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FitBark activity tracker has gone to the dogs

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June 28, 2013

FitBark uses integrated motion sensors to track your pooch's activities

FitBark uses integrated motion sensors to track your pooch's activities

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Is your best friend looking a little pudgy and out of shape? Are they a little sluggish and out of it when you hang out, preferring a nap over a run or walk? Don't make things awkward by telling them, just slide on a collar while they're sleeping and encourage them to get more exercise. We're talking about your dog, of course, and the new FitBark collar.

As any busy dog owner can tell you, it can be difficult to get your dog, especially active breeds, out for a full exercise regimen every single day, 365 days a year. It's also difficult to track just how short you're falling, or to track how much exercise your dog is actually getting when he chases squirrels around the yard, digs furiously in the dirt, or runs up and down the stairs of the house.

Similar to a Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP, only designed specifically for canines, the FitBark keeps close track of your pooch's activity and provides an easy to follow read-out on an accompanying smartphone app.

The small, lightweight, bone-shaped monitor clips to your dog's collar and uses integrated motion sensors to track its activities. It stores the data onboard and then pushes it to the cloud when it's in Bluetooth range of a paired mobile phone or the available home base unit.

The FitBark system calculates a daily goal for your dog, which FitBark says is equivalent to one hour of intense activity, plus lower activity levels throughout the day. The smartphone application then shows the dog's daily activity levels as a percentage of that goal. It also assigns you a "Bark Score," which is a rating of how well you're doing as a dog owner, and lets you compare activity levels over time to identify trends and develop fitness strategies. It also lets you track your dog's fitness when you're not with it, including when you leave it at the kennel or with a dog walker.

FitBark home base unit and collar monitors

FitBark might be onto something, but it falls short of really addressing the problem. Required exercise levels vary drastically by dog, with some breeds being naturally energetic and requiring lots of exercise, while some are naturally more lethargic. By creating a goal of "one hour of intense activity, plus lower levels throughout the day," it seems like FitBark is trying to use a one-size solution to a more complex problem.

It would be nice if its system provided goals tailored to specific dogs, based on breed, age, health information, etc. Perhaps a future model will include more dog-specific goals, but as described right now, the FitBark is only a partial solution. You want your dog meeting its goal, not "a goal."

Unlike many fitness trackers for humans, the FitBark doesn't include a GPS. While you can probably live without doggie GPS pace, distance and speed information, a GPS would give the device the extra function of tracking your dog should it wander out of the yard or get lost. FitBark designers explain that they wanted to make the device light enough for small breeds, and leaving GPS out helped keep the weight down to 10 g. Battery life is also longer without a GPS. Still, we think the addition of GPS tracking could broaden the device's appeal to owners that aren't sold on a doggie fitness tracker.

A FitBark representative at CE Week told us that the device will launch for pre-order on Kickstarter next month for US$99. Interested parties can sign up for an availability notification on FitBark's website. A previous Kickstarter campaign in May only met about half FitBark's $100,000 goal before it was cancelled early.

FitBark is designed to work with iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad 3, iPad mini, iPod touch 5th gen and Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note II, 10.1 devices. While the app will work on other iOS and Android devices, the FitBark will only sync on the aforementioned devices. If you don't own a compatible smartphone or device, you can also use the home base unit (sold separately).

Source: FitBark

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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1 Comment

Hi Chris - Thanks for helping us raise awareness about FitBark!

We absolutely agree with your point on the importance of customized goals. In veterinary literature, there is no general consensus as to what activity goals should be. For instance, more athletic dogs require more exercise, whereas brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs such as bulldogs will be fine with less exercise as they may have breathing difficulties.

This having been said, there seems to be a certain consensus around 30-60 minutes of "moderately intense" activity as a minimum daily goal for each dog. A database with custom goals by breed does not exist, and it's our aspiration to contribute to building it.

From the outset, we will be considering variables such as a dog's breed, age, weight and size to recommend a minimum daily activity goal. And as a larger number of various breeds join our platform, we can even allow you to learn what activity percentile your dog belongs to. But at any time, you are free to set your recommended goal to a different number, and track your dog's activities compared with that baseline.

Hope this helps to clarify any mystery! We also wanted to mention that we plan on offering a discount called "Early-Dog Special" to early backers of our new Kickstarter campaign (launching soon). Dog owners can sign-up at http://www.fitbark.com/signup to be among the first to learn about the launch and receive this 1x special.

Woof!

- Michael and team FitBark

Michael Chiang
29th June, 2013 @ 09:37 pm PDT
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