By Mike Elgan, Houzz
Internet technology should make it simple for us to watch our pets while we’re at work or otherwise out of the house for a short time, and also to make sure they’re being fed and have plenty of water. That’s why a product that went on the market about five years ago seemed like such a good idea. It was called the iSeePet360.
The product, which was made in Japan, featured a high-capacity container for holding dry pet food. It also had a dish where the food could be dispensed either automatically or upon your command over the Internet. Best of all it had a built-in webcam so you could monitor your pet over the Internet to make sure everything was OK.
Unfortunately, the product was discontinued. For a few years, there were no products that were anything like this, enabling monitoring and feeding via the Internet as short-term help caring for pets while you’re at work or away overnight.
Very recently, however, a few new products that do some of this began to come on the market.
The only product available now that’s even remotely similar to the now-discontinued iSeePet360 is another Japanese feeder designed for small dogs, called the Remoca Dog Food Bowl Camera. The Remoca has two small bowls for food, plus another bowl for holding water that’s automatically dispensed from a standard mounted water bottle.
You can control the Remoca’s camera remotely so you can pan and zoom and check out the whole room to make sure your pet is OK. You can even capture video, in case he or she does something adorable.
The feeder has a very low capacity; it can dispense only a small amount of food and water and is not suitable for large pets or long periods of time between refilling. The food is placed in two very small bowls that are uncovered when you remotely move the cover using included software controls. The upside is that you can place canned food into the bowls or any other kind of treat or pet food, unlike most other feeders, which require standard dry food.
The feeder has some other neat features. For example, you can see in the dark with infrared mode. You can also call your pet through a speaker built into the unit. The unit connects to your home network and the Internet through either an Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi. It comes with both a PC and Mac application for controlling the camera, and also an app that supports any Android phone.
Unfortunately, the Remoca Dog Food Bowl Camera is very expensive: close to $700.
A really cool new pet feeder called Pintofeed is currently in development; it can put you in touch with your pet remotely and make sure your furry friend gets fed on time. The feeder connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and you can monitor and control it with your smart phone and even via social media.
Dry pet food can be dispensed on a schedule. Or you can tell the unit to provide food anytime you like from a smart phone app. Pintofeed can notify you on Twitter, Facebook or via text message when your pet starts and stops eating, and also if there are any errors or problems with the feeder.
It plugs into the wall for power. If the power goes out, a backup battery keeps it going for a while.
Pintofeed is a crowd-funded project on Indiegogo that has already met its fundraising goals. It should cost about $130 when it ships later this year.
If you like the idea of Pintofeed but wish it had a camera, you can use a good webcam separately and point it at the feeder, giving you all the capabilities of the iSeePet360 -— and more. One of the best new general-purpose webcams, which can be used for pet monitoring, is called the Dropcam HD.
The Dropcam HD is extremely easy to set up, according to both the manufacturer and reviewers. You’re supposed to be able to set it up completely in about one minute. It’s a high-quality camera with 720p resolution, and it also has a wide-angle lens so you can see most of the room at once, although it cannot be remotely panned or zoomed.
You can set it up to send you either an email or an alert via the app when the camera detects either movement or a loud noise, such as when your dog is barking. A separate Dropcam DVR service costing $9.95 per month lets you automatically record video and watch it later.
Dropcam HD supports both iOS and Android phones and tablets for both monitoring and control. It has both a microphone and a camera so you can talk to and hear your pet.
An interesting new area of consumer technology, called quantified self-movement, enables people to constantly monitor their own bodily functions, including things like heart rate, calories burned, sleep and more.
A new company called PetPace is working on something similar for dogs and cats. Call it the quantified pet. The PetPace Collar contains multiple sensors and comes with veterinary software that reads your pet’s vital signs and watches its behavior.
The collar collects sensor data constantly, and when your pet comes within about 1,000 yards of an included base station, that information is uploaded from there to the Internet. At first the database takes notice of what’s normal for your pet. Then later, if any of these vital signs become abnormal, you’ll be alerted. If something goes wrong, the collar can send you a text message or an email, or notify you by phone.
The manufacturer claims that the collar allows early detection of common diseases and illnesses so you can get veterinary care when needed.
Although the final pricing has not been announced, the PetPace collar is supposed to go on sale later this year for $150. The ongoing monitoring service should cost between $15 and $20 per month.