Finally: Wearable tech is now available for humankind's most faithful, loving animal companion. Yeah, you knew it had to happen. The quantified-self movement is now courting dogs.
Announced Tuesday at CES 2014, Voyce is a health, wellness and activity tracker that fits loosely around Spot's neck like a dog collar. It's packed with a 3-axis accelerometer to gather data on your dog's paw steps and periods of rest, but the even cooler technology lies in a sensor that uses radio frequencies to measure heart and respiratory rates. All this data is funneled to a mobile app dashboard, providing human caretakers with telling insights on what's really going on inside the bodies of their canine companions.
If you're not an animal lover, you may think a product like Voyce demonstrates that wearable tech has jumped the shark--or even the dog shark. But dogs can't directly tell us when they're suffering from common canine problems like hip dysplasia, heart disease, or basic, garden-variety pain. Enter Voyce, which gives us much more insight into our dogs' anatomy, especially as it trends over time.
Jeff Noce, the president of the company behind Voyce, told me his canine wellness collar replicates the utility of a device called a health vest, which is used by veterinarians to collect heart and breathing rates. But the problem with the health vest, he says, is that it's applied when a dog is most anxious: during a trip to the vet. The Voyce collar, on the other hand, collects data 24-7, storing about two weeks of information. This gives owners a completely different, long-view picture of their dogs' critical vital signs.
The Voyce collar was developed in concert with veterinarians from Cornell, bio-medical engineers and dog behaviorists. Noce says the band's radio-frequency technology measures the expansion and contraction of arteries in a dog's neck, and that he's "very happy with the results compared to the health vest" in terms of accuracy rates.
Combined with a companion mobile app, Voyce is intended to be a complete, holistic wellness platform. After you enter information about your dog's breed, age and unique medical situation, Voyce will mesh that data with its sensor statistics, and feed you customized insights to make you a better-informed pet parent. The platform also provides tools to track your dog's medicine and vaccinations, and you can share everything with your veterinarian too.
The collar's lithium-ion battery lasts about a week between recharging, and data transmits wirelessly with the cloud for linking to mobile devices and a desktop dashboard. When the product launches late spring for $300 (along with a monthly subscription fee for full-platform insights), it will accommodate almost all breeds, even jumbo English mastiffs and Great Danes. But toy breeds, unfortunately, will have to wait longer for a more miniaturized version of the collar.
Wearable tech threatens to make us all look a bit silly--but thankfully our dogs demonstrate a refreshing lack of humility, so design aesthetics shouldn't be a problem unless you're so vain you can't stand the look of the thing yourself (and if so, take a good, hard look at your priorities).
Personally, I can't wait to hand off the Voyce collar to Whiskey, my border collie mix. Just how much exercise is she really getting on leashed dog walks relative to off-leash trips to the beach? And just how much stress does she feel when we're riding in the car? I'm obsessed with my own quantified-self stats, and now I can turn my attention to her.