Earlier this week, news articles began to surface rapidly about the chilling robbery of Lady Gaga’s two french bulldogs, with their beloved dog walker shot four times during the incident. Shortly after the event, Lady Gaga pled to their captors on national news outlets to safely return her pets, offering an outrageous monetary reward to ensure their return. I couldn’t help but be a little bit surprised that a pet owner with seemingly endless resources wouldn’t already utilize some sort of location tracking device for their pet. While GPS technologies for pets are becoming increasingly widespread, there is a whole other realm of digital tools and technological advancements in the pet industry. Here are some thoughts on the latest and greatest technologies for our furry friends.
Wagz is a wearable smart dog collar integrated with a mobile application to benefit both dogs and their owners. Think of it like a fitbit or apple watch for your dog! First, the technology is comprised of GPS location tracking, as well as shock free geofence technology sothat owners can create virtual fences to keep their dog away from unsafe areas. Another feature includes the ability to track your pet’s activity and temperature, even providing the opportunity to correct a pet’s behavior if they are acting out or barking incessantly. I think this is a great product, and the user reviews are quite strong. The ability to create a virtual “fence” or keep your pet in and out of certain locations provides piece of mind to owners when dogs are off leash. In addition to tons of outdoor uses, I can only imagine how helpful this technology could be with kids at home. If a child is eating or playing in a certain room, and you need to keep your pet out of reach – the ability to quickly barrier your pet could be really helpful.
Another new digital technology is PetChatz, a digital daycare for your dog! This new technology doubles as both a two-way video communication device for pets and their owners, as well as a treat dispenser. The unique thing about this device, is that your pet can actually call YOU using a little paw button, an atypical aspect of this device vs. the typical pet cameras on the market. One major benefit of PetChatz is that it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety that pets might feel from being at home alone. It even streams ‘DogTV’ and diffuses aromatherapy to help ease your pet’s mood and anxiety. While these tactics might be super useful for an owner with an anxious pet, in the current COVID environment, a ‘facetime-esk’ device seems a bit unnecessary. Furthermore, I see one fundamental issue with this technology…most pets can’t recognize us on tablets or screens! Rover stated in an article that most pets have a hard time recognizing people on videos due to flicker sensitivity. They can make out people and animals when still in photographs, but it’s very difficult in video.
Possibly the most surprising new digital technology for pets is CleverPet, a gaming console for dogs (photo in bottom left). This gaming hub mission is to not only capture your dog’s attention while their owner is at work, but also to harness the full potential of animals and enrich their lives through gaming and puzzles. The hub will challenge your dog’s mind with a focus on the science of animal behavior. They use three principles described in the image below: associative learning, the law of effect and adaptive training. This technology is quite unique – my dog is highly food motivated, and I can see Milo picking this up quickly if there are treats involved. In reading on the company website, one other part of their mission is to allow for better communication and understanding between humans and animals. They believe digital technology can help to make our bond stronger – which is a quite humanizing outcome of this technology!
It’s worth noting that sales in the overall pet industry has grown rapidly, both in typical offerings (i.e. food, accessories, vet care, etc,) and in the tech space through the advancement of digital technology. The rise in pet ownership has been driven by the millennial population, with three of every four millennials owning a pet in the US. My hypothesis is that this growth in millennial ownership is also a key driver of the digital evolution that we’re seeing in the pet industry.
In researching, I do think there’s one very obvious offering missing in the pet digital technology space. There’s very little evidence of social integration across wearable devices and applications in the current wearable options (i.e. Wagz). For example, I was surprised to find that none of the devices noted above allow for networking between pet owners in their area. I would have thought such functionality would be a ‘no brainer’, as the Wagz wearable device already collects GPS and activity details for all pets that are utilizing their device. This information could be used to connect pet owners in similar areas that might be interesting in meeting up for a playdate. The application could also use data on each pet’s typical walk schedule to match dogs of similar sizes and walk schedules. I’m sure there are some privacy implications with this added functionality, but I’d imagine it’s relatively easy for users to opt in/out of such a program.
Thankfully, Lady Gaga’s two dogs were returned shortly after their capture, but I wonder if she’ll be adding a wearable security device to her pet’s collar to ensure they continue to remain safe. After hearing about the tragic story, it’s something I am considering for my pet as well, and I am curious to know about fellow pet owners…
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