High-tech for pets keeps animals safe, healthy and connected In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, photo, Russell Gipson Shearer displays the Whistle pet tracker, a GPS-enabled device, on his dog Rocket at Dolores Park in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
High-tech for pets keeps animals safe, healthy and connected
Lexile

Technology isn't just for humans anymore. It's also for their furry friends.
 
In California's Silicon Valley and beyond, a growing number of new companies are selling devices. These keep pets safe, healthy, entertained and connected when their owners are away.
 
"Pet tech" entrepreneurs and investors see a big opportunity. This is as pet ownership grows and owners show a willingness to spend serious money on their four-legged companions.
 
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. households, or 80 million homes, have pets. Americans spent more than $60 billion on them last year. That is according to the American Pet Products Association.
 
"The number of pets in the world is growing extremely fast. And that opens up the market," said Peter Harrop. He is chairman of IDTechEx. It is a technology market research firm. "I'm sure five years from now there will be all sorts of things we can't imagine."
 
Already, there are devices that let your pets call you (PetChatz). There are devices that let your pets play games and win treats when they're home alone (CleverPet) and even speak with a human voice (Petspeak).
 
But as more pet-tech gadgets come to market, experts caution owners. They should not rely on them too much.
 
"The technology can be useful as an adjunct, a way of enriching your relationship with your pet. But certainly not a substitute for time spent with your dog," said Pamela Wyman. She runs the DogEvolve training school. It is in Oakland.
 
The Petzi Treatcam lets Anne Ryan check on her dogs Oscar and Reggie at her home in Berkeley, Calif.  She does it when she's working in San Francisco or traveling out of state.
 
The Internet-connected device lets her see her dogs. She can talk to them and take photos. She even can dispense treats. She does it by using an app on her phone.
 
"I turn it on, get to see them, get to talk to them and it changes my mood. And puts me back in a positive frame," said Ryan said. "I didn't know that I needed it. But now I don't think that I could live without it."
 
The TreatCam was created by San Jose-based Petzila. The company was founded by two technology executives. They wanted to get their pets online. The startup also created a social media app. It lets owners share pet photos.
 
"All of the most current crazes and fads in technology were touching everything but the pet," said CEO David Clark.
 
Whistle is a new San Francisco company. It sells a GPS-enabled Pet Tracker. It alerts owners when their pets have left their "safe zone."  It helps find them if they get lost. The device also lets owners track how much exercise and sleep their animals are getting.
 
Ben Jacobs is Whistle's CEO and co-founder.  He said the pet-tech market is expanding fast. Pets are moving up the household hierarchy, he said.
 
"From the yard to the home to the bed - the dog is no longer out as part of the farm. But they're actually sleeping in bed with you as part of the family," Jacobs said.
 
For owners who want their dogs and cats to be more active during the day, the Petcube Camera lets them see and speak to their pets. Owners even can play with them, using a laser pointer.
 
Petcube's Ukrainian founders started the company in Kiev. But they moved its headquarters to San Francisco. They wanted to reach a global market.
 
"If we can connect all the pets to the Internet and basically digitize this space, it will be nothing short of disruption," said Yaroslav Azhnyuk. He is Petcube CEO and co-founder. "It will be very big."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How might technology compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (39)
  • mattl-bel
    3/17/2016 - 01:59 p.m.

    The technology might help train the dogs.

  • sophies-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:02 p.m.

    If you lost your pet then you can see them or if they're lonly you can give them a treat.

  • elliew-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:05 p.m.

    Well if there away they can still talk to there pets and feed them.

  • jolenec-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:05 p.m.

    The technology compromise the relationship between them because now the owner might become lazy because they have a phone to do there work for them.

  • jenniek-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:08 p.m.

    Technology can help try and train the dogs.

  • silverc-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:08 p.m.

    They could talk together, but I hate the whole idea, I think it is really dumb and cats and dogs probably won't enjoy being spied on. And also it could be very uncomfortable to wear.

  • sarahj-bel
    3/17/2016 - 02:10 p.m.

    Technology might compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners is by you can click a button to give the dog a treat or if your somewhere else you could see them.

  • paytonn-ver
    3/18/2016 - 09:17 a.m.

    Next thing you know we might not even have real pets! We're going to have robotic dogs or something. What has the world come to! I do but don't like all the technology stuff. It's just weird

  • allig-ver
    3/18/2016 - 03:24 p.m.

    I think it's cool to be able to see what your dogs doing while your gone on vacation or at work. It lets you know your dogs not getting in trouble. Also to be able to track your dog if they get lost will really come in handy one day.

  • caleb-hym
    3/23/2016 - 09:08 a.m.

    I think could change the relationship with dogs and owners by making technology that trains the dog and its actions so the dogs and the owners can be nice.

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