Whether it’s an unlatched gate, an open door, or a fence that’s not quite high enough, man’s best friend seemingly takes great joy in disappearing and stirring his or her owner into a panic attack.
Finding the family pet usually involves screaming its name as you wandered up and down the street or slowly drive your car around the neighborhood, peeking into the side yards of your neighbors.
The Internet of Things, however, has made those oft-humiliating searches obsolete.
The Tagg pet tracker is a GPS beacon that fits onto your pet’s collar, sending a text or email alert when they escape a predefined ‘safe zone’ – and giving you precise directions on how to track that critter down.
It’s the sort of smart technology that has caught on with pet owners since its 2013 debut – so much so that in January, the company was acquired by Whistle, another pet-focused IOT company that had been working on its own GPS locator.
“I see an enormous market when you think of digitizing the pet/owner relationship,” says Ben Jacobs, co-Founder and CEO of Whistle. ” It’s about the humanization of pets. It’s about pets becoming part of the family. … [If you’re not there,] there’s really no way to know what’s going on with your dog or cat without hardware.”
Whistle made its mark in 2013 with a Fitbit-like device for pets that tracks their activity and rest periods, with the information automatically sent to the owner’s smartphone. Beyond its novelty value, that information could prove helpful in determining when a pet is bored (and tend to be destructive) and if it needs to increase its activity to lose weight.
It’s not the only company doing that. Voyce also measures vitals like your pet’s pulse, respiratory rate and calories burned, slinging them not only to your mobile device, but to the pet’s veterinarian as well. And FitBark will also track your pooch’s activity.
They’re not cheap products. Whistle runs $100, Tagg carries a $100 initial price and a monthly service fee of $7-$10 (depending on the length of time you pre-purchase) and Voyce is a hefty $299, with either a $10 monthly or $100 annual fee.
That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, though. There are as many as 80 million dogs in the U.S. – and up to 96 million cats. And pet owners are on track to spend roughly $60 billion on their fur babies this year, according to the American Pet Products Association – a number that has doubled since the start of the century.
It’s numbers like these that raise eyebrows among investors. Venture capitalists are betting on Whistle to become a high-growth company.
Last month, the company locked up $15 million in a Series B round led by Nokia Growth Partners.
“Whistle’s acquisition of Tagg creates the clear leader in the pet care market with a purpose-built solution to monitor a pet’s location, health and activity level,” said Paul Asel, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners in a statement. “As people learn more about themselves with health monitoring devices, it is natural that they would wish to learn more about other members of their family, including their pets.”