Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dog Tech: Failed Smart Collars

I first read about "smart collars" before "wearables" was even a buzzword, before smart watches and FitBits were everywhere. They sounded AMAZING. Also, EXPENSIVE. I can't remember the first technological marvel I read about, but I do remember that it was supposed to be priced around $300. That may have been ten years ago, I'm pretty sure it was before we all had smart phones and smart everything else. Before the days of crowdfunding. Simpler times.
Just a regular dumb collar.
Photo by Erin Koski

I don't know if either of those "smart collars" actually made it to market. They were both supposed to monitor your dog's heath and activity, but I don't think they included GPS tracking. Since then, the world of wearables has expanded exponentially, and the idea of a smart collar that can monitor, track, and locate your dog has become much more reasonable. So has the price point for such technology. Crowdfunding is now a realistic way to get your dream project off the ground too, which opens up the doors for small startups and individuals with vision.

Unfortunately, not every dream becomes reality, and while delving into the world of pet wearables I've encountered a surprising number of failed products. Let's take a look!


Dogtelligent was an ambitious Indiegogo project to develop a Connected Collar. Features included an ultrasonic whistle noise, remotely triggered vibration, virtual fence and leash options, tracking, temperature monitoring, and bark control, all with 14 days of battery life, for under $200. It got a lot of press, and was originally set to ship in November of 2015. Then the ship date got pushed back to September of 2016. Finally the entire project was abandoned after two years, despite raising $136,332 from nearly a thousand backers.
What went wrong? It seems the project started with a really big idea, and all of the funding went towards development. Dogtelligent failed to secure funding for actual production. I'm told that a company needs to produce something like 20,000 units to get the best price for components and stuff. Unfortunately, many of the backers were led to believe that there was already a developed product, and they were just funding production, so there are a whole lot of angry would-be Dogtelligent customers.


Voyce was a health monitor collar designed to collect diagnostic data like heart rate and respiration, Tracking was not one of its features. This one actually made it to market, and began shipping in early 2015. It included the ability to interface with veterinary software. The collar cost around $300, and required a $10 monthly subscription fee,
What went wrong? Voyce shut down in December of 2016 after failing to make any kind of profit. People weren't buying it. I suspect the price and the subscription fee turned a lot of people off. As many have mentioned, human activity trackers don't require a subscription fee.

Zazu PetLink

Zazu PetLink was supposed to be a sleek, small, brightly-colored tracker and health monitor. They planned to offer a very different sort of subscription, paid on demand and only when you needed it. Despite having over 1000 preorders by summer of 2015, the company appears to have missed their April 2016 ship date. Their Facebook page has not been updated since then, and the company website is still announcing an April 2016 ship date and accepting preorders.
What went wrong? This company is based in Colombia, and I haven't found anything explaining their dropping off the face of the earth. There might be some sources that I haven't found because they aren't in english.

PetTronix RomEO Seekr

 The PetTronix RomEO Seekr was a GPS collar with a handheld tracking device and no subscription fee. It offered active tracking and a virtual leash, and did not require a cellular signal to work. It looks like they had a successful product, and were planning to release an updated one.
What went wrong? I have no idea what is wrong with this company, but they missed their spring 2016 release date, and are no longer responding to people on social media.

Beagard Activity Collar

Beagard was an activity monitor collar that could run for months on a single battery. The collar interacted with a smart phone app. The company was supposedly running a prototype and was ready to start manufacturing completed units in 2015.
What went wrong? It looks like the Beagard Indiegogo campaign only attracted six backers.

Those are my favorite failed pet wearables. There are a few more that may or may not come to fruition, but I've learned not to hold my breath. Have you heard of any others?

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