LAS VEGAS — There's no shortage of companies at CES barking about some wearable computing device or fitness tracker. But Jeff Noce doesn't believe Homo sapiens should get all the love.
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Noce is president of i4C Innovations, the Virginia outfit behind Voyce, a techie band and service for canines that promises to monitor your pooch's key vital signs, including heart and respiratory rates, calories burned and whether he's been active or in doggie la-la land.
Voyce was — pun intended — unleashed this week at CES, the giant annual consumer electronics show.
"What we are looking to do is change the relationship between the owner and their dog," says Noce, who owns an English mastiff named Scout.
According to Noce, dogs are programmed to not exhibit symptoms or show much pain until whatever it is that may be bothering them enters the later stages. "By the time you actually notice something at home (the issue) is much further along than it would be with humans," he says.
So Voyce is meant to serve as an early warning system that would help you detect the subtle changes in your pet that happen over time — for example, comparing this week's results to last week's, last month's or the last six months.
You can easily share such data with your vet, or compare results with other pet owners via a social network.
Voyce syncs up with your computer, tablet or smartphone over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth; data is stored in the cloud. The band has a single accelerometer and otherwise exploits what the company claims is non-invasive (to your pet) wireless RF technology.
What you're not going to get is any kind of alarm that will go off to indicate an immediate problem.
The core technology has been 10 years in the making, Noce says, and i4C collaborated with bio-medical engineers, dog experts (e.g., Alexandra Horowitz, the best-selling author of Inside of a Dog), and Cornell University, one of the nation's top veterinary schools. Voyce carries 17 patents.
Still, this isn't an entirely new concept. A start-up called Whistle launched a "ruff-ly" similar device last year, the Whistle Activity Monitor for dogs. It exploits Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and through an accelerometer tracks when your pup is playing, walking and resting, and starting this year running or swimming. It communicates the data to an iPhone app, with Android coming, and has similar designs on social sharing.
Noce claims Voyce goes well beyond Whistle. The adjustable collar on Voyce's device fits 12- to 22-inch necks meaning it, too, won't accommodate all pets. Noce hopes to deliver versions to broaden Voyce's availability to toy breeds, cats, even horses.
The current band weighs less than 6 ounces and is waterproof up to 1-meter, making it good in theory for those dogs that never met a creek or puddle they wouldn't take a dip in. (Whistle is also waterproof.)
Voyce is made of a rubber material similar to (but thicker than) the Nike FuelBand. It derives its power from a lithium ion polymer battery and is estimated to last a week before you must charge it through a portable USB charging station. It has a multifunction button and an LED indicator.
Voyce is due out in late spring or early summer, and at $299 on top of a monthly fee, it won't come cheap. The Whistle Activity Monitor costs $129.95.
Then again yours truly and other pet owners I know aren't shy about spending a lot of money on their four-legged family members, especially if it promises to keep them in good health.
Alas, I haven't been able to test Voyce on Sadie, my Shiffon, though I did see it at CES on a beautiful 4-year-old golden retriever named Star.
Subscribers (through www.MyDogsVoyce.com) can remotely tap into their dog's personalized portfolio of data and information virtually anytime through a mobile device.
By letting the service know your dog's breed and age, you can receive tips, important reminders and notifications covering nutrition, behavior, training, health and lifestyle, articles on hip dysplasia, say, or canine influenza.
"This is a new era in our relationship with our dogs," Noce says. "Understanding them like never before."
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