UPDATED 10:32 EST / JUNE 06 2013

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Big Data Goes to the Dogs with Smart “Whistle” Collars

Many of us have loveable furry friends in our lives, and in most cases consider them to be a huge part of the family.  Some treat their dogs and cats like their best friend, like a lifetime companion, and we all want them to live long and happy lives.  Sadly, our pets ultimately have far shorter lifespans than humans, and so saying goodbye is almost inevitable.

A dog’s average lifespan depends on the breed and size, but according to experts, most large breed dogs have a shorter lifespan than medium and small breeds.  Say for instance you have a Chow Chow whose average lifespan is 9-12 years, you see that number as too short and you want to extend it.  Is there a way for you add more years to your pet’s life?

Say Hello To Whistle


Thanks to Big Data, there might just be. A San Francisco-based start-up may have found a way to add years to your pet’s life with a hi-tech, wearable collar that monitors your dog’s activity, whether its going for walkies, running around and playing, resting, eating and, ahem, crapping, even when you the owner can’t be around.

Known as “Whistle”, this smart doggy device is equipped with 3-axis accelerometer, LED indicators, Single push-button interface, Waterproof (IPX-7),  WiFi, Bluetooth, Shockproof and ruggedized, and weighs 16g.  It attaches to a dog’s collar via an adjustable strap and its rechargeable battery lasts for up to 10 days.  You can now pre-order the device for $99.95,  but for now it’s only compatible for use with Apple devices running  iOS 5.1 or later.

How it works


The device collects information about your dog’s activity, rest and behavior patterns over time.  You input your dog’s breed, age and weight for comparison.  Everything is stored in the cloud rather than the “Whistle” itself, and can be accessed via your mobile app anywhere you go.  You can view the changes happening to your dog via the mobile app and check that Fido is getting enough sleep or exercise, or if he/she’s behaving normally.  Whistle also allows you to create reports that you can share directly with your veterinarian, so if you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior, the vet can better analyze the situation for you.

“While you might be taking your dog for a walk, his ambient activity when you are away is decreasing. That slight decrease could indicate a health issue depending on the dog,” Whistle CEO and co-founder Ben Jacobs said in an interview.

It’s not just about monitoring your dog’s activities or behavior, Whistle can be used to see how well or poorly he’s responding to treatment.

“We can use Whistle to monitor the impact of a treatment, too. Say your dog has a front line tick, you can see if the dog is scratching less, you can see if the dog’s rest is interrupted,” Jacobs explained.

By becoming aware of  your dog’s needs, for instance the amount of exercise it gets each day by walking, the hours of sleep it gets, not too mention rest time during the day, little Fido should (in theory) be ale to live a much longer, happier and healthier life – in fact, the makers of Whistle say that their device could add up years to your dog’s life.  Just like humans, dogs need the right amount of exercise, food, rest, and playtime to function well. We can’t expect them to be happy if they’re stressed out because they’re always stuck inside the house.

Big Data and the Internet of Things


It’s thanks to Big Data and the Internet of Things that devices like Whistle have been made possible.  The device is connected to both your mobile app and the cloud.  Once your dog’s data reaches the cloud, analytics can be applied to try and make sense of it. Without the mobile app, all Whistle can do is collect data, so we can see the huge importance that the IoT plays in making this kind of device work.

We should note that Whistle is not all about comparing graphs and analyzing charts. Rather, its about analyzing millions of data points per animal, looking for patterns or “vectors” such as restless sleep or interrupted play that could indicate that something isn’t right.

“Dogs tend to hide their pain from you,” Jacobs said. “They will act how their owners want them to act. Dogs will run a marathon with their owners until their paws bleed. That’s not an indication of health. That’s an indication of loyalty.”

And that’s exactly the kind of loyalty that owners should return to their pets, by pulling out all the stops to make sure they’re content. It’s a dog’s life after all!

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