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
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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 to keep pets safe, healthy, entertained and connected when their owners are away.
 
"Pet tech" entrepreneurs and investors see a big opportunity 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), 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 against relying 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., 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, take photos and even 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 veteran technology executives. They wanted to get their pets online. The startup also created a social media app that 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 that alerts owners when their pets have left their "safe zone" and helps find them if they get lost. The device also lets owners track how much exercise and sleep their animals are getting.
 
Ben Jacobs, Whistle's CEO and co-founder, 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 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, 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 (66)
  • antoniak-jen
    3/17/2016 - 02:48 p.m.

    They mey not play with their pets

  • meac-jen
    3/17/2016 - 02:48 p.m.

    How did they make gadgets for pets?

  • leaho-kut
    3/17/2016 - 03:49 p.m.

    This article was really interesting to read about. I was wondering how the person would get the treat for the dog when they are away? But the technology would make the dog really happy when they see and here there owners voice. I think that the dogs would love this because instead of laying down and doing nothing, the dog would be able to play with there owner.

  • jennaw-1-bar
    3/17/2016 - 08:06 p.m.

    The idea of watching your dog's health, and happiness will not only affect your dog but it will effect you and the pets relationship. If you are using a ?og app to track your dogs health without being with the dog is can break bonds. This idea I learned about has one pro and it is that you are to lazy to help your dog stay fit . You start to talk to your dog behind a screen which will totally break the bond between the two of you.

  • mayaw-6-bar
    3/17/2016 - 08:54 p.m.

    Technology may compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners because now, pet owners can rely more on technology rather than a person to take care of their pet, whilst they are away. If the technology were to fail, some pets may be left with no one, and it could also minimize the time pet owners spend with their pets, proven in paragraph 10, with the quote,"The Internet-connected device lets her see her dogs. She can talk to them, take photos and even dispense treats. She does it by using an app on her phone." Phones are not reliable, neither are apps due to the fact that they can crash, break, and/or get hacked. Therefore, technology may compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners because now pet owners can rely more on technology rather than on a person to take care of their pet. I enjoyed this article because I learned something new, which is that the pet industry is just getting bigger, and so is the price people are willing to spend on their pets.

  • ellerys-1-bar
    3/17/2016 - 09:05 p.m.

    Relationships with pets are often neglected for things like other humans, other pets, and technology. For the technology to be developed with this sort of goal, the bond between pets and their owners will only get weaker. With these new devices, pet owners might begin to substitute this technology for spending time with their pets face to face. As a pet owner myself, I was interested by this article, but could not ever see myself using this kind of technology. However, these devices are very impressive and would be very helpful in certain situations.

  • waverlyb-612-
    3/17/2016 - 09:56 p.m.

    Technology might compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners because it could cause the pets and their owners to not form a personal relationship. Technology could also cause pets and their owners to become distant from each other, knowing that they only need technology for the owners to take care of them.

  • darianv-3-bar
    3/18/2016 - 12:20 a.m.

    Technology might compromise the relationship between dogs and pet owners because scientists are afraid that owners might rely on the technology too much and not spend enough time with them."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." says Pamala Wyman.
    I liked this article because I love dogs.

  • paigea-3-bar
    3/18/2016 - 01:58 a.m.

    Technology might compromise the relationship between pets and pet owners because it may cause the pet owner to overuse the technology. The pet owner and pet still need some real time together. The app should just be used for when the owner is not home or is on a vacation and had to leave the dog with a sitter. The article states, "But as more pet-tech gadgets come to market, experts caution owners against relying 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." I enjoyed this article and I found it amazing how they have this dog-based technology and I didn't even know it existed!

  • aliviar-kut
    3/18/2016 - 08:07 a.m.

    I don't get how people can make there dog into a human voice. that scares me because what happens if a owner kills the dog because of it?

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