In most cultures around the world we are beginning to see a global interest in animals and pets around the globe. With all the positive feelings which watching, reading, or hearing about someone’s pets has caused a growth in the popularity of social media content about pets. This growth has been in traditional media for a while now, for example the 2012 BBC program Horizon – The Secret Life of the Cat, where they attached cameras and GPS trackers to 50 cats in Surrey. This program gripped the nation as it gave us a nosey insight into what our pets get up to when we are not looking.
Is it any surprise then that an entire category of technology has come out to scratch that itch the aforementioned program was building on? GMInsights report on the industry states that “Pet Tech Market size accounted for over USD 5.5 billion in 2020 and is set to grow at 22% CAGR from 2021 to 2027.” But what exactly is pet tech and what is causing this momentous boom?
One of the largest areas of this pet tech is the wearables area. While a lot of media has focused on the growth of human wearables with the drive towards smart watches and other wearables being advertised these days, less time is spent focusing on the wearable market for pets and animals. The most common item which pet owners all end up buying is a collar for their pet to give contact information in case the pet gets lost, or to help know where your pet is through the attachment of a chime or a bell. This idea has been built on to produce many different smart collars you can buy for your pets.
There are many different applications this type of smart collar can be used for. The most common use of this technology in pets which we see comes in the form of GPS tracking. These collars sometimes can be linked to a smartphone app which can give you live updates on the GPS location of your pet. This has the benefits of being able to track down your pet if it has managed to run away or escape. This also gives you the benefit of being able to be nosey and keep a track of where your pet goes at night, and see if any neighbours have also been feeding your cat!
Using a collar like this for its GPS capabilities doesn’t come with its drawbacks however. Firstly, despite this technology being useful to track down a pet which has gotten out, it doesn’t offer much protection from pet thieves as they could just remove the collar from the pet. This is why it’s always important to get your pet microchipped, just to offer some more peace of mind for you as a pet owner. Microchipping is where you place a small chip under the skin, usually under the ear, which has a unique code registered within a national database. Also, in doing research for this topic, it seems the scientific consensus on the accuracy of these devices widely vary, but for most uses, the precise exact location of your animal isn’t the most important concern.
Any use of GPS technology means privacy can be a concern for people; with all new technology making its way to market, discussions about safety and privacy need to be taken. With the ever growing rise in pet-napping, some pet owners may feel unsafe putting a GPS locator on their pet unless it could make it easier for someone to steal them.
A further use for these smart collars are for recording a pet’s health information, to help keep track of how active your pet is, or how much time they spend exploring around compared to their time spent sleeping. This can be used in a similar way human wearables are currently starting to be used by tracking key health information about your animal which could open the door to better treatments through the vets with this information. Whilst any extra health information you can get about your animal, this system could be co-opted similar to how health insurance is now giving smart wearables to humans and calculating their premiums directly from their health. Whilst on paper this might sound like a fairer system, opening the door to bespoke treatment for your pet, this could also be used in exploitative means where the cost of insuring your pet could be dependent on your animals actions.
Another example of pet’s wearable technology is the smart wearable cameras. A lot of the features of the GPS collars mentioned earlier can also be found in these types of technology, with some products even utilising a camera and GPS to offer you a more complete product. As aforementioned in the introduction, many pet owners are fascinated about what their pet gets up to when they are not there. This has led to a growth in pet monitoring devices. For house pets which don’t really go outside unattended this has grown into home use cameras and motion sensor trackers to give you a live feed or updates to your pet at home when you are out and about. For outdoor pets however the curiosity can grow even more. These products attach a small camera to the collar of your pet and either record it to an onboard storage solution like an SD card, or by remotely uploading this footage to a server somewhere to be accessed at a later time.
The growth of this technology has seen an increase in the number of Youtube videos focusing on following the life of pets when their owners are away, the amount of videos of this style, and the number of views they achieve show the popularity for this style of content.
As the industry grows year on year it’s worth looking at the future innovations we could see. On the side of the health benefits we could see an advancement in the level and options of care and treatment from animals by being able to collect health readings from the animal for a prolonged period in a home setting. This type of advancement could lead to vast improvements in the health and wellbeing of animals, however we do need to remain wary of the concerns raised above about the ability for this type of technology to be adopted by pet insurance companies and open the door to conditional treatment.
Another area in which we could see the wearable Pet Tech market expand is through the coupling with Virtual Reality. As we have noted above, the societal interest in animals has grown more and more public with the growth of social media, so it’s only a logical step to assume that the VR experiences which are going to be built in the future might aim to put behind the eyes of some animals. This information could be collected through attaching the camera wearables to the animal to collect enough data to start building and simulating this world.
With all this new and current innovation in this sector, one notion is clear, the advancement of this technology has the potential to bring joy to the owners of pets using this tech, and the general public as an audience to see the content possibly produced through this technology.
Nathaniel is a Web Design Executive who also writes content on technology and loves spending his days researching and building new projects, and generally complaining about new trends.