LAS VEGAS — The last day of the 2014 International CES found me in the Eureka Park Zone. For new companies looking to establish in the consumer electronics space, Eureka Park provides startups with a unique exhibiting opportunity to launch a new product, service or idea. Among the over two hundred amazing new products and ideas in the zone, two displays caught my attention above the others: FitBark and Petzila both target dogs and dog owners. Perhaps it was because I was missing my Golden Retriever, Morley on this trip, but I was intrigued by their approach to the internet applied to dogs.
Petzila combines a video camera and speaker mounted in a doggie treat dispenser. It is designed to plug into a household power outlet putting it at a good height for easy access by the family pup. The app also allows the owner to call the dog using the built in base station speaker and see her via the video camera. The treats are dispensed remotely by the dog owner using a mobile smartphone app.
FitBark is an activity tracker for dogs. Housed in a small bone shaped waterproof unit that clips to the dog’s existing collar, it is light enough to be worn by the smallest of dogs. It enables the pet parent to better understand and manage their pet’s health and communicate accurate metrics and aggregated data to veterinary care givers.
FitBark co-founder Davide Rossi believes dogs to be amazing creatures. According to Rossi, “Simple, smart technology can make dog parenting even more fun and informed. Applying human fitness tracking technology to the dogs is a great starting point, but we need to make sure that all that technology is placed in the right context – that of the dog parent. Activity monitoring is about understanding your dog better rather than encouraging competition. And to create a product that dog parents will love, we thought hard of how we naturally interact not only with our dogs, but also with the rest of the family.
“We designed the FitBark experience to make you a great dog parent. We seamlessly collect data that helps you understand the health and the behavior of your dog, so you can take better care of her. If you’re a dog, your human will enjoy new insights that will help her understand you and bond with her better – in relative and absolute terms. For example, your dog parent may be able to spot when you’re not feeling well if there’s a sharp drop in your FitBark activity levels. In other words, your human will finally start to understand what you’ve been trying to tell her.”
Fitbark is easy to use and virtually undetectable by its canine wearer. According to Rossi, the Fitbark collar module is “an incredibly tiny and comfortable bone-shaped device with an accompanying free mobile app. The FitBark activity tracker records physical activity 24/7. When it’s within the Bluetooth 4.0 range of an authorized smartphone or a FitBark base station, it pushes all the data to our servers. We interpret all that data and send it back to the smartphones of the owners and friends of your dog, who can visualize the data in a simple, colorful way and comment on trends and patterns together.” Friends are chosen by the dog parent and included in the private social network component of FitBark. Rossi sees this service as an important piece of the overall FitBark value. “Niney-one per cent of Americans consider pets equal members of the family – and I believe Canada is not too far from that statistic” says Rossi. “Dogs are family. This is why we designed a mobile app that revolves around the dog parenting experience, and this is why our core app includes functionalities such as a journaling system, a messaging system, and simple to do list. FitBark also helps you make smarter health care decisions for your pet, allowing you to share your dog’s activity report with your vet or trainer. How has she been doing in the past 24 hours, or the past 90 days? Finally there’s a way to provide an objective answer to that question, or to monitor how well your dog recovers from sickness or surgery.”
According to a recent government of Canada survey there are over 5 million dogs in this country. In the USA that number is 83.3 million. Given our boomer demographic retirement wave, I expect these numbers to increase in the years ahead and if my Golden Retriever Morley is any indication, those dogs can expect to be treated more and more like members of the family. All of this bodes well for companies like FitBark and Petzila and I expect the number of products targeting the internet of dogs and pets generally to increase significantly at next year’s International CES.