Portsmouth company sees success with connected pet product line
Wagz’s technology supports society’s evolving relationship with our pooches
Dogs from police departments and the most elite military organizations in the U.S. are testing out high-tech, connected pet products developed by the Portsmouth-based company Wagz.
CEO Terry Anderton founded the company in 2015 after the heart aching search, and fortunate recovery, of his family dog that had run away.
“I promised [my children], being a technologist, that it would never happen again,” says Anderton.
Researching the $86 billion market, Anderton realized not much had changed in terms of shock collar fencing and physical barriers to keep dogs contained.
“I saw the opportunity to create a company that modernized the pet lifestyle experience and made dogs have a better life,” he says.
The result was a collar that utilizes geofencing to contain a pet. There are no underground lines to bury in the yard. Instead owners access a mobile app to pull up a Google Maps view of their house and, utilizing a satellite signal, draw the perimeter of their yard. Owners can also utilize the app on the fly to draw perimeters at other properties their pet is visiting.
“It’s so sophisticated that even if you have a swimming pool or garden you don’t want the dog to go into, you can have exclusion zones [within] the area you want the dog to be,” says Anderton.
The same technology allows your smartphone to serve as a leash.
“You set a perimeter around you, and while you’re walking, you don’t have to have the dog on a leash,” explains Anderton. Although, he notes, the app is not a legal solution in public areas that require dogs to be on a leash.
So how does it work? Instead of being shocked, as the dog approaches the barrier, it hears a variation of high-pitch sounds that serve as a warning before the collar vibrates. (The first sound can also be heard by humans while the second warning is ultrasonic.)
“Ninety-five percent of the dogs respect the ultrasonic and vibration,” says Anderton, noting some dogs will do anything to catch that squirrel.
For those dogs that do ignore the warnings, owners can use their mobile app to track the dog via GPS.
“The collar has a display on it, and we’re using an e-ink display so even if the collar battery dies, it will always display the dog’s name, health information and address.
Wagz even built in LED lights that are activated so a car will see the dog. About 10 million out of 80 million dogs in the U.S. go missing or get hit by a car, says Anderton.
“Every feature we have, it’s there for a reason,” says Anderton.
The collar records your dog’s temperature, so if you were to leave your dog in the car and the temperature hit a certain threshold, you’ll get an alert that your dog’s in distress.
And the collar connects to Wagz’s Serve Smart Feeder, which determines the amount of food your dog needs based on its activity level.
“We take into consideration your dog’s age, breed, gender and activity level, and we give you food that’s specific for your dog” says Anderton. “Most people really don’t know what is appropriate for my dog? You get hit with some marketing messages, but there’s really limited choices than what’s available for humans. They just go with what’s on sales and they don’t’ have the right knowledge on what to feed my dog. We worked with the veterinary profession and came up with a sophisticated algorithm that takes in those data points and determines the most appropriate food for your dog.”
Wagz developed a relationship with Amazon Dash to replenish the feeder by ordering a new package of food at a certain point, so owners never need to worry they’ll run out of dog food.
“It’s the only device of any type that’s fully autonomous appliance that knows what you have for inventory in your house, how much is being served to your pet and when it’s time to reorder and it reorder it for you and delivers it to your door on time,” says Anderton. “We’ve been working very closely with Amazon and we’ve got other technologies, they’ve opened their toolbox and provided us so we’ve built an entire company on the Amazon backbone.”
In addition, the collar, which must be taken off and recharged at night (though Wagz is working on a wireless dog bed that automatically charges the collar), has a bark-activated video camera that sends owners a bark alert so they can see what their dog is barking at and talk to them through the collar. The idea is that if owners buy the connected dog door, their pet can come and go as it pleases, but owners can always keep an eye on it.
“The number one thing that came out of our research is people want to feel connected with their pet,” explains Anderson, who noted the market is being driven by Millennials. “There’s a tremendous amount of guilt when they go to work. Historically people locked their dog in crates so they don’t do damage in the home, and our goal was to unleash the dog and let the dog be free and give people the comfort they could leave their dog home, they could go in and out of the house safely, and they would be inside the perimeter set by them, and if they didn’t get back in time to feed the dog, they could be fed.”
Wagz is nearing $10 million in revenue this year, due in part to a deal with Black and Decker to sell its collar under the corporation’s brand.
“We are the next great New Hampshire success story and I’m really committed to this state,” reflects Anderton. “I’ve had opportunities to move and do things in Massachusetts, but I’m stubborn because I wanted to do things in New Hampshire, despite some of the issues we’ve come across.”