Smarter pets through smarter apps?
Location technology could be a key in helping our pets live better lives.
A few years ago, I traveled to Colorado to combine some time off with a favor owed to my brother to dog-sit for a long weekend. My brother, sister, and I raised dogs all through our youth, at one point reaching a high score of six simultaneous dogs in our three-bedroom house. I hadn't kept a dog since I moved to the city, so I was looking forward to the trip.
Meet Jack, the 4-year-old chocolate lab.
That weekend, I would be looking after my brother's dog, Jack. Jack was a rescue, and the first dog my brother raised entirely on his own with no assistance from family. Jack's training was impeccable, so he knew all his commands and manners. He knew how to sit, stay, heel, lay down, fetch, give, and the rest. Jack also knew not to beg, to stay out of the garbage, and to keep off the couch.
You must imagine my surprise when I came home one afternoon to find Jack lying peacefully in his bed in the living room. Next to him, on the couch, was a faint nest of brown hair surrounding an indentation on the cushion that was objectively dog-shaped.
Labs are brilliant, by the way.
Pets, technology, and indoor mapping
There is a proven market for technology tools that help us manage our pets. Dogs and cats have feeders that work on timers and remote triggers. Two of my colleagues bring their dogs to the office, each equipped with GPS trackers. My neighbor dials into a camera system while she's away to look in on her cats. The popularity of wireless fences and smart dog doors has soared in the last decade.
Creating detailed 3D maps of indoor spaces is still on the expensive side, used mainly by large-scale facilities like office buildings, transit hubs, and sporting facilities. But just as remote-view cameras were once thousands of dollars, the technology will eventually scale and become more commonly available. What happens when we add 3D indoor maps to our list of resources for raising great pets?
The first applications will likely combine maps with simple technologies. With a small collar tracker and an area sensor, there will no longer be any need to bury a wire around the perimeter of your property. When your pet gets too far from home, the system can correct them or alert you that they've gone astray.
Similarly, indoor maps may allow us to define where our pets are not allowed to be. The same app that helps you create an indoor map could also help designate the names and statuses for areas.
When our pet's collar sensor enters an off-limits area, an alert could be sent to your phone.
Could location technology reveal what our pets are thinking?
Beyond real-time functions, indoor tracking for pets may also help us understand them better. Much like how we can see the most trafficked areas within a mall, we can get a better sense of pet habits over time. Indoor maps may reveal when our pets are active, eating, or sleeping while we're away. It could show us their favorite toys and activities for when they're bored. With that information, we can better plan for dog walks, schedule sitters, and maybe even know when to dial in to say hello.
Of course, technology is no replacement for being a responsible, compassionate pet owner. But we can still apply technology to take better care of our pets and gain a better understanding of them.
We observe vehicle movement over time to better understand what causes traffic jams. Similarly, we watch how people move in public spaces to design stronger communities. It's easy to understand how to apply location intelligence to large scale areas. Perhaps, in the future, indoor maps will reveal more about the secret lives of our pets.
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