
“I presented it and formed the team around it, and we tackled it from a more proactive solution - charging the phone in a better way.”
The team moved to form Canal Electronics LLC in March 2020.
Kshatri heads marketing and outreach, Morsy leads testing and hardware design, and Rosenblatt handles app development and IT support.
“Honestly, we’ve all kind of contributed to everything. It’s very much a collaborative effort in every single aspect,” Morsy said. “We’re kind of all hands-on, but we each have kind of our specific areas where we lead.”
Battery decay is usually noticeable within the first year of using a device.
“It’s in every single phone, no matter what manufacturer it is or who is using it,” Morsy said. “Eventually, the battery life is going to degrade.”
He added that around 80 percent of the battery degradation can be traced back to incorrect charging, particularly overnight charging, which is the angle he, Kshatri and Rosenblatt tackled.
“Let’s say you plug in your phone at night and it’s at 10 percent, within the first two hours it’s going to charge to 100 percent,” Morsy said. “And in those two hours, the battery’s heating up very quickly.
“It could reach up to 100 degrees or above that.”
And, this is where the Canal Battery Guard comes in.
The device connects between a socket charging brick and USB cable, and communicates via Bluetooth with a mobile app.
As explained by Morsy, the Canal Battery Guard functions by spacing out a phone’s charging period when someone is asleep.
The battery guard also provides cool down rest periods to prevent overheating, thereby extending the battery’s life span.
Kshatri said based on preliminary testing, the device “dramatically” improved the battery life by cutting the degradation by around 50 percent.
“Based on our testing, we could double the lifetime of the phone,” he said.
He noted the current version of Canal Battery Guard features USB-A connectors, and the team is currently working on a USB-C version as well.
“It will interface with any USB-A cord. “It mostly works with phones, and it will work with an iPad or something else that takes the USB-A,” he said.
Kshatri also said if demand for the device is high, the team plans on expanding to other devices as well.
“The technology itself can be applicable for any lithium-ion rechargeable battery,” he said.
“Right now we’re just focused on phones, but there are other markets we plan on getting into. “We are hoping this one succeeds as our entry market,” Morsy added.
While the device is still in development, it has received attention for its battery-saving technology.
Kshatri said the three co-founders were recently featured in NEXTPittsburgh magazine and the Canal Battery Guard was also presented at the University of Pittsburgh’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition.
“We did that three years in a row, and we were finalists in the competition each year,” he said. “This year we were lucky enough to get $5,000 in funding, which really gave us a lot of confidence in the product and gave us the opportunity to start getting samples in and start the process of manufacturing.”
The team also carried out customer discovery surveys and activities to determine public interest and concluded there is a demand for the device.
Rosenblatt discussed the discovery process.
“We surveyed around 150-200 people, and 60 percent said they would actually pay for this solution,” Rosenblatt said. “And then, 91 percent of those people said they charge their phone overnight, which is really what we’re targeting.”
To take the next step in the battery guard’s development, Canal Electronics plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in November with a support goal of $35,000 to raise further interest, as well as funding for manufacturing, improvement and further development.
The campaign was originally planned to launch in April but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it was the right choice, because I don’t think we were ready to launch it at that point,” Morsy said.
Kshatri said the prototype is completely functional and working.
“We have both apps-iOS and Android apps working correctly, so we’re really just focusing on manufacturing,” Kshatri said, adding the device is estimated to be out for the public sometime in 2021.
Morsy said the Kickstarter would also serve as a way to pre-order the Canal Battery Guard, noting that while the device is anticipated to cost $19, early supporters will be able to get it for $15.
He added the startup is in conversations with manufacturers.
“So, we’re in the process of figuring out how quickly we can get the products into people’s hands,” Morsy said.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the co-founders said their communications and work has continued without much interruption.
“I think it’s been pretty successful for us,” Kshatri said. “We were doing pretty well just generally beforehand with our busy schedules, kind of working a lot remotely anyway, so it hasn’t felt too different for us.”
Rosenblatt added that technology aids in their communication ability.
“I think that through our Zoom meetings and our calls, it’s not really any less effective than our in-person stuff,” Rosenblatt said.
Morsy said the team continues to work on their own for now.
“At least until the Kickstarter finishes, just because we want to prove that this product is needed and that it will work.”
He said after the Canal Battery Guard is proven, the startup will be looking to actively engage with investors.
“We will definitely want to partner up with the people that can help us,” Morsy said. “The most important thing right now is for people to either check out our website and video, if they’re interested in this product.
“That’s our biggest focus right now; getting the word out there and spreading it as quick as possible as soon as we launch.”
More information on Canal Electronics and the Canal Battery Guard can be found on the startup’s website at canalbatteryguard.com, as well as on the company’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.