Ginger Digest

Pet communication devices - Now watch, talk, play and feed your pets remotely

Posted on 13th Dec, 2014: Are you the kind who start worrying about or missing your pet badly when you are away at work or on a leisure outing and end up completely ruining your workday, date or movie fretting if your baby is all right? If so, then good days are here for you (well almost) – US is seeing launch of 3 devices this festive season which will allow parents to remotely keep an eye on their pets, talk to them and even play and feed them treats all via their smartphones. These include San Franciso based Petcube’s Petcube Camera, Minneapolis based Anser Innovation’s Petchatz, and San Jose based Petzila’s Petziconnect. The basic product configuration is common across all three where they come equipped with a camera to see your pet, a two way sound communication allowing you to hear your pets and speak to them and of course wi-fi connectivity and smartphone support to enable you to do all this via your phone. All the products allows you to take pictures and videos of your pets and share them online. In addition, each of these devices have additional unique features helping them differentiate from each other.

Petcube camera is about 600 gm (or 1.3 pounds) 4x4x4 inches aluminium cube which one can be placed on a table or any other plain surface and can even be wall mounted using hooks on the rear panel. Besides a 138 degrees wide angle camera which can stream 720p HD videos, a 2 way audio system, it also comes in with a built in laser which allows parents to not only watch and talk to their pets but also keep them engaged using that laser making sure they get their exercise and are not expending their energies on home furniture – all via their smartphones (currently only iOS is supported and android support would be available starting Jan’2015).Petcube app allows the parent to share access with friends and family thereby allowing them to also watch and play with the pet. Parent can also share access with other Petcube owners besides pictures and videos in effect building a community of sorts of Petcube owners. Inspiration for Petcube camera came when Alex Neskin, the founder who also happens to be a robotics enthusiast was forced to build a small device with a camera to monitor his new pup Alex who was forever barking much to the chagrin of his neighbours. Alex later augmented his invention with a small laser to keep Alex engaged and thus was born Petcube. By May 2013, the prototype was demoed and a Kickstarter campaign was launched by Sept 2013 which raised the required $100K within 6 days and ultimately ended up raising a little over $250K. After a few design changes and product hiccups, the first batch started shipping in Dec 2014. Petcube is currently priced at $199 and is available worldwide (all non-US shipping has an additional charge of $30 plus any customs, taxes etc.). The product can be ordered through Petcube’s website or via amazon.com for the second batch slated to be shipped by Feb 2015.

Petchatz comes as a wall mountable unit which can be fitted directly over the power outlet using screws thereby getting rid of wire which pets can potentially chew and also makes it almost impossible for them to dislodge the unit. In addition to a wide angle camera (a 53 degree wide-angle view with full VGA (640 x 480) at 30 fps) and a 2-way sound system the device also packs sound and motion detectors which send an alert to the phone, a treat dispenser which can controlled through the smartphone, a tracker (which enables parent to track how many treats are fed each day) along with a low treat volume notification, a scent dispenser to dispense calming scent and a LCD screen so that even your pets can see you when you talk to them. The treat dispenser are recommended to be used with Petchatz’s proprietary treats. Similarly, the scent dispenser uses proprietary scent pads though any scent can be used. The device has a ringtone alert for pets and comes with a pet training guide to help parents get their pets acclimatized to the ringtone so that they never miss a call from their parents. Petchatz is the brainchild of Dr. Mark Kroll co-founder of Anser Innovation – he is a medical technology professional who has many patents and medical device innovations to his name. Petchatz was in development for four years with shipping for pre-orders finally starting in Nov, 2014. The company promises to deliver first 1000 orders received before 1st Dec by Christmas with device becoming available for immediate shipping starting first quarter 2015 – though it is available for shipping currently in US and Canada only. The product is priced at $349 and can ordered via Petchatz’s website.

Petziconnect also comes in a wall mountable unit which can be directly fitted over the socket. It packs a 110-degree wide angle 30Fps HD camera which can deliver upto 720P video and can also capture low light Infrared videos, it has also a pet motion detection as well as treat dispenser with a treat level notification but unlike Petchatz does not come with a sound detector, scent dispenser or a LCD screen (unfortunately Petzila website does not do a very good job of describing all the salient features of the product and so this description may be missing a few features). For instance, it is not clear if any make of treats can be used with this device unlike Petchatz. Petziconnect app allows parents to connect to a social network of pet parents – Petzi Social – allowing them to share pics and videos with each other. The device is the brainchild of Simon Milner and Dave Clark – both Silicon Valley veterans who saw the gap in this space where there was no device which allowed one to watch their pets live even though there seems to be a huge demand for the same. Soon they launched a campaign on Indiegogo – a crowdfunding platform which received an overwhelming response (June/July 2013). Petziconnect started shipping in Nov 2014 for its early supporters who had contributed through the crowdfunding platform and they are officially sold out for 2014. But they will start shipping again starting January the orders for which can be placed via Indiegogo for $169 (against a MRP of $199) +$20 for international shipping (caveat – since the device is designed for US power sockets and sits on to the socket pls do check with the manufacturers on the suitability of this device for India before ordering).

We at Gingertail are very happy to see the Internet of Things picking up in pet care space while the products are primarily catering to US markets – savvy parents in India can definitely check with the respective manufacturer and get to lay their hands on these products. Though this is not really a product review as this is based only on information available via public sources – we are really impressed with bouquet of such devices. While the laser pointer in pet cube is neat innovation and will help us keep our pets engaged – the fact that it uses a wire and is a device which needs to be placed on a surface makes it prone to destruction by an over curious pet. Plus with other device already offering treat dispensation, Petcube may need to play some catch-up though it has already highlighted some of the augmentations as part of its vision for the future. On the other hand, the competition between Petchatz and Petziconnect is heating up not only in the market but also on the regulatory front with some finger pointing on patent violation from both sides – let’s hope that this will not derail these products and will keep the competition alive. When compared PetChatz and Petziconnect nicely fit on two different price points offering a different set of features besides the basic common product configuration – though based on the specifications PetChatz’s camera can do with some help! Since we at Gingertail want to have it all – we would love to see a wall mountable device with a wide angle camera, equipped with a laser pointer, sound and motion detector, LCD screen and most importantly a food dispenser besides just a treat dispenser all controllable through a mobile phone – and from the looks of it we are very close to getting one – of course when such devices would be easily available in India is another question!

Besides the three devices covered above there is another similar device which we did not cover in our story - iCPooch. This device is essentially an app controlled treat dispenser and does not have a communication components though it provides a slot where one can fit in a tablet or a smartphone which then gets integrated with the device and provide the communication interface. This device which is available for $149 is a result of a 8th grade project by 12 year old girl Brooke Martin which is what makes it so remarkable and worthy of a mention here. Let’s hope some pet loving kid in some corner of India is also working on solving this problem for us – so that we don’t have to wait for these US products to hit our market and have something Indian by an Indian for our children!!

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