Episode Rewind: What’s New with Pet Wearables

Pet wearables keep popping up into the market. It’s definitely the hottest trend in the pet industry at the moment. Naturally, we find it irresistible to investigate this topic. We’ve looked at some pet wearables on Pet Lover Geek before, but we wanted to dive a little deeper into the pet wearable market and analyze some of the most recent and trendy devices bubbling up to the market’s surface. Here we will give you the inside scoop to the WonderWoof, KYON Pet Tracker, Nuzzle, and a quick overview of the types of pet wearables you’ll find on the market.

WonderWoof

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Image from WonderWoof

WonderWoof is one of the coolest and stylish looking pet wearables on the market. It’s a ridiculously cute device shaped like a bowtie. I just can’t STAND the cuteness! Anyhoo, the WonderWoof can help you keep track of your dog’s fitness activity. Using the companion app, you can monitor your dog’s fitness data, set goals, collect badges for meeting those goals, socialize with other dog owners in the area, and even schedule play dates. Not only can it do all this, but the data from the device can also be shared with others caring for your pet via the app. Now you can keep track of all the lunges your furkid does with the dog walker, as the data uploads to walker’s app through the Bluetooth connection. Oh, and one other thing, if you got two or more dogs, the app will allow you to connect to all the WonderWoof bowtie devices to a single account. Nifty!

The market today is flooding with pet activity tracking devices, so what makes the WonderWoof so special? Well on our Pet Wearables episode on March 4, the founder of WonderWoof, Betsy Fore, came on the show and told us the brief backstory of the conception of the WonderWoof. Her dog, Whiskey, was suffering from weight problems and there were no pet tracking devices on the market for her to use at the time. However, there were activity trackers for people and Betsy personally owned one for herself. She came to the conclusion, “why don’t I own one of these devices for my dog”?  Once that question popped up, it led her to the solution of creating a pet activity tracker. On the show, Betsy humorously mentioned the original WonderWoof bowtie that actually happened to be a massive box the size of Whiskey’s head. Poor Whiskey, he probably would’ve preferred a cone. Despite the likely embarrassment Whisky felt from wearing the original bowtie, he lost weight and reached his goal weight in two months, adding the possibility of extending his life up to two years.

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Not the original bowtie. Image from New Bloggy Cat

So how does the WonderWoof stands out among other pet activity trackers? Well for starters, the device looks like an adorable and glamorous accessory to add to your dog’s collar. Other pet wearables don’t look nearly as cute as the WonderWoof bowtie. Most pet wearables are bulky round growths sprouting from your pet’s collar. Of course, functionality is most crucial, but aesthetics do play a role in what we are willing to put on our pet. Consider the original bowtie poor Whiskey dealt with, it got the job done but not in the most appealing way. Let’s be honest, we buy with our eyes. If it doesn’t look good we’re likely not going to buy it.

Besides looks alone, the WonderWoof bowtie claims a heavy retail presence compared to most pet tracking devices. Meaning it’s a lot easier to  purchase a WonderWoof  out in stores or on common online markets compared to several other pet activity trackers you can only obtain from the company’s website. You can find WonderWoof bowtie at any Petco in the U.S., Best Buy in Canada, Amazon.com, Harrods in London, Story in Manhattan, and of course Wonderwoof.com. 

As for you cat lovers out there, Betsy hinted at the upcoming launch of the WonderMeow. The WonderMeow isn’t focused so much on the cat’s activity levels so much as it’s interested in the cat’s curiosity. The device at launch will contain a camera that will allow you to capture your cat’s adventures and edit as well as upload the videos to your social media. There are devices out there that are similar to what this device sounds like, but it will be exciting to learn more about the details when the WonderMeow launches in the future, especially what visual appeal the device will take form in.

KYON Pet Tracker

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Image from KYON

We discovered the KYON Pet Tracker from Amy Tokic back in January. She attended the Consumer Electronic Show 2017 (CES17) and shared about all the new pet wearables she came across at the show. She briefly shared with us the KYON Pet Tracker which we found exceptionally fascinating, and so we invited Leon Yohai, the founder of KYON, on the show. Leon gave us the inside scoop on what makes KYON Pet Tracker standout from the other trackers in the market.

