This is just a sneak peek from Klaus’ feature in SCENARIO 01:2016. If you are not a current subscriber to SCENARIO or a member of The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, then subscribe or get in touch with us here.
People in the Western world spend a lot of money on their pets. If a loved animal becomes ill, it should of course receive the best treatment there is, no matter the cost. Surgery and even chemotherapy for pets are no longer unusual. To this we can add accessories for pets, which may range from jewelled collars to Louis Vuitton dog carriers – and now also wearable electronics.
Wearables for animals may be as simple as an ear chip that can be used to identify a lost animal, but they can also be much more elaborate. One of the more advanced examples is the Connected Collar from the company DogTelligent.
The dog collar is equipped with GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a connection to the mobile phone net. It has built-in micro-phone and loudspeaker, enabling owner and dog to ‘talk’ with each other at a distance, and it monitors the dog’s activities, providing clues to the animal’s health. It has built-in vibrator and ultrasound, which can be used to give the dog commands through a remote control or ‘punish’ it if it barks too much.
The collar even offers an ‘invisible leash’ and ‘invisible fence’, ensuring that the dog doesn’t run too far away and warns the owner if the dog leaves its permitted zone.
In Japan, you can get the collar Anicall for dogs and cats. It has four functions. First, it keeps an eye on the animal’s pulse and breathing to provide information about the animal’s health.
Secondly, it has a motion sensor and software that tries to analyse the animal’s mood from its movement patterns and allegedly can recognise 20 different emotions, including expectation and unease. Thirdly, other users of Anicall get messages on their smartphones if an animal that is reported lost is within Bluetooth range – with a picture to aid identification. Finally, you can see what other animals with Anicall collars that your pet has crossed paths with during the day. Who knows – maybe kitty has a secret boyfriend?
Connected Collar and Anicall are just two of many examples of wearables for pets. Another more common example is LEDs that make the animal easily visible at night. In this category we find Tail Lights, which transforms a horse’s tail into a gracefully waving rear light, and Poochlight, which can make your dog’s collar glow in many colours and patterns. Health monitors are also popular, an example being PetPace, which monitors temperature, pulse, breathing, and activity and shares the information not only with the owner, but also with the vet. For cats, you can also get a collar that electronically unlock a cat f
lap when the cat is nearby, but otherwise keeps it locked so no other animals can get in. if you really want to keep track of what your cat or dog is doing, you can even mount the video camera Dogtek Eyenimal on the pet’s collar. Among the more advanced wearables for animals we find No More Woof, a headset for dogs which can allegedly translate the dog’s thought into human speech. Now we just need a device that can make dogs understand human language.
Wearable technology isn’t just something for pets. Wild animals have for many years been equipped with chips that allow you to see where they come from and where they have been when you catch them.
In Africa, endangered rhinoceroses get chips implanted in their horns, so you can always see where they are – even after the horn has been removed by poachers. Cows and other farm animals can also benefit from electronics. You can e.g. get ear clamps that monitor the animal’s temperature and other vital signs and receive a warning if an animal shows signs of being sick – perhaps even before the sickness becomes noticeable with the naked eye.
This is important, since it is estimated that 40 percent of all cows become ill every year, which in the US alone means annual losses of about USD 5 billion.
The Texan company Vital Herd goes a step further with an electronic pill that a cow swallows, after which the pill provides information about pulse, breathing, stomach acidity, and hormone levels. Wearable sensors can also tell a farmer if a cow needs milking.
Hi-tech animals of the future
We can off hand point to five areas where wearable technology today is used in connection with animals:
In the future, we will get access to more advanced technology in these areas, but also within new and different fields. As an example, we have begun making prosthetics for hurt animals, typically made with a 3D printer. Birds have got replacement beaks, turtles have got replacement shells and jaws, and everything from cats and dogs to ducks, horses and elephants have received foot or leg prosthetics…