Cat with a squashed face wearing a SmartTag

Pet wearables market to expand up to 25 per cent every year

Image credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

The market for smart devices to collect data about the fitness, diet and mood of our pets is rapidly expanding, particularly in China, say tech experts.

We have come to enjoy monitoring every aspect of our lives, from the number of steps we take in a day to our menstrual cycles. However, monitoring just our own personal data may not be enough any longer, now that pet wearables offer us the ability to track our pets in just as much detail.

Trackers have been attached to animals for many years by researchers, including miniature GPS tracking “backpacks” for bees and “ingestibles” placed in the stomachs of cows to monitor milk production. Dogs and cats are microchipped to help identify them if they get separated from their owners.

However, non-essential novelty wearables are growing in popularity among pet owners, and tech start-ups becoming drawn to the possibilities of wearable pet devices. These smart collars, leashes, coats, clip-ons and feeders allow owners to monitor constantly the fitness, diet, mood and behaviour of their pets.

According to experts in the tech industry, the pet wearables sector is expanding 20-25 per cent every year, and in particular, the Chinese market for these devices is booming.

During the Cultural Revolution, pet ownership was decried as a bourgeois habit, and tens of thousands of pet dogs were killed by Chairman Mao’s Red Guards. However, the modern middle classes of China are beginning to embrace their pets again, along with the smart devices tailored to their needs.

According to Alfred Ng, chief technology officer at Suga, a Hong Kong-based electronics manufacturer, China now forms five per cent of the global market for pet electronics, which is now worth $1 billion. He forecasts that China’s market share will ride to more than 20 per cent by 2024, when the global market will be worth at least $2.5 billion.

Alongside other consumer electronics, Suga produces pet wearables to monitor health and food intake, and is looking to develop a device to monitor pet emotions.

Chen Xufeng, marketing manager for Chinese software developer Guangdong Leking IOT Technology Co, says that the Chinese market for pet electronics will grow 20 per cent to 25 per cent in the next two to three years.

“There are more than 10 million pieces of wearable products for pets sold in the Chinese market every year,” said Chen.

A popular function for pet wearables is fitness trackers: canine and feline equivalents of the Fitbit. Manufacturers and owners hope that these may help identify if pets are at risk of becoming obese, a growing problem in developed countries. The PitPat, for instance, a wearable activity monitor for dogs developed by PitPatPet, collects data about a dog’s activity levels and food intake, so healthier dogs may earn owners lower pet insurance premiums.

Other commercially available devices include the DogStar TailTalk, which aims to help owners understand dog tail language by monitoring its wagginess, the Inupathy collar, which uses heart rate monitoring to suggest your pet’s mood, and the GoPro fetch, a harness which allows a video camera to be mounted on top of your dog.

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