First came the internet. Then the Internet of Things. Now, it’s time for the Internet of Animals.
By: Natalie Holmes
It’s clear that 2018 is the year of pet tech: Smart, connected and AI-assisted devices that help us communicate with, train, feed and reassure our beloved furry friends. What’s more, these advances are changing the way we relate to and interact with our pets, giving us unprecedented insight into their lives, adventures and even their emotions.
We’ve compiled six of the most exciting, innovative and revolutionary technologies made to enhance our pets’ sense of well being, as well as our relationships with them both inside and outside of the home.
1. TailTalk – Canine Emotion Sensor
Anyone who’s spent some time around dogs knows that a tail wag can mean many things. Dogs use their tail movement and position to convey a range of complex signals and emotions, both to other dogs, and to their human companions. A wagging tail does not necessarily denote a happy dog. A stiff, slow wag, for instance, can sometimes mean the opposite — dominance and possible aggression. A slow wag with the tail at ‘half-mast’ can be a sign of insecurity. But unless you’re a dog whisperer, knowing exactly what your dog wants to tell you with his tail can be a challenge. Plus, some of the more subtle movements are not necessarily discernible to the human eye.
That’s where DogStar’s TailTalk comes in. Attached snugly to your dog’s tail, the smart device captures movement and translates it to the emotions our dogs are expressing, based on the latest behavioral science research. Information is sent via bluetooth directly to the owner’s app, giving them the power to make decisions that improve their dog’s life — whether that’s removing him from a stressful situation or spending more time on activities that make him happy.
2. Whistle – Animal Activity Monitor
For a pet owner, a lost animal is one of the most dreaded situations. Whistle 3 is a smart activity monitor that records both location and activity. It uses GPS, WiFi and cellular technology to give constant coverage, but it’s more than just a location tracker. The small, lightweight rectangular device attaches to your pet’s collar, and sends alerts whenever your four-legged friend leaves his safe area (which you setup in advance — your home, for example, or your garden). It’s also a bit like a FitBit for animals: You can check activity levels to see whether your pet needs more exercise, with recommendations based on data such as age, weight and breed.
3. Petcube – Camera and Treat Dispenser
Taking care of a pet brings so many joys and benefits. It can also come with a sobering dose of guilt. Life gets busy and complicated, and sometimes it means you can’t spend as much time with your animal companion as either of you would like.
Petcube has a range of products that help solve this heartbreaking problem. Petcube Play lets you monitor and interact with your dog or cat through a high-definition camera and two-way audio. On the human side, it all happens via a smartphone app, so you can engage your pet remotely, by operating a laser toy or simply with the soothing sound of your voice.
If your four-legged friend is more motivated by food than play, Petcube Bites flings treats. You can dish out rewards when you’re not at home to reassure or reward your pet. The camera, of course, is always on, ensuring that the treat is deserved, and not encouraging bad behavior.
4. CleverPet – Remote Dog Trainer
CleverPet is the world’s first game console for dogs. Some dogs have active, intelligent minds that need near constant stimulation. They are clearly at their most content when solving a problem or engaged in a challenging game.
The device is a domed plastic hub with lights, touchpads and a built-in stainless steel treat dispenser bowl. Dogs operate the hub with their paws, learning light and haptic sequence games designed by cognitive scientists, and receiving rewards in a process of trial and error. The smartphone app lets you track your dog’s progress, as well as control food output, change games and schedule playtime. Early adopters have written glowing reviews of this product, noting the feelings of satisfaction in seeing their dog get to grips with the games.
5. Furbo – Camera, Trainer and Food Dispenser
Furbo combines a number of the above technologies, with added AI capabilities. The camera lets you see, talk to, and throw treats to your dog remotely, again via a smartphone app. In addition, Furbo uses image recognition algorithms to detect increased activity, which could signify your dog is restless and in need of attention or exercise. The smart software can also tell when your pet is facing the camera, so you can snap the perfect selfie!
6. Tallio – Smart Cat Litter Tray
Technology can glean useful information from the most unexpected sources. Tallio‘s smart cat litter tray monitors your pet’s weight and elimination patterns to gauge wellbeing, and warns you of any health issues that may otherwise remain dangerously hidden. Cats can’t tell us if they feel unwell, and many health problems come on gradually, so this device is a lifesaver. Located underneath the litter tray, it measures your cat’s weight, amount of waste, frequency of visits and behavior, before analysing the data and sending reports to your smartphone. If you have more than one cat, the device can even tell the difference between them. Finally, you also receive reminders when it’s time to clean out the litter tray.
With these innovations, the days of wondering what your beloved fur baby is doing while you’re at work are over. Fusing behavioral science, advanced hardware and intelligent software, pet tech can help us understand our animals’ needs and enable us to be there for them in ways that were previously impossible.