Dogs don’t have credit cards nor bank accounts but as there are 83 million of them in the U.S. alone- they represent significant buying power of those who care for them. Approximately $60 million is spent annually by pet owners in the U.S., about a third of that on medical costs. The desire to keep man’s best friend safe and healthy by leveraging technology is nothing new-  we have seen automated dog food delivery systems, gps tracking collars, and even dog treadmills. And the advent of wearable technology, in combination with big data software, represents a significant opportunity to gain new insights into and potentially improve the health of mans’ best friend.

/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/dog_307001.jpgOne of the most innovative pet products in the market today is Whistle– a pet-monitoring device developed by a start-up in San Francisco. Think Fitbit for Fido. A stainless steel tag embedded with an accelerometer registers your dog’s every move and feeds you the data via a smartphone app. The half-ounce device, which costs $100, clips to a dog’s collar and can tell an owner whether the dog has been asleep all afternoon or chasing its tail. The device has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy radios, which it not only uses to send its data payloads to the internet and your smartphone, but also for proximal location. For example, Whistle knows your dog is at home if it’s connecting to your house’s Wi-Fi network, and if it’s also detecting your smartphone’s Bluetooth signal it knows the owner and dog are together.

But Whistle claims their device can do more with that data than tell you whether you’re playing enough fetch with Fido. Whistle’s accelerometer data could be used to detect whether a dog is demonstrating an abnormal behavior pattern or has fallen ill, CEO and co-founder Ben Jacobs reported to GigaOm. The company is working with two veterinary schools as well as a pharmaceutical company to test whether Whistle can glean patterns from its data that would show whether an animal is having a seizure or experiencing pain.

Whistle is also thinking beyond the individual dog and owner experience and exploring possibilities of impacting dog’s health at a macro level.  Their team has been working with leading veterinary schools to create a comprehensive database of dog health information. It works to determine what a dog’s optimal exercise and sleep levels should be based on breed, weight and age, and then compares them to a dog’s actual activity patterns. Dog owners can access all of that data through a web interface, and track activity on a smartphone app. They can also use the software to send or print out reports for their vets.

Wearable technology- for those of us with two legs and our friends with four- has gained huge momentum over the past 18 months. This is only the beginning of the innovation to come. And the potential to impact our health is significant- there are infinite possibilities, ranging from curing diseases to newfound motivation to lead healthy lifestyles.

Check out my blog on my personal experiences in developing a health lifestyle with wearable technology and follow me on twitter @celiabrown

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