New Tech Helps Pet Owners Stay Connected to Their Dogs
Not just for humans anymore, buzz around the high-tech products industry surrounds new technology designed to help pet owners stay better connected to their dogs.
Smart collars allow pet owners to remotely monitor their pets’ health.
Hachiko Technologies Ltd.
As pet owners are increasingly mindful of their dog’s health and safety, the need for technological platforms that track and collaborate regarding pet care and solutions is on the rise, said Eliana Summer-Galai, director of partnerships and community for Hachiko Technologies Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“Generally we are seeing more and more high-tech products in the pet space,” Summer-Galai said. “This is an area that hasn’t seen too much innovation over the past decade.”
Designed to keep pet owners better connected and informed, advancements include Wi-Fi pet monitors, wearable cameras, and activity, health and location tracking, said Curt McLay, pet product marketing manager for Carmel, Ind.-based Binatone North America, an official licensee of Motorola.
Moving beyond a simple Post-it from dog walker to owner, these new developments allow pet owners to track where their dog is walked and for how long. With the press of a button, owners also can be notified that their dog has been fed, Summer-Galai said.
With today’s busy schedules and the ubiquitous nature of cellphones, this technology is perfect for owners to stay in touch while away from their pets, said Nicholas A. Monaco, senior product manager of communications/home monitoring for Panasonic Corp. of North America in Newark, N.J.
Countless pets go missing every year, and many pet owners have experienced this heartbreaking loss. Offering a product that provides owners the ability to find and bring a lost pet home quickly and safely fills a very high consumer need, said Curt McLay, pet product marketing manager for Carmel, Ind.-based Binatone North America, a Motorola official licensee.
With this in mind, Motorola is releasing two new pet wearables. The Scout2500 GPS pet tracker will alert users if their pet has wandered from a safe area and then track the exact location of the animal, while the Scout5000 combines GPS tracking with an HD camera, affording a dog’s eye view and the ability to record video or take pictures from any compatible smartphone or tablet using the product’s free Hubble app, McLay said. This allows pet owners to stay connected with pets inexpensively, he added.
“The GPS product addresses a safety concern and simply makes a lot of sense,” McLay said. “Who wouldn’t want to drop in remotely on their pet to make sure they are happy and comfortable?”
For those wishing to more closely align themselves with the health of their pet, PetPace’s low-power, patent-pending wireless collar is fitted with an array of sensors that report vital signs as well as numerous physiological and behavioral parameters, said Dr. Asaf Dagan, chief veterinary scientist for PetPace in Burlington, Mass.
With the PetPace smartphone app, consumers can remotely monitor their pet’s health and well-being at any time and access detailed health and behavior data and trends, and when abnormal indicators or behaviors are detected, alerts regarding the suspected condition are immediately generated, Dr. Dagan said.
“PetPace has been successful in monitoring post operative pain in patients, so pets can recover at home where they are most comfortable,” Dagan said.
Hachiko’s Smart Collar Sensor with mobile app is designed to help owners stay connected to pets by monitoring their activity and overall well-being. The sensor attaches to any harness or collar. With Bluetooth technology to measure a dog’s activity, pet owners have the ability to monitor hiking distance and see maps of their walks, said Eliana Summer-Galai, director of partnerships and community for Tel Aviv, Isreal-based Hachiko Technologies Ltd.
“We are receiving great feedback from consumers using Hachiko to help their dogs lose weight by setting exercise goals, and logging in food and treats to make sure they are sticking to a diet plan,” Summer-Galai said.
Hachiko’s intuitive app is easy to use, and information can be coordinated between various care providers to track a dog’s activity and set goals to ensure a healthy lifestyle, Summer-Galai said.
To meet the demands of consumers wishing to remotely activate appliances, lights and devices in their home, perform surveillance and monitor pets, Panasonic recently introduced the Home Monitoring System. It was originally designed to allow parents to watch their human children, but the demand for a monitoring system has been strong from the pet market, said Nicholas A. Monaco, senior product manager of communications/home monitoring for Panasonic Corp. of North America in Newark, N.J.
Four packages, utilizing both telephone and video technology, allow pet owners to add additional motion, window and door sensors, indoor and outdoor cameras, smart plugs and cordless handsets, enabling them to keep an active eye on their pets, whether alone or in the care of others. The indoor camera also lets users check room temperatures, Monaco said.
“For example, as a dog moves at home, you can have the motion sensors talk with a smart plug,” Monaco said. “If the dog walks into a dark room, the motion sensor picks up the motion and ‘tells’ the smart plug to turn the light on.”
The Learning Curve
Education is crucial to marketing high-tech products, said Eliana Summer-Galai, director of partnerships and community for Hachiko Technologies Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel.
