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June 1, 2015

According to Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, the pet industry continues to outpace most other retail segments. And now in 2015, one of the reasons for this situation is the growing number of Gen Y pet owners (18-34 years) entering the marketplace.

“This generation likes high-tech gadgets like pet cams and electronic health-monitoring collars and convenience products to take their pets with them or care for them while they’re gone,” said Vetere. “This has really opened the door for innovation in products and services within the pet industry.”

Health and Activity Monitors

Wearable pet technology is trending and fast becoming the most talked about category in the pet space. Apart from the fact that it appeals to tech-savvy pet parents, it also taps into the fact that these wearable gadgets allow owners to stay connected to their pets 24/7, thus ultimately enhancing the human–animal bond.

“As devoted pet parents, we will do whatever it takes to ensure our dogs live long, healthy and fulfilled lives,” said Jeff Noce, president of i4C Innovations, Inc., manufacturers of the Voyce health and wellness collar, which is available in three sizes.

“Voyce provides pet parents with a health and wellness experience as it monitors a dog’s key vital signs, activity levels and other key wellness indicators and then syncs the data to the personalized member portal revealing trends that can be accessed anytime and anywhere through an Internet-connected device,” he said.

The member portal also provides tailored articles and advice specific to your dog, a symptom checker, goals, medical reminders, medical record storage and more. Pet owners can then share their dog’s personal health information with their network of caregivers, such as their veterinarian and dog walker.

Whistle’s Activity Monitor, which offers pet owners a similar snapshot of their dog’s daily fitness goals, recently acquired Tagg, the GPS tracker that was originally designed and brought to market by SnapTrack, Inc., a division of Qualcomm.

“Acquiring Tagg will help Whistle accelerate along our product roadmap, which had included plans to introduce a similar product offering in 2015,” explained Ben Jacobs, Whistle president and CEO. “There are technical achievements on the Tagg devices we’re really excited to bring on board, specifically in mobile GPS tracking, development of the longest-lasting battery for wearables and new ambient temperature sensors.”

The recently launched Motorola Scout 5000 collar is the first device of its kind with a built-in camera.

“The built-in camera combines the ability to see and record what your dog sees. It also has two-way audio communication, allowing you to talk to your dog and hear him bark back,” said McLay.

Another unique feature is the collar’s bark detection mode, which sends an alert to the owner if the pet is barking too often within a fixed time period to warn that something may be wrong. The collar also allows owners to set up a geofence safety zone and activates GPS tracking technology if the pet leaves the area.

Easing Anxiety

SmartPetLove has taken the same technology they use in their Snuggle Puppy to ease anxiety and stress in puppies—namely, the simulated heartbeat of an adult dog—and has placed it in their Safe and Sound dog harness. It’s available in four sizes to accommodate dogs weighing between five and 80 pounds.

“A high percentage of dogs end up in shelters because of unresolved anxiety issues that manifest as really bad behavior,” said Bob Thorne, SmartPetLove’s president.

“Dogs are pack animals. Our harness offers a natural solution by providing another ‘real-feel pulsing’ heart to offer comfort in times of stress and anxiety. The technology is located in a pocket on the front of the harness and will also help deal with a fear of thunder and other loud noises, as well as feelings of loneliness. And, being a harness, it has the built-in benefit of being a safety restraint in a moving vehicle, too,” he added.

Smarter Feeding

Wearable technology is also helping to reinvent the food bowl.

Wireless Whiskers is a smart food bowl from the Encaya Corporation, headquartered in Florida. It allows owners to control the amount of food each pet can eat in a multi-pet household. Thus, it works as a weight-loss tool, prevents one pet from pigging out and eating everything and can also be programmed to keep dogs out of cat food bowls and vice versa.

“The feeder’s AutoDiet wizard works by measuring how much each pet eats over the first three days of use and then takes an average for each pet and automatically sets their daily allowance,” said Steve Whelan, president of Encaya. “Thereafter, without doing anything else, a pet can eat up to its set allowance, then the feeder will lock them out for the rest of the day,” he said

“The feeder has many advanced programmable features, such as the ability to spread the allowance throughout the day and will even send an alert if a pet is underfeeding, which could be a sign of illness,” said Whelan.

The wearable tag only weighs 1/5 ounce and is fully waterproof. The bowl is suitable for all cats and dogs up to 20 pounds.

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