Alright, let’s analyze this tracker that looks as futuristic as a Daft Punk helmet. First off, this collar holds a lot of tech inside. It contains an accelerometer that collects data from your pet’s movements to help determine their mood. (Aside — I really don’t buy the whole “this collar knows if your dog is happy or sad” because it’s just monitoring movement, and the same movement that might denote more than one thing. For my two cents, the jury is out for me on THIS feature and its efficacy.) A heat sensor that will alert you through an app if your pet becomes overheated, or perhaps better stated, if the AIR around them becomes too warm. Why is it important to make that distinction? Well, if my dog is stuck in a house with a broken A/C, or worse, a hot car…then this monitoring feature makes sense.  But my pup loves to sleep next to the heating grate and in front of the fire — and her tush gets pretty toasty there. When she gets as warm as she is comfortable, she gets up and moves — but my guess is that a device isn’t going to know the difference between the hot blowing air of the heater and the stiffing heat of an enclosed car in summer — context is EVERYTHING (kind of like the “mood” monitoring). 

 

According to the manufacturer, the tracker can alsoendure submersion in water and also contains a water sensor that can determine when your dog takes a dip.  This is a pretty cool feature — but I’m curious if it knows the difference between swimming in a body of water and being out in a heavy rain? An ultrasound buzzer can be found tucked inside the collar that rings a high-pitched sound that can discourage unwanted behavior such as constant barking and acts of aggression. Lastly, it contains tracking technology such as Bluetooth, GPS, 3G, GSM, and even an altimeter to determine the elevation your dog may find herself standing on.

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Image from KYON

Okay, the collar contains a lot of tech but just how does it stand out amongst competitors exactly? Well, the device weighs about two ounces despite containing all that tech inside. The battery life can last between 15 to 30 days depending on how often the features are fully engaged. It contains a techy and modern style with its LED lights that will display basic messages such as “I’m lost” and “I’m hot”. It looks like a gadget you would get a quick glimpse of on science fiction movie like Back to the Future. It also comes with a base station that can detect barking and activate the ultrasound module within your dog’s collar to discourage excessive barking while you’re away. Leon mentioned the tracker contains another feature that can determine deformation in the collar to alert you that the collar’s too tight or caught on something.

For those of you interested in learning more or even purchasing the KYON Pet Tracker, visit: http://www.kyontracker.com/index.html. KYON Pet Tracker is available for pre-order for a retail price of $249. However, keep in mind the cellular subscription which will add a 4.99 monthly fee afterward. The tracker is set to launch sometime in April this year.

Nuzzle

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The last device we dug into on the show was the sleek new pet tracker created by Nuzzle. This fancy-schmancy device holds similar technology we saw in other pet trackers such as GPS, Bluetooth, and 3G cellular network. It’s capable of tracking your pet’s activity, monitoring temperature, and can detect an impact. You don’t need to worry about the device from breaking easily as it can endure a good swim and clings to a collar made of the durable material of nylon. Speaking of the collar, if you’re not a fan of Nuzzle’s orange and purple collar you can detach the Nuzzle from the original collar and latch it onto your pet’s current collar or harness. Another nifty little feature on the Nuzzle is the LED light you can activate on the device through the companion app. Trust me, a light attached to your dog makes your dog a lot easier to spot at night, especially if you live in remote wooded areas like I do (trust me, it’s not as creepy as it sounds).

To see how this device stacks up against similar devices on the market, Chris Walker, Nuzzle’s Chief Marketing Officer, went over how the Nuzzle came into being and what makes it special. The Nuzzle was born from personal experiences the team at Nuzzle experienced with lost pets, as well as, the alarming user cases coming from problems with relying on microchips as means of getting a lost pet home.  The team partnered up with AT&T for cellular coverage, a company called Ammunition to design the light-weight durable hardware, and a few app gurus to build a fun, easy-to-use companion app. Throughout development, team Nuzzle stuck to the 10X rule, as Chris explains: if the product is not ten times better than what’s out on the market it’s not worth doing it at all. The team then focused on working and challenging their friends at Ammunition to develop a well-rounded product, and conducted several tests to make sure the Nuzzle can solve the lost pet problem better than any other tracking device on the market.

