Pet Tech Watch 2021: Smart Devices Serve Up Benefits for You and Your Pets

By: Todd WassermanPublished:

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Chewy Studios

Pet Tech Watch 2021: Smart Devices Serve Up Benefits for You and Your Pets

Last year was a tough one for many industries, but the pet tech market was not among them—particularly when it comes to smart devices for pets. According to market research firm Packaged Facts, “smart” pet products—which it classifies as using WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS or RFID (radio frequency identification)—was a $555 million category in 2020, up 13 percent from the year before.

David Lummus, pet market analyst for Packaged Facts, sees the growth of pet tech as an outgrowth of the digitization of our human games and toys.

“It’s basically just sort of a natural evolution within the pet market as it is in the human market,” he says. “With more people using smartphones, more people online, more people become more comfortable with automation.”

While there’s no standard definition of smart products, the Harvard Business Review notes that they are “complex systems that combine hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, software and connectivity in myriad ways.” Smart pet products cover numerous categories and provide a range of benefits that make them an attractive option:

  1. They give your pet more autonomy. For example, the PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor uses radio-frequency technology to let your pet enter and leave as they please via a SmartKey worn on your pet’s collar.
  2. They give pet parents more autonomy. Products like automatic feeders and automatic cat litter boxes allow pet parents to be away from their home for extended periods of time.
  3. They keep your pet safe. Trackers on dog collars use GPS to discern the location of your dog so they don’t get lost.
  4. They keep your pet company. The Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy offers up to 20 different expressions to engage your dog when you’re away.

Even as pet parents increasingly incorporate existing high-tech smart pet devices into their lives, new game-changing offerings continue to hit the market. Check out these finds from CES 2021, the Consumer Technology Association’s annual trade show held mid-January in Las Vegas:

  • The Chamberlain MyQ Pet Portal, which lets your dog open a pet door via a sensor on their collar. A “request” mode will alert you when your dog wants to go out and let you open the portal remotely. Available for pre-order.
  • Sniffy Labs’ Sniffy App, a dog-training app that provides customized, professional dog training support for new dog parents. Available now for iOS and Android.
  • Petpuls’ AI-powered smart collar, which uses voice-recognition technology to track five different emotional states in pets. In what seems like a product plucked from a Pixar movie, the collar translates those states to let you know what your pup is saying. Available for pre-order.

Interested in adding tested-technologies to your pet-centric house? Here are some we recommend to save you time and trouble:

Automatic Feeders

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Automatic feeders are ideal for pet parents who might be away for long hours or who have a busy schedule. The PetSafe Smart Feed 2.0 Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder lets you schedule up to 12 meals a day in advance. It’s compatible with the Amazon Echo, so you can use Alexa to feed your pet, and it has a Slow Feed setting that lets you dispense food over a 15-minute period, for those that eat too fast. Many pet parents have commented on the device’s ability to feed pets in the morning, letting them sleep in. “It is a lifesaver and I get to sleep in past 5 am!” one Chewy pet parent reported. Another option for about half the price is Arf Pets’ Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder, which lets you schedule up to 4 daily meals. It’s not WiFi-enabled, but you can record a message to call your pet to dinner!

Automatic Litter Boxes

pet tech - automatic litter boxes
If you plan to be away for a long period of time, or if you want some help with litter box maintenance, then you might consider an automatic litter box. Litter-Robot’s WiFi-Enabled Automatic Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box and Accessory Kit automatically sifts through cat waste and separates clean litter up to 15 minutes after usage. Interactivity with your phone means you can check waste drawer levels, troubleshoot and check the usage history to get important insights into your cat’s health. Another option for about half the cost is the ScoopFree's Smart Covered Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box, which automatically rakes waste into a special compartment 20 minutes after use. It also monitors you cat’s bathroom habits, which you can track on an app.

Pet Cameras

pet tech - pet cameras
Pet cameras have been around for awhile, so a key differentiator these days is connectivity and awareness of its surroundings. For instance, the Furbo 1080p Full HD Dog Camera connects to your mobile device and has a barking sensor so when your dog barks, you receive push notifications to your smartphone. The device also lets you toss a treat to your dog and talk to your dog via the app—a prime benefit for pets showing signs of separation anxiety. The camera doesn’t rotate, but offers a 160-degree wide-angle view. A less-expensive option, the Wyze V2 Pet Camera, is a fraction of the Furbo’s price and doesn’t offer as many features, but has pretty solid reviews. Reviewers praise the V2 for being a solid choice for those on a low budget.

GPS and Activity Trackers

pet tech - high tech pet collars
Just like humans are sporting wearable smart devices, such as fitness trackers, so too can pets. These are mainly in the form of GPS monitors that keep tabs on your pet’s whereabouts, although some also track your pet’s activity levels. The Fi Series 2 GPS Tracker Smart Dog Collar, a chargeable device, does both. Compatible with iOS and Android, this high-tech pet collar tracks your dog’s location and includes a pedometer, which tracks your dog’s steps. Pet parents can also receive alerts every time your dog escapes. You’ll need to purchase a subscription to locate your pet if they are outside of the range of your smartphone, Fi base or WiFi. Another option is the Cube Bluetooth Smart Tracker, which attaches to your dog’s collar and has a 100-foot Bluetooth range.

High-Tech Pet Doors

pet tech - high tech pet doors
The pet doors of old were merely a hole in the wall covered by a flap. One obvious shortcoming was that anything of a certain size could enter. Smart pet doors improve upon that model by recognizing your pet’s implanted microchip or other identifier. The Cat-Mate Microchip Cat Door can work for up to 30 cats and installs into most doors, walls or glass panels. Similarly, the PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor uses radio-frequency technology to decide who gets in and out. That door recognizes a SmartKey worn on your dog or cat’s collar and accommodates dogs up to 100 pounds.

High-Tech Pet Toys

pet tech - interactive pet toys
It’s difficult to keep a pet entertained when you’re not there or when your attention is needed elsewhere (like when you're working from home). While some pets are happy to entertain themselves, others need a bit more stimulation. Interactive pet toys can help. For cats, you might consider the SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Electric Motion Toy, which keeps cats entertained with prey-like movements. For dogs, the iFetch Mini Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy is designed to provide both mental and physical exercise. Once they learn how to drop the ball into the launcher themselves, they can engage in independent play (although you should always supervise playtime).
From feeders and pet doors to trackers and toys, pet supplies are getting smarter. Keeping pets happy and healthy has never been easier thanks to advances in technology.

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By: Todd WassermanPublished:

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