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November 10, 2008

Social Networking for Dog Owners: the SNIF Tag Is Here

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Every dog owner knows “the look” – the sadness in his or her pet’s eyes as he leaves for work in the morning. Most dogs know their owners’ routines, and cast the look as soon as they see a hair dryer or a spray can of deodorant.

There are plenty of products available to help ease an owner’s separation anxiety, such as Web-connected cameras that can be used to try and follow a canine’s movements.
What’s harder to do is feel connected to Bowser or Fido from work, to track a dog’s social life, or to know – from a cubicle desk, for example – when a dog is sleeping or when he’s running around the house.
All that may change, however, thanks to a new product from a Boston-based company founded by a group of MIT (News - Alert) Media Laboratory graduates.
Officials at SNIF Labs say their flagship product, call the “SNIF Tag,” uses wireless sensing and social networking technologies to map out their dogs’ activities. The device also gives owners a chance to develop relationships with dog owners that their pets pal around with.
According to Noah Paessel, chief executive officer and co-founder of SNIF Labs, he and his colleagues loved the idea of using real-world social networking to let a dog do the relationship-building work and act as a kind of social catalyst. Think of Diane Lane and John Cusak in “Most Love Dogs,” pictured right.
“SNIF Tag not only gives dog owners peace of mind, it also offers a non-threatening way to meet new friends and companions via their dogs’ encounters,” Paessel said.
The tag (News - Alert) itself – a small device that attaches to a dog’s collar – essentially records the pet’s movements and, in some cases, social encounters, and then uploads that data to the Internet. An owner can find out by logging onto the company’s site whether their dog has been playing, resting or running around.
Pictured at left, here’s how the SNIF Tag – priced at $300, or $200 if purchased online now – works.
Combining radio, software, Internet, and social networking technologies, the information recorded by the Tag is sent wirelessly to the SNIF base station and then uploaded to the SNIF website where users can log in securely. The SNIF Tag compiles data on the dog, building a pattern that allows the owner to compare their dog’s activities, health and habits with other dogs of the same breed or dogs in their neighborhood. If a tag-wearing dog runs into another tag-wearing dog, the two devices essentially talk to each other and record the encounter.
According to one beta tester – Hillery Lee – the device has helped ease the separation between pet and owner during working hours.
“The SNIF Tag provides me with an opportunity to meet new people,” Lee said. “It was important for me to meet new people when I moved to the city. More importantly, I also wanted to meet others who shared similar interests, such as my love of my pooch and dogs in general. Staying connected to other dog owners could provide me with insight into the best local dog boutiques and parks where I could take Twix, my Airedale Terrier.”

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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