Kyle Riordan | Research Analyst
June 09, 2014

The Connected K-9


Basha the dogThis post originally appeared on Mashery's Strategy Services team blog.

I’ll admit, not being from Silicon Valley had left me a bit skeptical of the whole “quantified dog” phenomenon. I mean, was this really something people were starting to do?  I love my dog, but I don’t need daily read outs of her activity on my phone.  It’s not really a big mystery to me; when I’m not there she mostly sleeps (that is after all how most dogs spend the majority of their time) and when I am, she enjoys her walks and play.  And for those who ask, “Well what about people with dogs that are overweight?”  I suppose you may have something there.  I’m a big believer in the idea that healthy dogs are happy dogs but I still fail to see how an app telling me that the pooch is at rest helps me correct this inactivity.  Unless that app has some way of making the dog want to get up and run around, the benefit of that information still eludes me.  To me, the remedy is seemingly pretty straightforward; if the dog is overweight; less food, more exercise, some combination of the two and if that does not work ask your vet if further tests are warranted.  Maybe I’m just too narrow minded or simplistic in my views of our K-9 friends or maybe there has just been something missing from the value proposition. 

It seems now though that Whistle may have an answer to this last point.  That answer is provided through what it is calling an “evolution” in its product with the WhistleGPS.  No longer will the monitor and accompanying app merely track your dog’s activity, now it will actually track your dog; as in its location.  That’s a value proposition I can get behind.  Sure you can always chip your dog, but not all those chips provide real-time location and many require someone actively scanning the dog to verify identity.  And besides all that, it’s pretty invasive on the pup.  With this update from Whistle you can always know where your dog is, even when it gets loose and is off to explore.

As you might be able to tell, I kind of like this update; I think its pretty cool.  But what I really find interesting about it is how Whistle is doing it.  If you are like me you’ve probably assumed it’s being done one of two ways, Bluetooth/WiFi or some form of IOT traditional wireless carrier integration.  The answer though may surprise you as it comes in the form of a new sub-GHz technology from Sigfox(when outside of Bluetooth/WiFi range).  The benefit of using this new network technology is that it exceeds the range provided by short range networks like Bluetooth but does not have the same burdensome costs that come with traditional carriers.  In other words, it’s the best of both worlds and could potentially be a revolutionary way of bringing data up into the cloud.  

If you’ve kept up with our blog in the past couple of months the excitement for this new technology may come as a surprise.  I personally have written a number of posts lauding traditional telcos as the potential answer to connecting more devices.  In many instances these providers are still the most effective solution.  For one, just like with your cellphone there’s the issue of network coverage and speeds.  The new sub-GHz technology only transmits 100 bits/second and is deployed in limited locations (unless you are in France) so might this new wireless connectivity work for your new “connected car?”  Probably not so much; at least not right now.  What it will work for though are fixed objects or ones with a relatively small variance in location.  The benefit is substantial; having that expanded range with lessened costs could be the launch point that gets more devices into the Internet of Things. 

Hey if we are already doing it for our dogs is it really that far fetched (get it?) to think we’ll start using it to connect our gas pumps, farms or bicycles?  All this (potential) connectivity opens up a new world of APIs and apps to enhance our lives.  With new connectivity models making the collection and cloud storage of data easier APIs become increasingly important.  APIs are how we put all that new data to good use; we can use it to find our lost dogs through our phones, find available parking through an app, better evaluate water/electric/natural gas consumption by a household, a neighborhood, even an entire city!  This new network technology can help make the data obtainable, APIs are what will make it useful.

So a post that starts offwith quantified dogs ends up in smart cities and connected bikes.  That’s really one of the most amazing parts of the IOT; just how expansive it all really can be.  Virtually any device can be connected, and with more network options joining the fold those devices might all start getting connected sooner than we had anticipated.  Putting all that connectivity to good use requires good APIs.  And with the right APIs in place the IOT can enrich not just our lives but also the lives of our pets giving even our dogs something to smile about.

Kyle’s dog Basha enjoying the beach.