I don’t want to awaken the ire of any committed pet owners — because I think you can do whatever you want with your pets (and your money) — but I would be lying if I said I didn’t cringe a little bit when I hear about extreme pet products and services like doggie treadmills, pet psychiatrists or pet fitness centers and the like.
In a quick conversation behind the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, an unofficial, unscientific, non-statistically sound poll indicated that “if you don’t have time to walk your dog and need to outsource that to a health club…maybe you just shouldn’t have a dog.”
I concur with those results.
Still, I came across FitBark on the floor of the Hardware Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 and while it could, at first, seem “extreme” I found that after talking to these guys and hearing their explanation, their little device actually seems pretty reasonable.
What is the FitBark? From a technological standpoint, it is a wearable accelerometer that you put on your dog’s collar to monitor their activity. In most ways the product is very similar to products like the Nike Fuel + Band or the FitBit, however the strategy behind it — and this is the reasonable part — is quite different.
FitBark is not designed to be a performance indicator or weight loss utility or competitive device for animals. Instead, it’s just an activity monitor so loving pet owners can make sure their dogs are getting enough activity.
How it works is that, as the dog moves about, their activity is captured and stored on the device (up to three weeks of data can be stored).
Whenever the FitBark comes into the proximity of the owners iPhone’s or optional homebase unit — via Bluetooth 4 or Wi-Fi — the data is transferred off of the FitBark, passed through the FitBark app on the iPhone and transferred up to the cloud where that data is stored.
The historical data can then be visualized on any of the iOS devices that are allowed to view the data. In this way, dog owners can have real-time info about the pet’s activity.
Another hint that the FitBark is reasonable is their one-time pricing model. There are no ongoing monthly service fees or memberships required. You buy the hardware device upfront ($99 from their Kickstarter page), and you get the data it produces for free. I”’m guessing they have worked their data hosting costs into the hardware price.
In this way, it really seems like a tool for care and not a stingy racket for recurring fees.
I’m not sure this is a product I myself would ever use, as I tend to think dogs are evolutionarily equipped to survive living in what James Brown would call “a man’s world.” However I can see how loving, caring and yes, reasonable pet owners might like to see this data about their dogs. Because of that, the FitBark seems like a useful piece of hardware.