Even if you retired your Fitbit or Fuelband to a desk drawer long ago, you may still find room in your heart for another activity-tracking wearable. No, not for you — for your dog. The Voyce health and wellness monitor bypasses human biology entirely, and sets its sights on canis familiaris, a species with much less capricious technology habits.
Yeah, it's another canine wearable. But instead of merely recording pawsteps, the Voyce band also tracks resting heart and respiratory rates, two biometrics that can provide deep insights into a dog's health. My border collie mix, Whiskey, has been wearing Voyce for just over a month, and I've gathered a wealth of interesting data about just how much activity and sleep she's really getting — along with reports on her vital signs that would otherwise require specialized veterinary equipment.
Voyce just dropped its price from $300 to $200, but requires a pricey $15 monthly or $150 yearly membership plan. It's also limited to dogs with 12-inch necks or larger. It's also got an annoying, ever-blinking LED, and looks like cold, sterile medical equipment. And the Voyce data dashboard is web-only, and loads rather slowly.
The manufacturer, i4C Innovations, says it's working on fixing some of these issues, but even the 1.0 version of Voyce is super-cool technology. The collar tracks Whiskey's heart rate and breathing when she's at home, kicking back on the couch — cool, calm and perfectly content. And this is the big innovation that should be of particular interest to veterinarians.
A month's worth of doggie data
The collar was originally slated to be available by summer 2014, but Voyce hit a snag with FCC approval. The device's special patented technology is a sensor that uses low-frequency radio waves to measure heart rate (tracking pulses of the carotid artery) and breathing rate (tracking muscle movement in doggie's chest). The FCC finally landed on a protocol for testing and certifying this application for dogs, and now the Voyce band is shipping.
Every day for the last month, I've been checking Whiskey's heart rate and respiratory data, and her readings have been blissfully normal. I haven't seen any alarming heart rate spikes, and her breathing rates have varied between a relaxed 11 and 16 breaths per minute. The Voyce band takes these two readings when your dog is at full rest, and then reports a three-day rolling average.
This rolling-average approach smooths out the natural variability of canine heartbeat and breathing rates, presenting only baseline measurements that can show trends over time. But here's the really important thing, according to Voyce: Because the measurements are collected when your dog is perfectly calm, the readings will be much more instructive than anything measured during the cortisol-driven emotional duress of a veterinary visit.
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