Tech for pets

Growing market for smart pet toys and gadgets

Smart pet devices tap the close relationship owners have with their animal companion.
Smart pet devices tap the close relationship owners have with their animal companion. PHOTOS: ISTOCKPHOTO, SYBO TECH/PEBBY, GOSH!, PAWBO

Devices include those for remote monitoring and feeding

Miss Maye Pang used to worry about her five-year-old Japanese Spitz whenever she left for work, as there was no one in the house to look after her pet dog.

So when she was looking for an automatic pet feeder, she decided to get one with a video camera that allowed her to check in on her furry companion using her smartphone.

"It lets me check on him, and gives me peace of mind," said Miss Pang, 26, who runs her own events company. "Of course, it doesn't compare to physical touch but it helps a lot to see him and know he is healthy and happy and eating well."

Like Miss Pang, pet owners here are increasingly looking towards smart connected devices to feed, play with and keep an eye on their furry friends when they cannot be physically around them.

Retailers are bringing in such devices to meet the demand, including products such as automated pet feeders, toys and monitors. Two local start-ups have also gone into designing and producing their own products, two of which are hitting the market later this year.

While sales data for smart pet devices in Singapore is unavailable, the global market for such products was estimated to be worth US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) at the end of last year, according to US-based market intelligence firm Transparency Market Research.

This includes products such as smart collars, leashes and feeders, and is projected to grow at least US$2.5 billion (S$3.5 billion) by 2024.

  • $1.4b

    How much the global market for smart pet devices is estimated to be worth.

    $3.5b

    How much it is projected to grow to by 2024.

One company, SmartPaw, brings in smart pet devices like monitors and feeders from China and Taiwan.

Mr Dean Tan, SmartPaw's marketing head, said he started this part-time venture a year ago when he saw the growing popularity of such devices in the United States.

"Our sales have been above our objectives so far, even though we started out lean," said Mr Tan.

Pet tech is a natural extension of the growing Internet of Things ecosystem, where all sorts of physical devices are now Internet-enabled so that users can access and control them remotely on their smartphones.

Start-ups here have been eyeing this space and have designed, developed and manufactured their own smart pet toys.

Among the lot is three-year-old Sybo Tech, which will be sending its Pebby smart pet toy to those who pre-ordered it and backed its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Pebby is a small ball with a camera inside that can roll and follow a pet while sending a video stream to a user's smartphone.

Sybo Tech co-founder Hansen Goh said local demand for Pebby has been "extremely favourable", chalking it to Singaporeans' tech-savviness. "Pebby's functions not only meet the needs of pet owners, but the novelty of having a high-tech robotic toy to entertain pets also appeals to pet owners, he said.

Such smart pet devices tap the close relationship owners have with their animal companion, letting them interact even as owners are away at work or travelling, said Mr Johnson Goh, chief executive of consumer gadget firm gosh! Singapore.

"We saw a lot of owners wanting to enhance their pets' well-being, like knowing how much nutrition they are getting or interacting remotely through the Internet when they are away, and even getting the pets to keep fit as most pets laze around when bored at home," said Mr Goh.

The firm manufactured its own smart pet feeders and delivered its first batch to early backers on Kickstarter last year. Mr Goh estimates that there are a thousand users of the company's pet feeder, adding that the figure is growing daily.

It is also developing a robot pet ball called the easyPlay, which is due to be released in two months' time. The small robotic ball, which is controllable via a smartphone, is able to roll after pets and dispense treats.


Have a ball with the furry creature back home

Pebby


The Pebby's shell is a clear plastic case which is hardy enough to withstand bites, swipes and roughhousing from house pets. PHOTO: SYBO TECH/PEBBY

Those who want to keep an eye on and play with their pets while they are away can now do so through a camera-equipped plastic ball that rolls alongside their active pet companion at home.

Pebby, developed by homegrown start-up Sybo Tech Singapore, is an orange-sized ball that connects to a home's Wi-Fi network so that users can control it remotely using an app.

The Pebby's shell is a clear plastic case which is hardy enough to withstand bites, swipes and roughhousing from house pets, as well as being waterproof to protect the electronics inside.

Gyroscopes inside the toy keep the camera levelled and pointed forward when Pebby is rolling. An auto-play mode lets Pebby move around by itself, so the pets can be kept entertained.

A wireless charging dock, called the Pebby Kennel, charges the Pebby by rolling the toy into it.

The first commercial batch of Pebby toys, after Sybo Tech's fundraising on crowdfunding websites Kickstarter and Indiegogo raised over US$1 million (S$1.38 million), will be sent to backers this month. A Pebby package, which includes a Pebby ball, charging dock and a smart collar, costs US$179 for early adopters. Pebby will officially go on sale next year.


Gosh! It's chow time - here kitty, kitty, kitty...

gosh!'s easyFeed

The gosh! easyFeed is equipped with a speaker and microphone so owners can call out to their pet buddies when food is to be dispensed.
The gosh! easyFeed is equipped with a speaker and microphone so owners can call out to their pet buddies when food is to be dispensed. PHOTO: GOSH!

If the Pawbo+ is a pet camera that doles out the occasional treat, then gosh!'s easyFeed is the reverse: it is a full-fledged smart automatic feeder which sports a camera to monitor your pet's dietary habits.

The feeder is suitable for both cats and dogs, and has one for dry food and another for water. It can store up to 2.5kg of food and 6 litres of water in its internal tanks.

The easyFeed connects to a local Wi-Fi network which allows users to control it remotely through a smartphone app available for both Android and iOS devices.

Users can set it to automatically dispense food or water by time of day or weight via the app. Or they can dispense food anytime, bypassing the specified feeding times.

The easyFeed app tracks the time and amount of food being dispensed, so a log of how much food their pets have eaten can be kept.

Daily, weekly and monthly breakdown options can be helpful for those concerned about their pets getting a bit on the heavy side.

A webcam on the front of the easyFeed lets users monitor their pets through the app, with live-stream footage in high-definition 720p.

The easyFeed is also equipped with a speaker and microphone so owners can call out to their pet buddies when food is to be dispensed.


Watch and reward your beloved doggie remotely 

Pawbo+ smart pet camera

If you see that your pet has been a good boy, tap a button on your smartphone and the Pawbo+ smart pet camera will dispense a reward.
If you see that your pet has been a good boy, tap a button on your smartphone and the Pawbo+ smart pet camera will dispense a reward. PHOTO: PAWBO

Pawbo's latest smart pet camera will let owners keep an eye on their pets while they are out of the house, and also reward their furry friends for good behaviour.

The Pawbo+ device, which costs $268.90 here, is a 20cm-tall cylinder fitted with a wide-angle camera lens, speakers and microphones, all of which are connected to the Internet so that users can see and interact with their pets in real time through their smartphones.

A treat dispenser at the base of the device lets users release such rewards with the tap of a button on their smartphone.

The Pawbo+ is developed by Taiwanese company Pawbo, which was acquired by computer-maker Acer last year. It streams and records video in high-definition 720p, with a 130-degree field of view that can capture the pets and their surroundings.

Up to eight users can view the Pawbo+'s livestream at the same time through the Pawbo app.

The Pawbo+'s speakers and microphones let owners speak to their pets from afar, and this function can be combined with the treat dispenser to reward their pets even if they are physically separated.

Since it weighs just under half a kilogram (455g), it might not be able to withstand the excitement of larger pets which may have the strength to knock it over if it is not mounted onto a wall.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Growing market for smart pet toys and gadgets '. Print Edition | Subscribe