If you’re a millennial, you’ve probably owned, or have considered owning a furry friend. The interesting thing is that millennials are having children later than baby boomers and previous generations, and more millennials are taking up pets as a temporary alternative to children. In doing so, these tech-savvy “youngsters” are completely reshaping the pet care world with a newfound dependency on pet tech to expedite the once time-consuming process of caring for something that has similar needs as a child.
What is pet technology?
The pet technology industry is not a new one – pet tech technically constitutes innovations like automatic doggy doors, automatic food dispensers, fancy toys, etc. – but a noticeable boom in pet wearables and tracking devices is emerging, and millennials are embracing it with open arms. How do I know? I was a part of it. Three years ago, my friend and I started developing a product called the CollaRadar, a device which could track pets using GPS, stop them from running away with built in deterrents like high-frequency speakers and vibration warnings, track their fitness, and connect them to the Internet. While this may sound cutting edge, dozens of other pet companies were making products with these types of features – we just did it comprehensively, in one package, for less money, and with more functionality. So what implications do these new technologies and digital pet ecosystems have for today’s millennials?
The Benefits of Pet Technology
First, pet tech will make people smarter about how they care for their pets. More specifically, pet wearables will make these new owners the most educated generation of pet owners yet, soon possessing the power of a veterinarian within a device the size of a dog collar. Trackers like the CollaRadar enable pet owners to proactively monitor their pet’s activity, sleep, and location, and with the addition of analytics, they’ll always know what behaviors to correct and how to improve pet health.
Second, pet tech could, unfortunately, have the unwanted side effect of separating animals from their owners for longer periods of time, with pet owners feeling greater security and peace of mind due to the new ability to keep tabs on these animals 24/7. Just as babysitters let new parents have an occasional night on the town, knowing the babies are under the watch of a responsible adult, pet technologies like automatic food dispensers and pet trackers will enable millennials to potentially avoid feeding their pets and taking them for walks. Current electric fences allow pets to roam around the backyard unattended, without these escape deterrents, letting pets roam the backyard could potentially lead to their running away. Unfortunately, some pet owners mistake this new ability to roam the backyard as a substitute for walking pets. Existing technology like the invisible fence (a subterraneous wire laid across the perimeter of a home, which elicits a shock on a shock collar if crossed) has caused a pattern of owners not walking their pets because they have a false perception that enough walking occurs in the backyard. The advent of GPS-based trackers will curb this behavior, only if the trackers set suggested exercise levels and send alerts when the daily walking threshold is not met.
Third, preventable diseases will drastically decrease with tools like Petnostics. This new platform allows anyone to take a urine sample and immediately know the status of a pet’s health. For $10, a host of diseases and conditions can be tested for, and the results can be sent to a veterinarian for further insights. With today’s world feeling like a time crunch, anything that saves a trip to the veterinarian or cuts hundreds of dollars out of a urine test will surely replace inefficient existing pet care infrastructure.
So what’s the takeaway? People need to embrace this pet tech boom. Wearables, automated doggy cameras and food dispensers, and mobile health checkups will soon be the gold standard. We track ourselves with Fitbit and Apple Watches, so why not track our pets? Let it be known, though, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. People need to remain grounded to the qualities inherent in good pet owners – a commitment to unconditionally caring for pets, and consciously making time for bonding and exercise. Technology certainly increases security and safety, but nothing will ever replace the human part of the equation. Big things are coming – get excited!
About the Author
Dean Dijour is a high school entrepreneur, investor, and leader. Most notably, Dean pitched his company, Collarator, to judges on the new show "America's Greatest Makers", after working for months with Intel and UC Berkeley to create the CollaRadar, a device which not only tracks pets but also stops them from running away. Dean will continue learning finance, computer science, and entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, for the class of 2020.