Intelligence of Things

How Pet Tech Can Create Smarter Pet Owners

From monitoring a pet’s activities and health to re-ordering supplies, IoT and AI are fueling a pet commerce market already valued at nearly $70 billion. In the January Intelligence of Things Tracker, Yaroslav Azhnyuk, CEO of smart pet tech device maker Petcube, tells PYMNTS how AI and IoT could reshape commerce for pets and the merchants who want to sell to their owners. Also, find the latest rankings of 250 top IoT providers and news on connected tech that sizzled at CES.

Connecting with friends, family and other humans around the corner or around the world is easier than ever before, thanks, in large part, to the Intelligence of Things (IoT). Now, smart devices are being used to build stronger connections between humans and their pets, too.

One such company offering connected pet care products is San Francisco, California-based Petcube, which recently launched a new service enabling pet owners to stay connected to their pets — even when they can’t be home to feed or play with them. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Yaroslav Azhnyuk, Petcube’s CEO and co-founder, discussed how the company uses IoT-enabled devices to help improve pet-owner relationships.

Remote and remote-controlled pet care

Azhnyuk believes connecting pets to the internet goes beyond helping owners keep an eye on their four-legged companions. It also gives those pets a voice and enables them to better communicate with their human friends at any time of the day.

That belief is reflected in Petcube’s product lineup of devices that facilitate real-time communication between animals and humans. The Petcube Play product, for example, features a Wi-Fi enabled HD camera allowing pet owners to watch their pets via webcam and communicate through a two-way audio system. It also includes a laser pointer that can be remotely controlled — allowing pet owners to stimulate their pets by having them chase the pointer’s red dot around the room — and a video subscription service called Petcube Care that can record videos of pets to be saved or shared on social media.

Petcube’s collection of products and services are meant to do more than just dispense food so that pets get fed on time, Azhnyuk explained. They are also intended to foster relationships between pet owners and pets by opening a real-time line of communication. The goal is to help humans monitor their pets’ well-being using IoT connectivity.

New market opportunities

In August, Petcube launched its newest service, one that aims to help pet owners play with and even train their furry friends from afar.

Known as Petcube Bites, the latest offering allows pet owners to watch their pets through an HD camera and speak to them through a speaker. The device can dispense treats remotely, allowing owners to “fling” treats toward their pet from their smartphones if it can correctly perform a trick or obey a command.

“Owners can play with them like they’re playing Angry Birds,” Azhnyuk said.

As more treats are dispensed, sensors in the device can alert owners through a smartphone app that supplies are low. Owners can then order new treats through Amazon Dash Replenishment Services from their mobile apps. This, in turn, creates additional revenue opportunities for pet food vendors, Azhnyuk explained.

“We’re seeing these devices dispense a lot of treats, and that drives value for our pet food partners,” he said.

Using AI to build smarter pet devices, care

Azhnyuk sees additional opportunities for the company’s products to help owners care for their pets beyond just interacting through real-time lines of communication, though. Down the road, connected devices like Petcube’s could also be used to monitor a pet’s health — even while its owners are away.

To that end, the company recently began researching potential applications to introduce AI and machine learning capabilities into its devices. These applications could one day be used to track pets’ motions and behaviors, and indicate if a potential health issue is being detected.

For example, if the AI system notices that a pet did not move around much during the day, it might indicate that the pet is feeling sick. Or, if a dog is panting excessively, it could detect symptoms like dehydration, which often indicate a bigger health problem.

While these applications are in their early stages, Azhnyuk believes they could help pet owners become smarter about how they care for their pets.

“I think, in a couple years from now, these devices will completely change the nature of pet ownership and enable us to better understand our pets,” he said.

‘Pet humanization’ in the connected age

The most recent pet ownership study by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) noted that 85 million families (68 percent of all U.S. households) own a pet, and more and more of these families are viewing their pets as family members. In fact, a 2016 survey found 95 percent of pet owners see their pets as part of their family, up 7 points from 2007.

With new developments in the connected device market, the trend of “pet humanization” is poised for further growth — adding more connected devices every day in which pet owners can invest, Azhnyuk said.

“We think of these devices as smartphones for your pets,” he said. “You would want your kid to have a smartphone to be able to be in touch with them, [and in] the same way you [can] have contact with dog and something that helps understand them better.”

As connectivity in the IoT ecosystem gets stronger, Azhnyuk believes smart technology will help strengthen the bonds pet owners share with their furry companions. For pets waiting at home wondering if their human buddies have disappeared, these connected devices will help make the wait for their return a little more bearable.

About The Tracker

The Intelligence of Things Tracker™ showcases companies that are leading the way in all aspects of the Intelligence of Things. Every month, the Tracker examines what these companies are doing across the ecosystem and in several categories, including Personal, Home, Retail, Transportation, Wearable, Mobile, Infrastructure, Data and more.

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