Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oh Where, oh Where Can He Be?

Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?
Oh where, oh where can he be?
With his ears cut short, and his tail cut long,
Oh where, oh where is he?
- Septimus Winner
Here's a clever use of technology, Snaptracs is selling the Tagg Pet Tracker which uses GPS to locate your pet. Now this alone is nothing new. I understand there are GPS tags you can attach to children to find them if they wander. What I find clever is that the Tagg monitors your pet's location and sends you email or a text message if your pet wanders outside a geographic area that you've specified. Optional you can also have an email or text message sent to your next door neighbor who might be able to retrieve your pet while you're at work.

This service comes at a price: $200 for the pet-tracking Tagg and one year of wireless service for the Tagg to send its position back to Snaptracs. $140 for each additional pet & Tagg. $60 per year renewal fee. The cost includes a recharging station, which you'll need, since the battery in the Tagg only lasts about 30 days.

According to the Motely Fool, the CEO admits the Tagg is not yet perfected (e.g battery life is too short) but the public response was so great that they went to market early. I hope, as they improve the Tagg, it will become smaller (it's not recommended for pets under 10 lbs given the size of the device that is attached to a pets collar), and that the battery will last longer.

Keep in mind that you're paying for the tracking service. If the company goes out of business, the GPS chip is worthless to you. And the device won't help if the wireless connection fails - e.g. pet is inside a building that blocks reception, the pet is out of range of a cell tower, there's a power outage, or the device becomes broken. And I wish I knew how frequently the Tagg reports its position; I did not find that mentioned on the corporate website. I also don't know if there's a warning or indicator when the battery charge is low. If you forget to recharge (or recharge too late) then the device is useless.

Bottom Line

My wife's family had two beagles when she was a child in Los Angeles. They were escape artists - one climbed a chain link fence with a broken leg! Once both got loose together and did not come back. Lost posters were placed around and someone called - I have found two beagles but I'm 20 miles away from your home, could these possibly be yours? They were! The beagles had wandered 20 miles away so driving around the neighborhood calling out their names was not going to bring them back.

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, hundreds of thousands of pets go missing every year, yet only 15 to 20% of lost dogs and only about 2% of lost cats are ever returned to their owners. If you have a pet that wanders (or might wander) consider implanting a micro-chip with recovery information. Most use RFID technology (like security tags on clothes at stores) with no battery required. The sole problem with micro-chips is that there are many competing standards so the shelter that takes in your pet might not have the right scanner to read it.

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