Smart collars help keep an eye on your dog's health and location
July 29, 2013
Human beings aren’t the only ones donning ever-more powerful wearable electronic devices. Our four-legged friends have an increasing array of smart collars from which to choose. Two cases in point are the Whistle, an exercise tracker for your pooch, and Tagg, a GPS tracker designed to ensure your beloved pet doesn’t end up in the lost dogs’ home.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) there are approximately 80 million dogs in the US alone, with nearly 40 percent of households owning at least one dog. In fact, there are actually more households in America with dogs than households with kids, so it's no surprise that we're seeing a growing number of devices aimed at this market.
Whistle is a wireless based sensor device that attaches to your dog's collar and passively collects data about your pet’s activity and resting periods 24 hours a day using movement-sensing accelerometers. It doesn’t track steps or calories like human fitness trackers such as the Fitbit and Nike+ Fuel band, but instead measures time spent active. It then synchronizes that data wirelessly with a smartphone or computer via an app.
When the app is first installed, users must sync the Whistle device to their iOS device. Currently, Whistle is only compatible with iOS devices, however, the creators tell us that an Android app is on its way. When it is within 33 ft (10 m) of the tracker, the synced iOS device will commence downloading data that allows the dog's activity levels to be monitored over time.
The software compares dog activity data to norms based on factors such as breed, age, and weight, whilst also looking out for any deviations or anomalies. It contextualizes the data into activity patterns and plots them along graphs. It is able to distinguish between different types of activity using existing veterinary research to differentiate owner-instigated activity versus activity that happens when the dog is alone.
The tracker is useful in ascertaining things like how often a dog may have been walked while left in the care of someone else or if your pet is especially active when, for example, the mailman drops by. It could also pinpoint restlessness during a sleep cycle possibly caused by itching and scratching.
Whistle's creators are working directly with veterinarians and are planning on providing a portal for vets to see information about their patients. Additionally, owners will be able to create printable reports that can be brought along to their pets’ annual checkups.
The tracker weighs 16 g (0.5 oz) and measures 38 mm in diameter and 10 mm high. Battery life is around 10 days and an LED light will display when it needs topping up. This is accomplished by placing the device in a magnetic docking station.
The Whistle is now available for pre order retailing at $99.95 and there are no monthly subscription fees.
Tagg is a pet tracking device that uses advanced GPS, an accelerometer and cellular wireless technology to provide insight into pets’ day-to-day activities and whereabouts. It was first launched in September 2011 as a means to ascertain whether your pet strays from a pre-defined "Tagg zone" and email or text you if this happens. Additional activity tracking was added in October 2012 allowing you to monitor your pet’s daily runs, walks and sleep time much in the same way that Whistle does.
The tracker attaches to your pet’s existing collar and if your pet strays from the Tagg zone you can sign into the pet tracker system from your smartphone or computer and locate your pet.
To give a snapshot of a pets’ activity over a 24-hour period, the tracker assigns “Tagg Points” based on the intensity and duration of activity. Owners can set a benchmark for desired daily activity levels and review the Tagg Points to see if the dog is meeting its recommended daily activity level. In addition to charts that detail a pet’s activity level for each 10-minute period, owners can track their pet’s activity on a daily, weekly, monthly and 90-day timeline.
The Tagg Pet Tracker is available for $99.95, but also carries a monthly subscription fee of $7.95 for the location and activity tracking capabilities.
Other optionsOther notable additions to the marketplace include the FitBark, which recently reached its funding goal on Kickstarter and is due to begin shipping before the end of the year. Similar to Whistle, it will monitor your dog’s activity levels over time, but is shaped like a bone.
There's also GEODOG and the less expensive SpotLite that track your pet wherever they go.
If you don't just want to see where your pets are, but what they're up to when you're away, Dogtek's Eyenimal might appeal. It is a wearable camera for cats and dogs that records their adventures.
Another recently launched product designed to help keep your dog active is iFetch, which is an automatic launcher for a smallish ball. If your dog can be trained to drop the ball back into the caddy after retrieval, the launch mechanism automatically engages thus offering endless fun and exercise for your dog even when you are not around.
The rapidly increasing market for pet-related products highlights the fact that owners consider their pets family members and won't hesitate to spend money on them, especially if it keeps household members healthy and happy.
The Whistle Activity Monitor and the Tagg Pet Tracker are detailed in the following videos.