Pet owners who’ve had to go through the trauma of having a dog run away will understand: its microchip alone may not be enough to help you trace your dog.
The Pet Widget is a $29 collar tag that’s just hit the market, supported by a social network for pets and their humans. Its creator, Ivan Loh, told Mashable that many runaway pets who are picked up are untraceable despite being microchipped, because their owners may have neglected to renew their annual licence.
And typically, only vets and animal shelters have microchip scanners, so people who find a dog won’t be able to locate its owner without wrestling it to one of those facilities, he added.
His two labrador retrievers were lost a few years ago in Singapore when someone left the front gate open. After two weeks of combing the neighbourhood, his mum chanced by a poster from a pet groomer advertising that they were there.
“They’re microchipped, but the groomer couldn’t find me. I’m really glad he held onto them,” said Loh.
So when he created Pet Widget, he wanted a souped up version of the typical dog tag that often carries little more than the owner’s mobile number.
Pet Widget has an NFC chip in it, and a QR code that can be scanned, which will open up the dog’s profile on the Pet Widget site. That profile carries data like the dog’s allergy information, and will trigger a notification to pop up on the owner’s phone when it’s scanned.
The NFC chip works if you have an Android phone. Otherwise, you can punch in the code in petwidget.com.
Loh said he had considered putting in a GPS tracker or Bluetooth technology when creating the collar tag, but they added too much bulk that would be difficult for smaller dogs and cats to wear.
GPS trackers also require SIM cards and frequent battery changes, while Bluetooth only works over a short range, before it loses connection with your phone, he said.
Find nearby owners to hang out with
Pet Widget isn’t the only service in Singapore that offers a registry and QR code tag for pets. The Singapore Animal Registry has been active for several years now, and offers a similar product to help owners trace a lost pet.
But Loh hopes that Pet Widget will be more than a lost pet registry, by offering a social network to back it up.
With the app, owners can post on a timeline, and chat with other owners in forums.
Its “nearby” function also carries business listings in the vicinity such as vets and groomers.
And if you’re feeling social, “nearby” will show other owners so you can chat with them and arrange for playdates. You can toggle privacy to only show your location to people you’re already friends with.
The Pet Widget comes in six designs, and the startup is working on producing more varieties in the new year.