When dog owners transport their dogs, safety is paramount – especially when circumstances force them to leave their dogs unattended in a vehicle. PuppTech is a Colorado startup devoted to helping dog owners care for their dogs when they can’t be with them. Their first product, the PuppComm system, incorporates an embedded sensor and a Digi XBee® 3 LTE radio to monitor in-vehicle temperatures and send text and email alarms if thresholds are exceeded. Now dog owners can keep tabs on their pets virtually anywhere – and know they are safe.
A Safer Canine Travel Experience
For many dog owners, leaving their companions at home is not an option – whether they are heading to a dog show, a vacation road trip, a weekend hike or around-town errands. But responsible pet owners also recognize there are important safety challenges when they must briefly leave their dogs unattended in a vehicle. Even when outside air temperatures are barely in the 70s (Fahrenheit), a closed vehicle can quickly reach temperatures of 90-100 degrees that endanger their dogs.
For William Loopesko, founder of PuppTech and owner of Clovis, a big happy lab, the safety challenge became a personal quest. “I was six hours from home, hiking in the mountains with my dog and my father,” he said. “When we stopped for a meal on the way home, I couldn’t bring the dog into the restaurant, so I had to check on him every few minutes. When I later talked to the veterinarian about the situation, he suggested leaving the dog at home – but that’s not why I have a dog. And that was what let me to create the PuppComm system.”
From Startup Idea to Rapid Development
PuppTech turned to the startup certification program co-sponsored by Arrow Electronics and Indiegogo to find support for development of the PuppComm system, its flagship hardware/software product. The Arrow team recommended Digi International as a resource, including Digi’s pre-certified cellular modules for fast time-to-market.
In a whirlwind three-day crowdfunding effort, PuppTech earned its needed startup funds and launched development. All along the way, the dog community has shown excitement for the product, which they recognize fills a critical need.
The Connected Environmental Monitoring Solution for Dogs
The PuppComm system is a portable, connected environmental monitoring solution for dogs that can be deployed in cars, crates, kennels, RVs and other spaces. Measuring 3 inches x 3 inches x 1 inch, the PuppComm device monitors air temperature and humidity and sends measurements to a cloud-based server every 30 seconds using a 4G LTE connection. If the readings exceed tolerances, the PuppComm device issues text and email alerts to the dog owner.
The PuppComm system utilizes a proprietary BSCUIT algorithm to determine optimal temperature for the dog. It also includes an iOS and Android app to configure the individualized settings. These settings include the dog’s breed, age, weight, and other factors that are used to calculate the right temperature range for each dog. The device includes a self-contained battery and micro-USB charger, a Wi-Fi module for device-to-device local communication, and a microphone.
One of the keys to PuppComm is the embedded Digi XBee 3 Cellular LTE-M/NB-IoT modem that is integrated onto the proprietary circuit board.
“I realized that the product also has to have a cellular connection because in most cases, the vehicles won’t have Wi-Fi access,” said Loopesko. “We started to work with Digi, and that was a great experience. Digi provided design resources, helped us create a workable design, and even helped us pull together a bill of materials. They’ve really helped us get to where we are today.”
The Digi XBee 3 Cellular LTE modem is pre-certified, which enables developers to quickly integrate wireless connectivity. The Digi XBee 3 Cellular LTE module is suitable for moderate bandwidth (typically <25 MB per month) and low-cost IoT applications, and is cost-competitive with legacy 2G/3G standard devices.
“I love that the Digi XBee is a pre-certified modem. That has saved us lots of time and money. We can use the LTE connection to send over-the-air firmware updates to keep everything working smoothly.”
Keeping Fido Safe on the Road
The PuppComm device attaches to a seat headrest, the handle above the window, or other location out of direct sunlight. The PuppComm system includes a sticker visible to those outside the vehicle that reads, “This dog is being protected by PuppTech Technology” along with a unique PuppComm identifier. That way, passersby can scan a QR code or text a code to check on the dog and get the temperature inside the vehicle before making any drastic intervention.
According to Loopesko, PuppComm is first targeting the community of professional working-dog handlers – the people and animals who work in the military and police on search/rescue and assorted missions. “These aren’t pets – they’re valuable, hard-working animals,” he said, “and they remain in the car for long stretches of time.” Another key market are those attending dog shows, as the members of this community are always on the road or sitting in parked vehicles waiting for their session in the event.
The PuppComm system helps mitigate the risks and uncertainty that can arise in those scenarios. “As we expand into the consumer sector, I believe the PuppComm system will find a strong market among dog owners who want the best for their pets.”