Here I cover the best smart pet feeders, toys, and trackers!
If you love your pet but lead a busy life, smart technology can provide you with various ways to reach out remotely and check in, feed or even play with your pal.
If your pet has free rein of your home, you can take advantage of a smart camera to keep an eye on them; there's no reason why you shouldn't have the video feed open all the time in the corner of your computer screen as you work, giving you a glimpse of furry loveliness whenever you need it.
Remember that with the two-way talk feature on many smart cameras you can also say 'hi' to your four-legged friend (or shout at them to get off the furniture, if you prefer!).
FEED FROM AFAR WITH
THE BEST SMART PET FEEDERS
If your voice isn't enough, a camera that can give your pet a dry food treat is also a possibility.
Mechanical smart pet feeding devices with a timer are a well-established area of the market, and can be picked up for under $50, but with smart technology these machines can be built to keep the interaction a whole lot less, well, robotic.
FURBO DOG TREAT CAMERA
With a 1080p camera (with 4x zoom and night vision) and enough room for around 100 km-sized treats, this elegantly designed smart pet feeder actually looks good in your living space so need not be hidden in the corner of the utility room.
The app opens like any other camera with two-way talk, but at the bottom of the screen is a button to activate the dispenser.
Another nice touch is a 'barking alert' - if your dog gets a bit noisy, you'll get a notification on your phone before your neighbors complain.
Sadly, the camera on this robot is only 720p, but at least that makes the feed less demanding on your network connection, and it does offer a 4x digital zoom.
You can also share pies of your pet with app links to Instagram and Facebook.
Pawbo+ does take play seriously though; the basic unit includes a laser to project a dot to chase, and add-ons include a feathered stick you can place in view of the camera for fun play, or some 'ears' with flashing lights.
Up to eight people can watch the feed at once.
PLAY AWAY WITH
THE BEST SMART PET TOYS
Feeding is one thing, but interaction with your pet helps keep them stimulated, not to mention being a rewarding way to feel the love when you can't be at home.
iFETCH INTERACTIVE BALL LAUNCHERS
If you’re finding playing fetch a little taxing, then this might be a smart solution (though not actually ‘smart’ in the internet of things sense – there is no Wi-Fi).
The iFetch automatic ball thrower comes in two different sizes - small and large - the small being from small dogs. It throws mini tennis balls (1.6-inch diameter). These are included. The larger version (the iFetch Too) can throw a standard-sized tennis ball from 2.5 to 9m (10 to 30ft.) and features motion sensors for safety.
On first inspection this innocuous little box looks not unlike other smart home cameras, and indeed it connects via Wi-Fi to provide you with a 720p video feed (and stereo audio).
It detects motion and will notify you if your pet is in view, so you can start the fun with the remotely controllable laser pointer; just drag your finger around the screen to move the dot around the room, and talk to your pet as you do through the speaker.
You can also take stills and videos for sharing, and there is a night-vision mode.
PEBBY SMART BALL
As a prototype on KickStarter, the Pebby Smart Ball received over 1,000 per cent of its funding goal.
Using a ball inside a ball, you can remotely take control of this Wi-Fi-connected ball while it aims to keep the camera level.
There is a built-in sensor to detect a nudge so you know when your four-legged friend wants to play, and you can then drive the ball yourself or engage auto play or auto follow.
The Pebby includes a charging kennel and a PebbyCollar, which enables the ball's companion app to track your pet's activity so you can see how much it's been run around on a graph.
THE BEST PET TRACKERS
Just as we use smart watches and other devices to track our own movements, we can monitor our pets to see if they stay within boundaries, or learn more about where they like to prowl.
Many systems use mobile networks, needing a subscription to work properly, and of course need power.
Designers face the compromise of how long the collar attachment will operate against the added weight; some offer higher activity modes that use power faster but give you more detail (i.e. check position more often).
WHISTLE GO EXPLORE - HEALTH + LOCATION TRACKER FOR PETS
The Whistle Go Explore pet tracker monitors your pet’s location and health.
It tells you when your pet leaves a designated safe place by email, text, or app notification whether they’re down the street or 3,000 miles away.
The Whistle Go Explore pet tracker helps you stay ahead of potential problems with notifications and weekly wellness reports that monitor behaviors like licking, scratching, and sleeping. The app will notify when a change occurs.
With a built-in light for visibility and a battery that lasts up to 20 days, this is a great pet tracker.
FITBARK 2 DOG ACTIVITY MONITOR
This tracker is designed to monitor mobility and track calories by motion, not position, so doesn't need a power-hungry GPS, mobile account or paid subscription and the battery can last for up to six months.
This two-inch by one-inch collar attachment can feed back a wealth of information to you, so long as you don't mind charging it every couple of days for safe zone monitoring, or every day for detailed adventure tracking.
Using GPS for positioning and GSM (mobile phone signals), the Pod 3 is not affected by distance from any one location and the beautifully designed app is easy to navigate.