March 25, 2006 For the last 50 years, invention has been largely the domain of the corporation, which had the oomph to take a good idea through the time- and money consuming journey to market. But as the internet has connected the minds of a billion people, it’s becoming clear that no matter how good your product development team, it’s no match for the collective intelligence of the world’s population. With this in mind, the inaugural IdeaFetch pet product invention contest was created with ideas and voting all done online. Yesterday the winners were unveiled at the American Pet Product Manufacturer's Association (APPMA) Global Pet Expo and the winning pet inventions included a number of rippers. The outright winner, the MicroID Collar, will be available via Petsafe later this year as part of the winner’s prize and places an electronic journal on a pet's collar to store pet and owner data including name, address, phone number, vet visits, medications, etc. Other commercially viable ideas amongst the top 10 votegetters included a “Pet Fire Alert Collar” to help firefighters locate hiding pets in a house fire, a “Pet Fire Escape” for pets to escape from a house fire, a “collar-activated pet dish” that only opens to your pet, a “solar-powered doghouse blanket” for pets in cold climates and our favourite, “Hotel Kitty for the pussycat on the go.” Designed to enable your cat to travel with you, Hotel Kitty is an all-in-one cat carrier with all mod cons such as a litter tray, travel dishes and compartments for food, small toys, etc. Given that more than 50% of homes in most countries have a cat or dog, don’t underestimate the size of the market, or the potential to use the internet to further your product development efforts.
PetSafe challenged the public to enter helpful pet ideas between October 1 and November 30, 2005, on www.ideafetch.com, for the chance to win US$40,000 along with having their idea developed and sold nationwide.
The winning idea, The MicroID Collar, is for cats and dogs that like to get out and explore the world. It works by incorporating a flash card memory device into the pet's collar. The device has an electronic journal for storing all pet and owner information. To enter pet data onto the card, simply insert the card into a computer and follow the step-by-step instructions. The device is protected within a waterproof housing that easily slides into the collar and houses the pet data. The advantage for a person finding a pet with the PetSafe MicroID Collar is that they can instantly know multiple points of contact for the owner, any medical concerns if treatment is necessary and other specific pet care needs.
The MicroID Collar is the first of its kind in many ways. Product FIRSTS include: pet identification solution with a lifetime warranty, USB pet identification collar, identification solution to solve all issues with micro chipping and the first pet identification collar to contain all vet records, contact information AND pet photos. The collar provides a non-invasive solution, is easily accessible through any computer and is concealed within the collar for protection from environmental conditions.
"For the past 14 years, my dog Cookie has liked to run wild. With the growing number of cars and roads, I want to ensure I find my dog before any car does," shares IdeaFetch winner and first time petrepreneur, Jonathan Warren. "My father gave me the human version of the MicroID when I was younger, so I invented a similar version to help locate lost pets and log important information."
The Pet Fire Alert Collar, second place, was designed by Gail Eicken, a former volunteer EMT, to provide a way for firefighters to locate hiding pets during a house fire or heavy smoke condition. The Pet Fire Alert Collar works in conjunction with any standard home smoke detector. When a household smoke detector alarm sounds, the Collar activates and produces a series of flashing lights and an audible sound. Gail and her husband Gary, a former volunteer firefighter, invented the Collar with lights and sound to alert pet owners and firefighters of the pet's location. The lights and sound will not stop until a button on the Collar is reset.
"My husband has been a volunteer fireman for 25 years and noticed how pets are often lost because they run and hide during a fire. This invention is worth my time and effort if it saves just one pet," states Eicken.
Third place winner, Brenda Cole, wanted to provide a way for pets to escape in the event of a house fire and created the Home-Alone Pet Fire Escape.
"My worst nightmare is a catastrophic fire while I'm away, in which my cats and dogs have no chance to escape the house," confides Cole.
The Home-Alone Pet Fire Escape also works with any standard smoke detector, to create a pet fire release system. Cole's idea proposes the placement of the wireless device on pet doors, crates, or gate doors that would unlock and open the doors in the event a smoke detector sounds. There is no guarantee the pet would be able to escape the fire, but they would at least have a fighting chance if they weren't locked up.
The Collar Activated Pet Dish seems like a great idea to us, particularly where a number of animals have access to the same dish. Created by Kimm Kozera, the Collar Activated Pet Dish remains closed until a pet with the corresponding collar comes near (wearing a collar similar to those that activate pet doors). The pet dish recognizes the signal from the collar and opens. Kimm came up with the idea as she owns an older cat that requires a special kidney diet and a kitten that needs kitten food.
Our favourite though was Hotel Kitty, the brainchild of Michigan resident Joy Feighner. Before Joy and her fiancé moved in together she would have to haul her cat and its amenities to his apartment every weekend. It was very inconvenient so she came up with an idea for an all-in-one cat carrier. The design would be similar to a regular plastic cat carrier, but the bottom (where kitty is sitting) would be a plastic panel that can slide out when you arrive at your destination to reveal a built-in litter pan underneath; you can fill it up before you even leave. The top portion of the crate (where handle is located) would unlatch to reveal a small storage compartment with travel dishes (included) and room for food, small toys, etc. This would be helpful not only for those who travel with their pet, but to keep on hand in case of an emergency or natural disaster.
"We take pride in being the leader in developing innovative products that strengthen the relationship between pets and their owners. We are constantly seeking new product concepts that can make a difference in the lives of pets and their owners. IdeaFetch was created to provide an easy outlet for pet lovers to share their creativity. It is also no surprise that all our winners focused on pet safety. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, are drawing national attention to the need for pet rescue ideas," offers Doug Grindstaff, vice-president of new market development (a.k.a. "Chief Petrepreneur") at PetSafe.
PetSafe worked with Ideas to Go, a Minneapolis based creative-process ideation company to create the IdeaFetch contest. The top 100 winners were selected from online votes by the public and a panel of celebrity judges and PetSafe engineers chose the final top 10 winners.