Open Innovation and the Future of Pet Tech

yet2 Celebrates National Pet Day

Happy National Pet Day!

yet2 is full of animal lovers so we wanted to take today to highlight our two favorite things: technology and our pets!

Pet technology, or pet tech, has seen significant industry growth in recent years as pet owners are looking for new approaches to keeping their pet healthy and happy. Reports have been released in the past few years citing the significant growth of millennial pet owners as well as their spending on their pets. Much of these expenditures have been going to new gizmos and gadgets for our furry, feathered, or scaly friends.

To break it down a bit further, we’ll discuss the top six categories of pet tech. We note current trends based on our research, but we also polled our yet2 pet owners and animal lovers to see what types of pet tech they use, want to use, or want to see developed. And because we are always thinking about open innovation, we imagined where pet tech could go in the future based on trends in other industries.

Health in Pet Tech

Current:

“Health” pet tech products range from food and treats to medical care and treatments. On the day-to-day side of pet health tech, we have seen innovation around food quality and providing increased functionality to treats. However, medical care and treatments have also become an important part of pet tech as people are looking for ways to avoid or lower vet bills. In particular, yet2 pet owners hope to see more at-home diagnostics and better pain management technologies for their pets in the future. Companies like Pretty Litter are making this easier for cat owners, and the more technologies like this, the easier it will be to know if your pet needs a visit to the vet or if they just have a quirky personality.

Future:

Personalized nutrition and point-of-care diagnostics for humans has grown increasingly popular in recent years and companies like AnimalBiome are starting to take notice for pet tech. Testing can take a variety of forms including blood, microbiome, and genetics, often using at-home testing methods or devices, and based on the results, users are recommended a specific diet, supplement, probiotic, exercise routine, or lifestyle adjustment. As this system becomes increasingly efficient for humans, we expect that it will also become more popular in the pet space. For pets with sensitive stomach or specific dietary restrictions, this means you might be able to identify the issue and create a custom food that supports their microbiome.  We also expect to see more activity in the pet food space, as concerns over grain-free foods and a possible link to hear murmurs in dogs are explored further and alternative protein companies like recent Shark Tank winner Wild Earth,  start marketing vegan and vegetarian pet foods.

Medical treatment for animals is also a space that will likely grow in the future, in part due to advancements made with human medical treatments. We have already seen the emergence of One Health Company,  which is working on cancer treatments specifically for dogs. There have also been partnerships such as the one between Medical Center, Navicent Health (MCNH), and the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine (UGA) that allows people to donate their used pacemaker to dogs with heart problems. We hope to see more adaptations and collaborations between the pharmaceutical and medical device industries that can be used for pets.

 

Behavior in Pet Tech

Current:

For those of us with a less-than-perfectly-behaved pet, many owners are eagerly anticipating technology that can help improve behavior. New approaches range from auditory and olfactory signals to technology that can curb behavioral problems due to anxiety.

Future:

Advances in facial recognition and artificial intelligence are being used to analyze human facial expressions and behaviors. In the future we might see that technology for pets. Imagine if a camera could not only analyze your pet’s moods or pain levels based on their body posture and facial expression, but  could also use artificial intelligence (AI) to create a personalized behavior plan based on your pet’s unique behaviors, quirks, likes, dislikes, etc.

 

Waste in Pet Tech

Current:

Unsurprisingly, almost every single yet2 pet owner lamented having to deal with pet waste and wished for a high-tech alternative. While self-cleaning litter boxes are available for cats, they are expensive and there are hardly any high-tech waste disposal solutions for other types of pets.

Future:

Robotics may be an answer to the pet waste problem that plagues so many pet lovers. Through the use of sensors such as LiDAR and using AI, robots are able to navigate unstructured environments that they haven’t been able to before. Additionally, the manufacturing industry has invested in developing robots that are able to grab and move objects of unusual shape and texture. Perhaps we may soon see robotic “pooper scoopers” for our pet owners.

 

Safety in Pet Tech

Current:

Try as we might to keep our pets safe, they have a mind of their own. Beyond miocrochipping, most solutions geared towards pet safety include high-tech fences, pet cameras, or tracking technology. However, if you have more than one or two pets, such as a flock of chickens as is the case with one of our yet2 pet owners, individual trackers and electric fence sensors can quickly become very expensive.

Future:

Microchips are a great way to store information, but they aren’t very useful unless someone finds our dog and reads the chip. The ability of these microchips to actively transmit data, as well as store it would be a relief to pet owners worries about losing their pet. Additionally, tracking wearables have emerged for pets, and soon they might also have additional features, such as a camera, hydration sensor, heart beat monitor, etc.

 

Convenience in Pet Tech

Current:

Pet tech offers a unique approach to inconvenient pet owner problems such as pet care and grooming. The emergence of apps, such as Rover and Wag that offer pet care as a service, has increased the accessibility of this convenience to pet owners and pet service providers alike.

Future:

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are growing smaller and more advanced by the day. For pet owners that need their pets taken care of but can’t afford or don’t have access to pet care services, IoT could provide a solution. Imagine a sensor and device that could dispense treats, food, or water as needed. Perhaps it could even open and close a door, as well as detect if your pet is in a room or place they shouldn’t be. As discussed in the Behavior section above, these sensors could use signals to help your pet stick to their behavior plan, even when you are not around.

 

Fun in Pet Tech

Current:

Keeping our pets safe and healthy is our responsibility but making them happy is the fun part for both you and them. Pet tech offers solutions to keep pets occupied while you are away or busy, with fun toys that allow pets to dig, chase, chew, or lounge in comfort.

Future:

Studies have shown that pets improve our moods, and a recent report found that a majority of millennials claim they would take a significant pay cut if they could work with their pet. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) might enable pet owners to not only watch their pet from a pet cam, but also to interact with them in a virtual setting. Pets could also interact with their owners virtually and explore and occupy themselves in a virtual environment. I’ll be the first to admit that getting a dog to wear an AR/VR headset would be no easy task but given the rate of technological advancement in the AR/VR field, it might be worth watching to see if any pet tech solutions are possible from the AR/VR industry.

There are many possibilities of where pet tech can move in the future. Pet tech will not only benefit from advancements in other industries, but it might also inspire innovations in adjacent industries. As with much of pet tech, the question is often not “is it possible?” but “when will it be affordable?” Open innovation could play a pivotal role in sharing innovation between industries to make affordable technology that improves the lives of both us and our pets.