One of my most disappointing tech projects was, in 2006, attaching a digital camera to our cat’s collar. The mission was to discover where the now passed-on Bengal, Alan, went when he was out – and what he got up to there.
It had taken years to source a suitable camera but, once it was invented, I was sure a Turner Prize was in the bag. However, Alan was an awful photographer, and the frames he got weren’t even so bad they were good. They were just bad. What I did learn was that animals on the loose have an unbelievably boring time. Crouching over a patch of grass in the hope it might turn into a bird does not look fun.
But a dog or cat that roams is a concern – often a heartache. Alan once went missing for six weeks before sauntering home with no explanation of where he’d been.
This new waterproof pet-tracker device from France’s ceaselessly innovative “internet of things” sector is fascinating, both in the data it sends back from your straying pet and the technology behind it. Pet trackers are not uncommon, but they usually need a SIM card and constant recharges. The Invoxia Pet Tracker runs for up to a month on a charge and the location and other information the 15g device gathers (it can tell whether your pet is eating, barking, sleeping, running and more) comes to your phone via a low-power wide-area network, also French, called Sigfox (which is already operating in 70 countries).
As you doubtless know, Sigfox exploits differential binary phase-shift keying and Gaussian frequency-shift keying that together enable small amounts of data to be emitted on the Industrial, Scientific and Medical radio band. Sigfox signals pass through solid objects, even underground. So you won’t lose contact, even if Rover roves down a foxhole.
How accurate is the Invoxia Pet Tracker? Pretty good, and improving with regular automatic firmware updates. It was a little vague when I first tested it in the spring, becoming rather remarkable by summer. It won’t take you to the precise bush under which your pet is hanging out, but certainly to the street, anywhere in the UK and most of Europe. US functionality is coming.