With consumers acquiring knowledge and awareness from the Internet as a general trend, robust and dynamic content on retailer websites is an important educational component, said Curt McLay, pet product marketing manager for Binatone North America, an official licensee of Motorola, in Carmel, Ind.
Further, shoppers also are surfing for information at store shelves, McLay added. For this reason, it is important for retailers to readily display a relevant content web address, which will allow consumers to access information from their phone, he said.
Knowledgeable employees, particularly those with dogs at home, can relate their own experiences and understanding of how these products are beneficial, said Dr. Asaf Dagan, chief veterinary scientist for PetPace in Burlington, Mass.
“Product videos or demos that consumers can watch will also go a long way to helping with consumer education,” said Nicholas A. Monaco, senior product manager of communications/home monitoring for Panasonic Corp. of North America in Newark, N.J.
“This is one of the major challenges we are facing in integrating high tech in the pet space,” said Summer-Galai. “Consumer demand is growing, yet there is still a way to go in terms of education and a real understanding of the need and value of these products.”
Getting the Word Out
As awareness continues to expand in the high-tech sector, retailers remain cautious. Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., said that she first noticed these newer products several years ago at SuperZoo.
“At this time, we don’t carry anything like that, but that doesn’t mean we won’t,” Grow said. “It’s been a slow go for these types of products, but I’m noticing they’re picking up in popularity.”
Demand at this time might be geographical.
“Tehachapi is a small rural town, and practical things like healthful food and treats are a higher spending priority for most people on a budget,” said Susie Atherton, owner of Canine Creek in Tehachapi, Calif.
The high-tech industry might have some image and service issues to address before these products can take off, retailers reported.
“We don’t carry high-tech products,” said Biff Picone, co-owner of Natural Pawz, which has multiple locations in Texas. “We’ve experienced too many returns and companies that won’t take the items back, so we have had to eat the cost.”
Healthy Spot, which has locations in Southern California, has encountered some consumer interest in high-tech products; however, the retailer has not found them to be high sellers, said Andrew Kim, co-owner.
“We have carried some high-tech items, including early health detection tools, mobile fitness trackers and GPS,” he said. “They require a lot of education, and due to price point, it is often not a high conversion rate.”
However, Kim said that as wearable technology continues to proliferate for humans, he believes it is inevitable that these products will gain momentum for pets.
In focusing on the value of high-tech products for dogs and their owners, retailers can let consumers know that beyond being fun gadgets, these items are powerful tools for dog owners to ensure long, healthy and happy lives for their pets, said Eliana Summer-Galai, director of partnerships and community for Tel Aviv, Israel-based Hachiko Technologies Ltd.
“The high-tech dog industry has seen strong growth over the past few years, with more to come,” she added. “By placing a top priority on a dog’s needs, these products can help pet parents to build routines for their pets, leading to a more healthful lifestyle.”
The pet health care and premium dog food arenas have experienced enormous growth over the past decade, and those in the technology industry are hopeful that the same expansion will hold true for pet tech and wearables, said Curt McLay, pet product marketing manager for Binatone North America, a Motorola official licensee, in Carmel, Ind.
Further, because pets are unable to talk or complain about their feelings, owners are looking for ways to ensure that pets enjoy the best possible care, said Dr. Asaf Dagan, chief veterinary scientist for PetPace in Burlington, Mass.
Today’s product offerings present a wide range of uses and innovative solutions to provide better pet care, from toys and training to devices intended to help keep pets healthy, fit and happy, said Eliana Summer-Galai, director of partnerships and community for Tel Aviv, Israel-based Hachiko Technologies Ltd.
However, apart from fencing and training, the high-tech pet product category is still very new, McLay added.
“Predictions regarding pet wearables show that we are on the verge of a massive growth,” Summer-Galai said. “It’s estimated that by 2020, 30 to 40 percent of dogs in the U.S. will be wearing a smart device; this means almost 30 million dogs.”
As evidenced in social media, Vine and YouTube videos, the category is poised for expansion, said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.
However, Furry Face does not currently offer these products.
“My reason for waiting is simply price and technology related,” she said. “As popularity for this category increases, more and cheaper options will follow.”
Moreover, it will take time for a large percentage of the pet owning population to become aware of the availability and benefits of these products, McLay said.
“The good news is, with the rise of the Internet and social media, the time required for this learning curve to occur for new categories has decreased exponentially,” McLay added.
“The Internet of things industry, from smart devices to connected homes, is in its infancy,” Summer-Galai said. “What we have now will change and develop quickly over the next few years. We are proud to be one of the companies bringing this innovation into the pet space and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”