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The ‘Internet of Things’ Meets Your Pet

John Mein, Vice President of Sales with Petzila, talks about how the company’s connected devices are helping pets and their people.

The co-founders of Petzila are long-time tech and electronics industry veterans and no strangers to Bay Area startups. However, a few years ago, CEO David Clark and CTO Simon Milner realized that the wave of Internet connected devices had mostly skipped an important part of people’s lives: their pets. The pair set out to change that, launching one of the first “pet tech” companies in 2013.

Petzila’s flagship product, the Petzi Treat Cam, offers pet owners the chance to check in on their furry friends as often as they like, dole out treats from afar, and even join a social network of other animal lovers. The industry of connected pet devices has since taken off, with dozens of gadgets now on the market from smart collars to remote feeding devices.

In honor of National Puppy Day, we sat down with John Mein, Petzila’s Vice President of Sales and Business Development, to learn more about pet tech and how staying connected with our pets benefits them and us.

The Petzi Treat Cam is an app-controlled, remote, pet treat dispenser and camera. Can you tell us how it works?
You can access your treat cam with your phone, and it generates a chime so that your dog or cat come running as they know they are going to get a treat. There’s a live screen that allows you to see your pet, and you can press a button to talk to them or launch a treat out of the treat cam and watch your pet get it. It helps relieve separation anxiety for both the pet and the pet owner. People really worry about their animals when they’re not home. It’s also like a ray of sunshine during your work day—you can check in with your pet and say hello.

What are some interesting ways that you’re seeing people use your product?
We have one client who points Petzi at the sofa, where the dogs are not supposed to be while he’s gone. He logs on with the treat cam to see if they’re following the rules, and then tells them to get off the couch. We also have a sales representative in Canada who has really well-trained Labradors. He pulls out his smart phone and logs on to the treat cam. Then he tells the dogs to sit, and they have to obey in order to get their treats.

In addition, we have a social community that people can access via our app, without having a treat cam. There are currently 6,000 social members. You create a Facebook-like entry for your pet, with his picture, name, breed and size. People can form their own user groups by location and even organize meet-ups and exchange information. Interestingly, unlike with Facebook, people don’t have privacy issues with their pets. In fact, they want to brag about them.
What are some of the other opportunities you see for connected devices that serve pets and their owners?

We think there are many opportunities for additional products that work in conjunction with the treat cam—perhaps a feeder, a FitBit for dogs, or a smart mat with a scale. You put your pet on it, and it automatically weighs your animal. We’re seeing how the treat cam can form a basis for smart homes. There are other smart home devices for your water heater or burglar alarm, but what other device would you access as much as you do this?

That’s true. How much are people using their treat cams and does the novelty wear off?

Because it’s connected, we can tell on an aggregate basis how often people are using the cam. When they first get it, they use it 10 times a day because they’re so excited. We were afraid that it would dwindle down to zero after a couple weeks, but people continue to use it on average three times per day. We’ve done some surveys: three months after they buy it, 60 percent are still using it as much as when they first bought it and 20 percent are using it even more. We’re also putting hooks into the product, so, for example, when you check on your pet, you can see the room temperature, and then access your connected home thermostat to adjust the temperature as needed without leaving the app.

Lastly, do you have a special pet that you’re celebrating in honor of National Puppy Day?

We have a 15-year-old son who has been asking for a dog since he was eight. And finally for his last birthday, he said all he wanted was a dog. We ended up getting a rescued, four-year-old Mini Poodle and we just love her.

© First Republic Bank 2018

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