Our wrists have become pretty smart over the past few years – with fitness trackers and smart watches gaining popularity. The success of companies like Apple, Xiaomi, Fitbug, Samsung, and Fitbit means the market for wearables – electronical technology that can be worn on the body –  is estimated to be worth over $34 billion by 2020.

But what does that mean for our furry sidekicks?

The US pet industry was worth $60.28 billion in 2015. Now that’s an attractive market place, and technology companies aren’t wasting any time in capitalising on this opportunity. They clearly think – if the owners can wear wearables then so can their pets.

So, is this just a fad, or should we seriously be considering a smart future for our four-legged friends? From the reasonable devices to the downright whacky, there’s no denying that the demand is there, and the technology in some cases is straight up genius.

“Ok Google. Find my dog.”

The latest wave in pet tracking technology aims to keep our intrepid animals on a long – virtual – leash. Designed to put our minds at ease, GPS tracking is integrated with mobile apps to produce wearable technology such as:

  • Whistle: a smart collar which uses location tracking to allow pet owners to create “safe zones” for their animals with instant alerts tied to these zones via an app
  • The Kyon Pet Tracker: this collar includes heat and water sensors which notify owners if their pet is too warm or in a hazardous environment
  • The Buddy: a collar which uses an array of customisable, multi-coloured LEDs to keep dogs visible and safe from accidents

Active Animals

Wearables and smart devices are also giving owners more information about the day-to-day health of their pet – helping them to spot problems before they get too serious. These include:

  • Bayer’s Pet Life app: this allows owners to keep their pet’s vital health information in one place with storage for healthcare details, weight tracking and notes for upcoming vet appointments
  • The Tractive: selling itself as a “Fitbit for your pet”, it helps owners track the daily activity of their pet, categorising their movement as “lazy”, “active” or “dynamic” and also sets daily goals – monitored through accelerometers built into the device

WhatsYapp

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 such as:

  • WhatsYapp: no – not a chat app for your pet to start a conversation with friends, but 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 – so you can really understand your pet
  • Inupathy: a collar promising to tell owners what their dog is feeling via a heart rate monitor running canine-specific algorithms. By using different colours and light patterns it claims to show whether their pooch is anything from happy to anxious

It’s easy to see that smart technology is right at home in the pet industry. Being able to communicate with our animals is a notion which has always been considered fanciful and well, impossible, up until this point. Granted – some of this new science is a little murky, but we do look to be one step closer to living out the Dr Dolittle dream.

Of course, our pets can’t talk (even if we wish they could), but if smart wearables are able to tell us what our pets can’t, well then, their demand and success will only be set to rise. You may never know precisely what your pet is thinking, but apps and connected devices are here to provide new ways to bridge the gap.