|Article Author: Dog Gadgets Review - A Merryvaluation by Angie McKaig|
Oh, it's a wacky world compared to the one I grew up with. Wireless communication between devices? Internet? Web? Social networking?
Dude. I was so a child of the Atari age. There are days when I look around and see how far we've come and can't quite believe it. I have to pinch myself.
All of this wacky technology has combined with a clever little piece of gear from a company called SNIF Labs. The gear? The SNIF tag, the next-generation dog tag for your pet.
This dog tag is a little bigger than most, sure. (It's really very lightweight, however.) But here's what it does: it communicates, in real time, with the Internet. And because it does that, here are some of the things you can do with your SNIF tag information:
1. See what your dog is doing: right now, this very minute (even if you're at work and the dog's at home.
This is because the tag reports your dog's activity levels every 5 seconds. It tells you, based on presumably heart rate, whether they're sleeping, sitting, walking, trotting, or galloping (running).
2. See a history of your dog's activity.
Want to know what they're doing overnight while you sleep? Or heard something go bump in the night before you fell back asleep, and wanted to make sure it wasn't something nasty? Check their historical activity by month, day, or by hour (broken down in 5 minute intervals).
3. Compare your dog's activity levels to other individual dogs or groups of the same breed, location, etc.
This helps you figure out if your dog is a sloth who needs to get his butt moving or whether he's a supastar who likely needs some Prozac before you go crazy.
4. See, and meet, other SNIF tag owners.
Every time your pooch runs into another dog wearing a SNIF tag - sadly, we were the only ones in Toronto so I couldn't test this - the tag logs this meeting and uploads this data to the internet. Think of the possibilities! You meet a cute guy at the dog park but you didn't get his name or have the guts to give him your number. If both pets are wearing a SNIF tag, you'll be able to look him up when you get home and even leave a message on his "wall" (just like Facebook, folks).
How does it all work? The SNIF tag slides over your dog's collar. Note: we tested this with several leather collars and couldn't get them to fit - they were too thick. Clearly, the designers had thinner (nylon or webbing or fabric) collars in mind when designing the slider. The tag itself "clips" to the front of the slide.
Now here's where it gets interesting. The tag communicates with a slender base unit (see the photos - it's about the size of a computer speaker) that you attach to your router, cable modem or computer (depending on how you have Internet access set up at home - there are decent instructions explaining this). The base unit receives, stores and transmits the activity and meeting data from the tag to the SNIF web site. Sometimes (when your dog is particularly active) the tag even lights up as it transmits. It's hilarious watching the pug go up the stairs in the dark.
Luckily, the tag doesn't require batteries. It's rechargeable - you place it into a cubby in the top of the base unit and it will recharge within a few hours. One charge lasts surprisingly long - several days, since it uses very low power.
The tag's also blingable! Each kit comes with two additional snap-on color cases and a couple of pretty "faces" if you don't want the SNIF logo.
The data it shares with you on its web site is actually very cool - we all had a blast monitoring Merry's activities, and watching her activity levels soar when we played ball with her. Click here to see an example of their hour-by-hour breakdown of her activity for a (portion of) a single day: you'll see her activity spike around 10am, when I woke her up, dressed her, took her outside for a walk. It spiked again around 11:30 when we had a visitor to the office and it stayed high through lunch. She slept most of the afternoon (though she did play a little with a chew toy in the afternoon) until 7 when she went for another walk and then it was PLAYTIME!
Honestly, I was thinking this would have been a GREAT help during Merry's puppy years, determining her activity levels, figuring out just WHEN she would start to fuss at night and need to go out. Even knowing what she was doing while I was at work all day would have been useful, particularly in diagnosing anxiety or separation issues.
I can also see GREAT applications for this if you're single and living in a big city with other owners who have the tag. Parks and dog runs are places to meet hunky dog-owning men (or women, if that's your thing) already, so this just acts as a cute, techno, social lubricant. I might be too shy to give that guy my number, but hey, I'm not too shy to chat him up online. But you are kind of at the mercy of the need for critical mass - enough owners in your area who also have the tag - for the system to work. Hopefully SNIF will do "campaigns" in certain cities to try and drum this up - they already have a good start in New York City.
If I had one thing to change about the tag, it would be its bulkiness. Merry's really about the smallest dog I'd want to attempt to put this on - I can't imagine strapping it onto a Chihuahua. I realize why the thing is so large - it's doing a fair amount of work. But it seems like its target market would be at the 16 pounds and up crowd. Which is too bad. Because we teeny dog lovers would love a version of this! Hopefully the company will continue to innovate (read: shrink) the device as time goes on. :)
Addicted to social networks like Facebook AND your dog? Are you dying to know what your dog's doing when you're not around? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then the SNIF tag, my friends, may be just your ticket.
You can find out more about SNIF from their web site at www.sniftag.com.