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October 8, 2018

The tagline for the new Wagz Explore Smart Collar sums up the role of pet technology and wearable IDs generally, as it touts “a completely connected lifestyle,” monitoring and connecting owners to their pets 24/7 when they are eating, drinking, sleeping and playing—and being able to do so from anywhere.

Apart from offering activity and nutritional monitoring, precise GPS tracking and temperature alerts, the Wagz Explore Smart Collar also offers customized geofence zones, an invisible leash, streaming video as well as bark and lost pet alerts.

“The Wagz Explore Smart Collar not only tracks your pet’s whereabouts inside and outside when you are not home but keeps them safely by your side on walks with its invisible leash feature,” explained Colleen Daigle, vice president of marketing for Wagz Inc. “It also uses artificial intelligence found in popular smart home assists like Amazon Alexa to connect pets and give them a voice.”

And there are more products on the way from this company to complete the connected lifestyle, such as a smart water dish and Wagz Roam Smart Tiles, which will keep pets off certain items of furniture and create other no-go zones in the home. They already have a smart food bowl, but the company recently acquired the Petzi Treat Cam dispenser that allows pet owners to reward their pets from afar, too.

A Community Effort

One way to remain connected is for pet owners to unite within their own communities so that neighbors collectively become the eyes and ears to report the activities of neighborhood pets should they stray from their home environment.

The new kid on the community block targeting the community pet ownership spirit is Pawscout, the brainchild of Aaron Lamstein, co-founder of Worldwise, Inc.

“There has been no innovation in pet tags in over 100 years until now,” explained Lamstein at a special press conference to unveil the new PawScout tag that fits easily onto collars of different sizes. The tag works in conjunction with a smartphone app to help pet owners keep track of their pets and utilizes the community buddy system by encouraging pet owners to build their own Pawscout community to keep their pets safe. Should a pet stray, an alert goes out and those in the immediate vicinity have an excellent chance of helping to quickly locate the pet. The tag is a one-off purchase and has no subscription fees and can be further customized with a pet’s name and other relevant information.

“Pet specialty stores are a critical component and, in fact, are the backbone for building securer communities with the aim of safe-guarding our pets,” Lamstein said. “Consequently, we have made a considerable investment in educating pet store owners and their store associates about how the Pawscout technology works, highlighting the important role they play within their own communities. The smartphone app also connects pet owners to hundreds of pet-centric businesses within their area, helps to keep digital medical records and can track pet walks. And there are more features on the way.”

Apart from hands-on workshops around the country to engage with pet specialty store-owners, Pawscout has also launched a special educational website called the Pawscout Academy to make the information accessible to retailers nationwide. The tags are sold on free-standing and counter displays designed to be placed close to registers.

Ed Kaczmarek, co-founder with Dan Gaughan of the Urban Pooch Canine Life Center and the Urban Pooch Training & Fitness Center in Chicago, Illinois, pride themselves on being on the tech bandwagon from the beginning of this trend.

“I strongly believe in the benefits of pet tech products and am always trying to bring in items to test and learn,” Kaczmarek said. “In fact, I often reach out to entrepreneurs if I see mention of a new pet tech product, as I love to be first to bring new ideas to our stores that I know pet parents will enjoy using and benefit from with regard to their pets.

“One of the products we currently sell is the FitBark 2 activity monitor. It’s a gadget that excites customers and definitely drives pet tech interest. The technology has certainly evolved since products first started coming out. But nevertheless, pet tech is not for everyone as it requires set up and charging and there’s also the price point to take into account,” he said.

Keeping Tabs on Pets

PetHub, launched by Tom Arnold and Lorien Clemens in 2010, is a lost pet recovery system that uses QR code technology on the tag to link profiles listed on the PetHub recovery database.

“When PetHub first launched eight years ago, we met with quite a bit of skepticism about using technology with a pet ID to help improve a lost pet’s chances of getting home quickly,” said Clemens, vice president of marketing and operations. “However, as we continued building our suite of lost pet recovery tools and refining our ID tags, more and more people caught on. Our digital ID tags link to a free online profile and free 24/7 Found Pet Hotline that allows anyone to help the pet get home quickly.

“Over 96 percent of PetHub-recovered pets are home in less than a day, more than 35 percent in less than four hours, and less than 2 percent ever hit a shelter’s doors,” she said. “Although building our community was slow at first, we are now growing so fast! Our pet ID tags are used in over 160 communities across the US as part of pet licensing and rabies tag programs, and thousands of pets are added to the PetHub pack every week.”

While the basic service is free, Clemens added that most of their members upgrade to the premium subscription service offered, which issues the equivalent of Amber Alerts for lost pets. The subscription service that costs $39 a year also offers features such as the Social Share that allows pet owners to create a virtual lost pet poster to be shared on any social media platform and text messaging, sharing GPS data where a pet has been located.

“The digital ID and wearable tech space for pets is getting quite crowded, although everyone has a slightly different angle,” Clemens said. “Our approach is to make a technology pet identification solution that is affordable so that all pet parents can afford it and it’s easy for anyone to use and help a pet get home quickly.”

For pet owners keen to play “I Spy” on their pets and see what they get up to and where they go when the dog walker takes them on an outing, the ultra-light Pet Data Recorder from Eyenimal records a  pet’s geographic coordinates and includes time and date information.

“This data may be uploaded for easy review on any computer using a USB cable,” explained Cindy Woudenberg, spokesperson for the company. “The recorder has a rechargeable battery that lasts for eight hours in active mode or 48 hours in standby and comes with a two-year warranty.”

Eyenimal also manufactures the Pet Vision Live HD digital audio video camera which enables unlimited monitoring of both cats and dogs from anywhere using a smartphone or tablet.

“This technology is also designed for pet owners to help them identify annoying behaviors and be able to explain them better to a veterinary behaviorist,” Woudenberg added.

Whistle GPS and Activity tracker, one of the first to impact the pet tech space and now owned by Mars Petcare, has— like all tech products—undergone many changes as technology has gotten smarter, most importantly reducing the size of the wearable device.

The third-generation model is 50 percent smaller than the original gadget and weighs .92 ounces, making it comfortable for smaller dogs. The influx of such wearable gadgets on the market has brought the price down, too. It was $120 when it launched more than five years ago and now sells for $79. And it’s gotten more colorful—the original wearable was only available in grey.

“Now it’s available in blue and green, too,” confirmed Elizabeth Chow, senior account executive for the company. “In line with current tech trends for humans, it’s become a more stylish-looking device to track your pet.”

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