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The Data-Driven Dog

Combating canine complaints with a cloud-connected collar.
May 18, 2012

Soon, your dog will be in the cloud.

That’s not a reminder of the fact that all dogs go to heaven. Rather, it’s simply a technological inevitability. As pet owners become more and more interested in helicopter parenting their dogs and cats, expect to see more announcements like this one from Fujitsu, which is working on a smart dog collar that’ll track your dog’s movements with a cloud-connected device.

“Starting in the second half of 2012,” says Fujitsu, “the company will begin offering a new cloud service to provide pet health management support using sensor data collected from the device.” Fujitsu has been demonstrating the device at a Tokyo forum yesterday and today.

This is as much about helicopter parenting as it is about the data-driven life. It turns out that pets, like people, are increasingly living sedentary lifestyles, and are facing the same scourge of obesity and diabetes we find in their human owners. How do you make sure your dog’s getting sufficient exercise? With a cloud-connected dog collar, of course.

Fujitsu says the device is “compact, lightweight, and requires very little power,” and thus can be worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On top of being a doggie pedometer analyzing your pet’s movements, the device can also record signs of shivering and external temperature–other indications of your pet’s health.

Fujitsu says the data can be transferred from the device using “FeliCa” technology, which is a common Sony-developed RFID smart card system in Japan.  Data can be viewed on a smart phone, computer, or uploaded to the cloud for storage. Online, a website can help render the data visually in graph form, to help you parse just how Fido’s doing, and whether he’s met the various weight-loss goals you may have set for him.

A commenter on The Verge says of the device, “Shut up and take my money.” But I’m a tad skeptical. Who is obsessed enough with their dog’s health to want step-by-step data on the subject, yet hands-off enough that they can’t be assured to take their dog for regular walks or runs to prevent the lifestyle diseases in question? Is the device really for greyhound racers, for whom exact metrics on movement, stamina, and the like might translate into profits? Or is it for data junkies and fitness nuts who have always lamented that their dog can’t benefit from Nike Plus like they do?

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