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So just how exactly does the Nuzzle stand out? Three things for you: no subscription, two rechargeable batteries, and pet insurance. Most trackable devices we mentioned here on the blog and the show contain a subscription fee to cover the cellular coverage within the device. Nuzzle doesn’t believe subscription fees should complicate the security of a beloved pet, so once you buy the device you’re all set. Now the battery life on the Nuzzle doesn’t last as long as some other pet wearable companies’ claims for their devices. Its battery life lasts at most 5 days. On the other hand, the Nuzzle offers two batteries to the consumer that they can easily swap without removing the device from the collar — and that is KEY, because every time you have to remove a device to recharge it, that leaves open a window of opportunity for your “security naked” pet to get out. While one battery powers up the Nuzzle the other one charges on base station awaiting its turn to power up Nuzzle. Lastly, one very interesting thing about Nuzzle is the pet insurance they offer. They teamed up with Embrace Pet Insurance and together they’re trying to make insurance easy to obtain, transparent, and most importantly more affordable. I’m super-duper curious to see how that relationship plays out and if it can indeed change the pet insurance industry significantly.

Wearable Overview

Activity Tracker

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The primary purpose of an activity tracker is to keep track of how much your pet moves and at what intensity. Some devices on the market include:

Health Monitoring Devices

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Image from San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association

These devices focus on collecting data about your pet’s health to share with your veterinarian as well as alert you to potential health issues. Some devices on the market include:

I want to add some thoughts to health monitoring devices in general as these devices tend to get mixed reviews. With the recent demise of Voyce, there is speculation if there is even a market for pet health monitoring devices. It should be taken into account though, that consumers don’t necessarily want to invest in new technology trends as soon as they come out. Even veterinarians tend to have mixed reviews on these devices as they must learn and adapt these devices to their clinic practices. Despite all this, I believe these types of devices will appear in the market more and more as time goes on, and consumers (and vets!) will finally start to integrate these devices into their daily lives and health care approaches.

Location Trackers

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Screenshot of a fictional tracker from the video game Alien Isolation

These devices are meant to help track down your pet in the event your pet goes missing. A lot of these devices use a variety of different technologies to help locate your pet quickly and effectively. Let’s break this down further and start off with trackers you should avoid.

Avoid This Type of “Tracker”

Trackers that solely rely on Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth only works when you’re within range and can pair with another device that has the same technology. These tracking devices work well if you know the missing item or thing is nearby such as your keys or your briefcase; yet, they won’t work well with your pet who can bolt off from your Bluetooth radius. Here are some of the devices you should avoid relying on to locate your pet:

Use Radio GPS Collar Devices

These are usually really rugged devices — pretty big and best for larger dogs — perfect for dogs out hiking, hunting dogs, dogs in rural/forest type of situations that might not have great cellular coverage.  They work with a separate base device, or hand-held GPS radio receiver.  They don’t require any sort of subscription, but they are pricey.  For example, the Garmin Astro 320/T5 bundle is almost $500 — but it’s a tried and true device — and highly rated.

OR Cellular GPS Collar Devices

GPS trackers that use the same sort of technology your cell phone uses for tracking location. These devices have really come a long way, so don’t judge them on some of the devices that were out 3 or 4 years ago — the location tracking is much closer to real time, the durability is much better, the SIZE is smaller and better for more size and breeds of pets — even cats — GPS trackers are vastly improved in the last few years.You can find several of these devices as they keep popping into the market.

Standing on a Soapbox

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I want to conclude by addressing all you pet parents out there. Do not rely on these devices to solve all your problems. Sure the clever marketing states it can do this, that, and the other thing, but in reality, it won’t solve all your problems.

If your pet is overweight, a pet tracker alone won’t help your pet lose weight. You, the pet parent will need to set-up a healthy diet for your pets, watch how you’re feeding them, get them exercising, and investigate and address any health issues they may have. The pet activity tracker can only help you set goals and keep track of the progress of meeting those goals.

A health monitoring device may collect basic data about your pet’s health but it’s no excuse to not see a vet. These devices can’t record all the data about your pet’s health and they may not always be accurate. You can’t replace lab tests, x-rays, CT scans, and quite frankly your own observations with a health monitoring device.

As for tracking devices, do not take them for granted. These devices have batteries that can die, can fail to obtain cell coverage in some areas, and can contain a limited range. I’m not saying that tracking devices are impractical or don’t work, but I am saying that tracking devices should not be the only thing you rely on to help get your pet home. The more safety nets you set-up, the more likely you’ll be reunited with your pet if your pet becomes lost. Some safety nets to consider would be an external ID tag and a microchip. Do not rely on just one safety net because if that one fails there is no other net. Tracking devices can die, external tags can fall off, microchips are not easy to scan for information in some situations. If one of these solutions fails, the other one will be there to back your pet up.

Okay, off the soapbox now. Take care pet lovers, we’ll see you in the next rewind article and the show.

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