It's clear that that we love our dogs, cats, birds, and fish. In the US, the American Pet Products Association expects that $60.59 billion will be spent on pets in 2015 -- although we remain more generous to our species. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans donated $358.38 billion to human charitable causes in 2014.
But that doesn't mean we neglect our furry friends. In fact we don't: Pet owners are spending more. The market for pet products has grown by 25% from five years ago. One reason may be that pets can't say no when you give them a wearable device. They make the perfect guinea pigs for testing wearable products, even if they're a different species entirely.
Some of these products enable pet owners to spend money for occasions when they can't spend time with their pets. Petcube, a WiFi-enabled camera for watching pets left home alone, comes with a laser that can be controlled remotely to entertain animals from afar. Maybe that's a good thing, or just the next best thing for those who can't be there in person.
Petcube began shipping a year ago and has since gained an Apple Watch app, to watch pets on a watch.
When you can't be there to walk your dog, there's Swifto and Wag, to name just a few of the tech-enabled dog-walking services. The companies organize dog walkers the way Uber or Lyft organize drivers. Both Swifto and Wag promise that they screen their dog walkers. Hopefully, they do it well. Technology isn't the same thing as trust.
But pet technology doesn't have to be an apology for not being there. It can be fun, entertaining, informative, and protective.
Arguably the most useful pet technology is a GPS tracker. Few things are more upsetting to pet owners than a lost animal. There are a variety of decent options for locating pets: the Pod 2 GPS WiFi + Pet Tracker, Whistle, and the Tractive GPS Pet Tracker, to name a few. But really, it would be nice to find a device that's small enough for a cat (the size of a dime would be ideal), has enough power for several days, and can communicate directly with a smartphone without a cellular data subscription.
Yes, that's asking a lot. Findster could be getting close, if it ships as promised in February 2016. And Loc8tor looks like a good short-range option. The Trackr might be worth looking into, but the number of negative Indiegogo comments is troubling.
It may be that we just have to wait a few more years before the state of the art advances enough to allow the creation of a tracking device that isn't too bulky and doesn't require a monthly fee. In the meantime, we have some fascinating pet-oriented technology products to consider.
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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
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