Disrupted Dogs – How Pet Tech Will Change Insurance
The problem with the Internet of Things is that it has such vast potential to change everything in our world it’s literally mind boggling and finding real world applications for its usage can be a challenge.
Here’s a great example – the Internet of Things translates into disrupted the pet insurance business:
Once the stuff of science-fiction, wearable technology has become prosaic. Thousands of people use devices like FitBit, Jawbone and the Apple Watch to track their activity levels, sleep quality and nutrition among other quantifiable bits of human data. So it makes sense that the next wave of wearable tech extends this health-consciousness beyond the human world to man’s best friend.
There are a surprising amount of devices already on the market, though the majority are still in their early stages. One of them is a GPS tracker called Wagg, from pet technology company Whistle. For $79, Wagg tracks your dog’s location in real-time using its accompanying app, as well as allowing you to define the area they can wander in and alerting you when they stray. Whistle also offers a more high-tech gizmo for $99 that lets you keep a close eye on your pet while you’re at work as well as by their side. The sleek, circular device fits on to any collar and can track your dog’s medication, food and activity, making you the first to know if they’re getting enough exercise, as well as if there’s anything wrong.
Australian Kickstarter project Buddy is an LED-lit smart collar that combines all of these features in a (literally) flashy device. The somewhat over-engineered piece of wearable tech for dogs shares a lot of the same features as its human-intended counterparts. As well as the standard GPS technology, Buddy tracks your pet’s activity levels, calorific intake and sleep quality so you can monitor your canine companion’s health just as you would your own.
As well as changing our relationships with our animals, pet tech also has the potential to disrupt the world of pet insurance.
In the US, some health insurers reward customers who use wearable technology with discounted healthcare cover. It’s possible that pet insurance companies might offer a similar kind of compensation. Dogs with smart collars are likely to have responsible, dedicated owners (or ‘parents’) – perhaps entitled to cheaper insurance because of their commitment to canine health.
Wagglepets is a UK company that’s offering something like this. From £50 to £100 per month, depending on the size of your dog, Wagglepets supplies a complete care package for your pet. This includes food and treats, grooming vouchers, a Whistle activity tracker – and free insurance from MORE TH>N. Whilst this insurance is not related to health information from the Whistle device, it’s conceivable that one day it might be.
Buddy and Whistle already say it’s up to the user whether or not they choose to share their dog’s data with their vet. Doing so might help them diagnose and treat pets, which can only be a good thing. And if your dog’s statistics show he’s healthy and happy, it would make sense for your insurance premiums to decrease – there’s less risk of you making a claim. Great. But if they’re not so good – say, Rover’s a little chubbier than the device suggests he should be, or you’ve had a busy few weeks and haven’t walked him as much as you could, your insurance costs could go up. Conceivably, if your dog’s seen as unhealthy compared to other dogs his age and breed, you might even find it hard to get cover at all.
However, pet trackers also have the potential to alert you if something’s up with your dog before the problem becomes serious, and expensive. Insurers might recognise that you can get health issues sorted before they have to properly shell-out – maybe by giving you a better deal in the first place.
Still, it’ll probably be a while before sharing canine health stats with your vet and insurer becomes a reality. It’s the GPS side of the technology that has more pressing, and positive, implications for insurance.
Microchips have been tracing lost dogs for years, but new devices are better and more convenient that this traditional technology. Chips require your pet to be taken to a vet or shelter by the person who finds them, where they look up your details – the GPS tracking technology of devices like Wagg and Buddy allows the owner to track their dog in real-time, on their phone. Whistle will even send text alerts if, say, you’re stuck up a mountain and don’t have internet.
Most pet insurance companies will pay-out if your dog gets lost, to go towards costs of flyers, and a reward if they’re found, or to cover the cost of your pet if they aren’t. Plausibly, because of the vastly decreased likelihood of your dog disappearing if it has a GPS tracker like Wagg, insurance costs for dogs with smart collars could be reduced. So it’s possible a wearable device might save money as well as your dog’s life.
While the questions of data exploitation and surveillance surrounding wearable tech for humans may make some people reluctant, monitoring your pet doesn’t really have the same connotations of dystopian Big Brother. After all, dogs don’t have a right to privacy.
So smart collars and the like might seem a bit silly now, but they have the potential to be a good investment – connecting people to their pets digitally when they can’t be there in person, and preventing health issues and the tragedy of a lost dog. They might even help you get cheaper insurance.
Article by Phoebe McCrostie of Boughtbymany
Disrupted Dogs – How the Internet of Things will change Insurance @iDisrupted @johnstraw @boughtbymany #internetofthings