Wearable Tech for the Animal Kingdom

August 30, 2015

8:00 am

Wearable technology, ranging from pacemakers to GPS devices to fitness trackers, have been utilized by people for many years now. However, a somewhat overlooked niche of the rapidly growing wearable technology market are the applications for the animal kingdom, as wearable devices are today being utilized for gaining a better understanding of everything from companion animals to racehorses to bee colonies. Below is an overview of several inspiring devices which prove that wearable technology is not just limited to creatures with opposable thumbs.

Keeping Tabs on Man’s Best Friend

Working dog owners can spend an average of 10 hours away from home each day. For owners concerned about the safety and well-being of their canine friend’s a new device called Voyce monitors a dog’s activity level throughout the day and continuously reads vital statistics such as heart rate, pulse, and oxygen levels. By simply placing a specialized collar on their dog, owners are able to access the device on their computer and can obtain metrics in real-time. Users of the device can even print out reports to share any concerns with their veterinarian.

Another wearable device called Tagg, made by Qualcomm subsidiary SnapTracs, helps monitor when a dog has wandered away from home through a high-tech collar that is connected to satellite and GPS technology. Upon purchase, the dog owner registers the product and enters his or her home address along with their “Tagg Zone,” outlining the permitted area where the dog should be able to go. When the dog travels outside of the designated area, the owner receives a text message or audible alert every three minutes. Tagg also indicates the nearest address where the owner can go to retrieve the dog.

Enhancing Performance and Ensuring Safety in Horse Racing

Professional and recreational athletes looking to enhance performance have relied on various forms of tech wearable technology quite some time. From fitness pedometers, to surfing applications, to basketball shot trackers, wearable technology has given athletes a leg up by monitoring conditions, technique, vital signs and more.

In horse racing, owners, trainers and jockeys alike are under intense pressure to push their thoroughbreds to the limit, while also accepting responsibility for ensuring the health and well-being of the equine athletes. However, for decades the decision-making processes in the sport have largely been guided by past experience and intuition rather than objective data, and the result has been troublingly high rates of injury and mortality among race horses.

Today, new wearable devices are earning high praise within the horse racing community, such as the E-Trakka saddle blanket which allows trainers to identify ability, fitness, lameness and suitable race distances for thoroughbreds, The device monitors equine vital signs such as heart rate and stride length in real-time during training and races, and is credited with helping trainers discover the hidden potential of Scenic Blast, Australia’s 2009 horse of the year who was originally thought to be a “stayer” (a horse lacking the acceleration and top end speed for major races).

Micro-technology for Monitoring Beehives

Hoping to solve the mystery of decreasing honeybee populations, researchers from Kew Gardens in London are working with new technology created by the engineers at Tumbling Dice Ltd. to track the movement of honeybees. The micro-tracking devices are attached using superglue to honeybees that have been chilled to temporarily stun them. The tracking devices then compile data on the location of each flower patch where the bees land, and will transmit data for the duration of the honeybee’s estimated lifespan. The goal is to help identify whether viruses, pesticides, rural development, or some other external factor is to blame for the population declines.

With the use of innovative new wearable technology used to study the movements and vital signs of dogs, horses, honeybees, and other species, the human race is gaining a better understanding the world around us.

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Andrew Armstrong is a technology enthusiast, business owner, and digital marketing strategist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of UC Berkeley in 2003, Andrew enjoys Cal Football games, experimenting with new technology, and chasing around his toddler son with his wife.

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