IoT Blog

IoT Blog

IoT Tracking Technology Takes the Stress Out of Pet Ownership

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
Finding a lost pet is a very stressful and sometimes complicated process. You walk or drive around the neighborhood rather aimlessly, awkwardly peering into your neighbors’ yards and carefully searching under decks and porches. And if those search efforts prove fruitless, you plaster the area with dozens of “lost pet” flyers or post photos on social media, hoping that a good Samaritan eventually calls. You contact all the local shelters and your vet to ensure your contact information is up to date...then, you wait and hope. 

Today, thanks to advances in the Internet of Things (IoT) and GNSS tracking, things can be very different. By using IoT technology for pet tracking, owners are far more likely to find a lost pet. Modern pet trackers use streamlined IoT technology to locate lost animals quickly. This has prompted many companies to start designing pet tracking products for sale to consumers. The good news is that building a pet tracking IoT system has never been easier, especially when you use cellular IoT connectivity. 

The Challenges of Using IoT Technology for Pet Tracking

An estimated 15 percent of lost dogs and cats are found using microchips, identification collars or other pet tracking IoT devices, and that figure is growing year over year. But while these devices are already in high demand among pet owners, actually getting these devices onto the market can be complicated.

To start, IoT pet tracking device manufacturers need to build a wearable that isn’t overly large or bulky. This means that the tracking technology used in a dog collar, needs to be as portable as possible without sacrificing tracking accuracy over long distances. If the collar is too heavy, it will be impractical for smaller dog breeds, since it could strain on the pet’s neck, resulting in health issues and general discomfort. Yet manufacturers who make a device that’s too flimsy could risk damage to the product during everyday use. A pet tracking IoT device needs to be durable enough to withstand the elements and a pet’s rough and tumble lifestyle—without adding significant weight or bulk to the product. 

Moreover, the tracking software and hardware that these devices utilize must be fast, reliable, long-lasting and accurate enough for pet owners to track their lost companions within just a few yards. When you use high-quality wireless modules and Smart SIM cards that always connect to the best available network, so no matter where your per gets lost, you can get an accurate location. By contrast, tracking collars that use subpar components may only be able to determine that a pet is somewhere in the neighborhood, which doesn’t give the owner enough information to zero in on the animal’s precise location. In addition, a reliable pet tracking IoT device also needs to have enough battery life to withstand days, months or even years of use. You’ll need to ensure that your device’s battery doesn’t die before the owner has the chance to find a lost pet. 
 
Tracking collars that rely on slow networks or leverage weak GPS or GNSS signals will be too inaccurate for customers to use reliably. Most pets get lost relatively close to their owners’ homes, and as such, if the signal has too much “wobble,” an owner might not be able to pinpoint their pet’s exact location. This is precisely where Smart SIM technology can be useful, as the device automatically connects to the strongest available network, ensuring that you always have stable connection, regardless of location. 

An Easy Solution to a Complex Problem 

To solve this wide range of potential problems, Mishiko used cellular modules with Smart SIM IoT connectivity to build their pet collars. 

The company started with Sierra Wireless’ AirPrime® HL Series embedded modules, which were designed with future updates in mind. These compact modules are portable enough to fit onto a collar without straining a pet’s neck and, when used with the Smart SIM, they provide resilient connectivity. 

Global Connectivity 

Another problem that Mishiko needed to solve was the issue of data roaming charges, which could arise when owners travel with their pets. Smart SIMs provide multi-operator coverage, allowing the device to send the pet’s location regardless of where the pet is around the world. Even if a pet owner travels outside of the country, the SIM card will automatically locate a new network connection in the new country without charging more for the service as would occur with roaming. 

This technology is especially useful for pet owners since the Smart SIMs will scan and use the most reliable network available. Therefore, the SIM can switch network providers on the fly if it detects a stronger connection. This means that owners will rarely, if ever, experience signal delays or poor connectivity. 

Durability 

Using this technology as a base for all of their products, Mishiko created an all-in-one development kit for businesses looking to get into the IoT industry. In addition to the advanced technology built into the product, they also include durability features to protect these modules and SIM cards. This includes a waterproof, aluminum cover, a backlight for better visibility and a wireless charging panel (meaning that owners won’t have to remove the collar to charge the battery). 

Location Accuracy 

Mishiko’s pet tracking IoT devices use two different location systems simultaneously to find pets: GPS, and GLONASS Sirf V. As a result, their devices are capable of tracking pets to a range of within just 13 feet +/-. Additionally, the company integrated their tracking technology with a mobile app that owners can use to activate “SOS mode” on the collar, which then prompts the device to send out its exact coordinates. What’s more, if the battery dies before the owner reaches the pet’s location, the device will automatically save the last known coordinates to the owner’s phone. 

Using Integrated Technology to Shorten Time to Market 

While all of these features make pet tracking IoT devices more usable for your customers, you’ll also want to consider the entire lifespan of your product from the beginning. Mishiko’s products and development kit have been so successful because they used hardware that’s fully integrated with the software and mobile app, and numerous components can evolve over time. 

If you lock yourself into a system that’s incapable of making the switch to future technological advances, like low power wide area (LPWA) or 5G connectivity, then this will slow your company’s time to market, adversely impacting your ROI. By developing a future-proof solution, you can add or remove features as you go, customizing your product to the customer’s exact needs. 

Looking Ahead to Low Power Wide Area Technology

Carriers around the world started to roll out a new standard cellular technology in 2017 called LPWA, which will be a perfect fit for applications like tracking that have low data rates and only need to transmit small amounts of data. LPWA is specifically designed to meet core IoT application needs, or the three C’s: Cost (devices and services costs), Current (battery life) and Coverage (reach).

Compared to traditional cellular, cost savings are achieved as LPWA technologies require much less processing power and less memory. Low current and longer battery life results from the reduced processing and more opportunities to enter deep sleep. Higher coverage comes from slowing the data rate, so you’ll never lose track of your asset, even when it’s underground or in an area with poor network coverage. LPWA embedded modules are available to start designing with today, and they are pin-compatible with our existing CF3 modules.

Start with Sierra’s technology as your company develops the perfect tracking IoT solution for consumers or industry. We can help you develop an end-to-end system, from embedded modules, to Smart SIMs, to a full-service, mobile cloud platform. Watch the webinar, How IoT enables the tracking of assets, to learn how to navigate the rapid evolution of IoT technology.