Human wrists have been graced with much smarter devices over the past two years. The success of companies like Apple, Xiaomi, Fitbug, Samsung, and Fitbit means the market for wearables is estimated to be worth over $28.7 billion by the end of 2016. But what about our pets? The US pet industry saw $60.28 billion spent in 2015, and it seems technology companies are ready to build advanced wearables for our furry friends.
“Ok Google. Find my dog.”
Pets can be intrepid creatures, wondering out of the house and into the world without paying much mind to their increasingly frazzled owners. The latest wave in pet tracking technology aims to keep them on a (very long) virtual leash as they integrate GPS tracking with mobile apps.
Examples of this include Whistle, a smart collar which uses location tracking to allow pet owners to create “safe zones” for their animals. Instant alerts are tied to these zones via an app, meaning an adventurous pet can be immediately retrieved if they stray too far.
The scope of pet tracking varies across different apps and devices. The Kyon Pet Tracker includes heat and water sensors to notify owners if their pet is in a hazardous condition, while the Buddy is a collar which uses an array of customisable, multi-coloured LEDs to keep dogs visible and safe from accidents.
Wearables and smart devices are also giving owners more information about the day-to-day health of their pet. These include Bayer’s Pet Life app, which allows owners to store their pet’s healthcare details, track their weight history and add upcoming vet appointment notes to individual profiles. The app is designed to allow owners to keep their pet’s vital health information in one place.
The Tractive is another way of monitoring the health of cats and dogs, selling itself as a “Fitbit for your pet”. It helps owners to track the daily activity of their pet, categorizing their movement as “lazy”, “active” or “dynamic”. Drawing inspiration from traditional fitness trackers, the device allows owners to set a daily goal for their pet, which is monitored through accelerometers built into the device.
Health, activity and GPS tracking are all well and good, but what about the stuff that can’t be measured by numbers and graphs? This is being addressed by an eclectic range of devices which aim to interpret the emotional side of animals – theoretically using smart technology to take pet owners closer to the wants and needs of their four-legged companions. Examples of these include WhatsYapp, a smart collar in development by Ocado (yes that Ocado) which aims to analyse a dog’s sounds, movements and activities to give owners an insight into their pet’s behavior.
Inupathy is even more fanciful, promising to tell owners what their dog is feeling via a heart rate monitor running canine-specific algorithms. The collar uses different colours and light patterns to tell owners whether their pooch is anything from happy to anxious. The science is murky, but at the very least it’ll make your dog look like they’ve arrived from the future.
Smart technology is giving pet owners new insights into the health and well-being of their animals. They may never know precisely what their pet is thinking, but apps and connected devices are providing new ways to bridge the gap.
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