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Pet gadget innovation is here to stay

It’s amazing, the pace of new tech entering our daily lives. Within the past year, you’ve likely adopted a new wearable, phone app, or smart home device, if not all three, without giving it a second thought. These tech additions make our lives easier, healthier, and better organized. so why wouldn’t we share them with the furriest members of our families? In fact, the pet tech sector is booming, with seemingly as many tech gadgets for pets as there are for their human companions.

Like a Great Dane puppy, this market is big – and growing. According to the American Pet Products Association, the percentage of U.S. households with a pet grew from 56% in 1988 to 70%. That adds up to more than 90 million households and $123.6 billion in yearly pet spending.

Yet, so many of those pet owners are relying on leashes, collars, fences, and litter boxes that haven’t changed since the television show “Lassie” debuted in 1954. That’s why there’s so much excitement around the growing pet tech industry, which is incorporating technology to improve the lives of both pets and their owners.

Teaching new tech to old dogs?

This is certainly a high growth period for pet technology – but it’s hardly the first time that technological advancement has been applied to pet ownership. In fact, some things, once considered cutting-edge, are now more common than not.

Take, for example, microchips. AVID Identification Systems, a California-based company, filed for a patent on its system in 1985, and in 1989 implanted the first microchip into an animal companion. The chips, about the size of a grain of rice and usually placed under the skin, between the shoulder blades, can be read by a hand-held radio frequency scanner, and can provide identifying information for an animal should it be lost without its collar.

Once unheard of, microchipping is now recognized as the best way to ensure your pet’s return, should they become lost. What’s the next “microchip,” an advancement destined for every pet household? Maybe it’s just about to be released.

What’s hot in the pet tech market?

Translating your dog’s barks might seem ahead of its time right now. Yet, investment and innovation into pet-centric consumer products, online pet services and mobile apps are driving spending habits and interest in the care and wellbeing of our furry friends turned family.

Let’s take a look at some of the pet tech market’s growing categories. 

Health & Wellness

Have you had your own DNA sequenced? How about for that rescue pup or mottled kitten you brought home from your local shelter? Companies such as Embark and Basepaws can tell you about your pet’s breed makeup, plus more useful information, such as what their predisposition is for genetic diseases, or what their gut biome looks like.

Convenience

So many of the day-to-day tasks of pet ownership are tedious, which is why pet tech companies have come up with solutions to handle these chores for you, leaving more time for walks and snuggles.

If you’re shopping for an automatic feeder, you’ll find just about every option you could think of, including wi-fi connectivity, cameras, and the ability to record voice messages so that your pet will continue to associate mealtime with you.

At the other end of the equation, automatic litter boxes have made the least pleasant task of cat ownership obsolete. Litter Robot currently sits atop this category, offering both convenience and sanitary service, while also providing some insight into your pet’s health by monitoring their weight and, um, “activities.”

Of course, the gig economy has extended into pet technology and this convenience category of the market. With the help of apps like Wag and Rover, pet owners who need their dogs walked or boarded overnight can find local dog walkers and pet sitters to get the job done, using simple platforms. It’s as easy and convenient as Uber, DoorDash, or any of the other tech solutions that we’ve integrated into improving our daily human lives.

Wearables

Two New Hampshire-based companies, Wagz and SpotOn Fence, use smart collars to make fixed fencing obsolete and offer nearly as wide a range of functionality as smartwatches. You’ve got “find my iPhone” features built into your Apple products, and now these smart collars offer “find my furry friend.”

Wagz collars, when paired with a smartphone app, allow the human companion to set a custom “geofence” for a dog to play inside of by simply dropping pins on a satellite image. When the dog nears the border, they are given auditory or vibrational cues – but never a shock. Combining containment and wellness monitoring, the smart collar will also keep track of your dog’s sleep and exercise activity, helping you monitor your pup and be proactive about adjusting care. Step counter? Try tippy-taps counter.

SpotOn Fence is another company bringing the humble collar into the pet tech age. SpotOn Fence allows users to create bespoke virtual fences of any size or shape, and just about anywhere that your dog would want to run. Using their patented True LocationTM technology, users can walk the perimeter of the area they’d like to fence, or just draw it on their phone screen, and the collar’s highly accurate GPS system will keep the dog within the defined area.

Jennifer Joyce, president of SpotOn Fence, said the company’s goal is “helping dogs live their best lives safely, free to roam within the boundaries we set… giving dogs everywhere the opportunity to live life as a dog should – unleashed.”

Forecasting the pet tech market

If there’s something that has been known in the pet industry for a while, it’s that pet owners will spend money on their pets. The generation entering the prime pet spending years have grown up in a world awash in new technology, meaning it’s not a question of if any of these new technologies will succeed, but which ones.

Remember that $123.6 billion statistic at the top? That was for a record-setting year ending in 2022 and was the second consecutive record-breaking year for spending on pets. Here’s how the American Pet Products Association broke down that spending: $50 billion on pet food and treats; $29.8 billion on live animals and over-the-counter medications; $34.3 billion on veterinary care and products, and; $9.5 billion on non-veterinary services, such as dog walking, grooming, and boarding. 

The APPA also found that this spending looked different based on the age of the pet owner. The younger two generations in the study, Millennials and Gen Z, were more likely to have obtained a new pet and/or to have spent more on their pet than in previous years, were very comfortable purchasing for their pets online and via online subscriptions, and were more willing to try a variety of products, treats, and toys.

So, what’s next for pet tech?

With the pet spending population growing, and their spending habits favoring tech, the pet tech industry is primed for continued growth, driving the demand for further pet tech innovation.

“Given that a very large number of digital natives also happen to be pet parents, and they already use connected devices such as watches that monitor activity, it’s only natural that they would want to leverage the same benefits for their pets,” explains Terry Anderton, Founder and CEO of Wagz. “In turn, the area of connected pet tech will see an explosion in demand for these devices to better monitor and manage their pet’s overall health and well-being.” 

This space is growing fast. To keep up with the latest in pet tech companies like SpotOn Fence and Wagz, and to find out what other innovative companies in New Hampshire are doing, sign up for our weekly newsletter.