Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dog Tech: Link AKC is Not for Us

We've been using Link AKC for less than a week, but I've already determined that it's not the right product for us. This groundbreaking smartcollar is supposed to be able to track your dog, help you find them if they get lost, let you know how active they are, and even alert you if they are getting too hot or cold. Unfortunately, like all new technology, it has quite a few bugs.

A Rocky Start
Large bulky smart collar attachment

The company has chosen to make Link AKC an entirely app-based product. This means the collar only works as long as the app works. I ran into a software bug two screens into setting up my account, and this prevented me from using my Link AKC smart collar for the first week I had it. Eventually this was resolved, not through a software update, but through a customer service manager taking my credit card information over the phone and handing it off to the engineering team so they could create an account for me on the back end. 

Yeah, I never got to check out the account creation process. I also learned that the entire device is one software bug away from total failure. Even once we got everything working, the number of error messages and false alerts was really disheartening.

"A Smartphone for Your Dog"

One of my wonderful readers described Link AKC as being "like a smartphone for your dog", and I cannot think of a better way to put it. Using this device feels exactly like buying a smartphone and then strapping it to my dog's collar. Think about that for a second.

Yeah. It's a cool idea. Having a GPS/Bluetooth/WiFi tracker on my dog should give me some piece of mind, but instead it just fills me with concern. Is the smartphone still attached to her collar? Did we break it yet? What if it gets caught on something out there? It's a huge chunky thing that sticks way out from her neck, and she does a lot of squirming under fences and shoving her head down squirrel holes. It also keeps sending me false notifications, which is alarming. I got two notifications that Sisci Godzilla was getting too hot, both when she was with me, cool and comfortable, and definitely not laying on the tracker or trapping heat in any way. I also got notifications that she was away when she had been sitting on my lap for an hour.

The battery life is reminiscent of a smartphone. You're supposed to take the device off your dog every night to charge it, and just hope your dog doesn't get lost at night. They recommend you charge it right beside your smartphone, which is cute, but I'd rather have this safety device on my dog 24/7.

For Civilized Dogs

I don't think the makers of Link AKC were thinking about me and my dogs when they designed their product. This thing has no business being on a dog that runs through thick underbrush and jumps into a stock tank or pond to cool off. It's great for urban and suburban families that have civilized adventures, but it was clearly not made for rugged working dogs, rough terrain, or long days outdoors.

While I'm sure the software will get better with time, I am absolutely certain we are going to break the hardware in short order. After two days the spring latches that keep the tracker on the collar mount are already moving noticeably less smoothly. I had grand plans to compare the tracking ability and accuracy of various smartcollars, but I can't justify keeping this one when we're just going to destroy it. I am using Link AKC's 30-day money-back guarantee, and continuing to look for a GPS tracker with long-lasting interchangeable batteries, durable hardware, and a low profile.

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