FitBark activity tracker has gone to the dogs
Is your best friend looking a little pudgy and out of shape? Are they a little sluggish and out of it when you hang out, preferring a nap over a run or walk? Don't make things awkward by telling them, just slide on a collar while they're sleeping and encourage them to get more exercise. We're talking about your dog, of course, and the new FitBark collar.
As any busy dog owner can tell you, it can be difficult to get your dog, especially active breeds, out for a full exercise regimen every single day, 365 days a year. It's also difficult to track just how short you're falling, or to track how much exercise your dog is actually getting when he chases squirrels around the yard, digs furiously in the dirt, or runs up and down the stairs of the house.
Similar to a Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP, only designed specifically for canines, the FitBark keeps close track of your pooch's activity and provides an easy to follow read-out on an accompanying smartphone app.
The small, lightweight, bone-shaped monitor clips to your dog's collar and uses integrated motion sensors to track its activities. It stores the data onboard and then pushes it to the cloud when it's in Bluetooth range of a paired mobile phone or the available home base unit.
The FitBark system calculates a daily goal for your dog, which FitBark says is equivalent to one hour of intense activity, plus lower activity levels throughout the day. The smartphone application then shows the dog's daily activity levels as a percentage of that goal. It also assigns you a "Bark Score," which is a rating of how well you're doing as a dog owner, and lets you compare activity levels over time to identify trends and develop fitness strategies. It also lets you track your dog's fitness when you're not with it, including when you leave it at the kennel or with a dog walker.
FitBark might be onto something, but it falls short of really addressing the problem. Required exercise levels vary drastically by dog, with some breeds being naturally energetic and requiring lots of exercise, while some are naturally more lethargic. By creating a goal of "one hour of intense activity, plus lower levels throughout the day," it seems like FitBark is trying to use a one-size solution to a more complex problem.
It would be nice if its system provided goals tailored to specific dogs, based on breed, age, health information, etc. Perhaps a future model will include more dog-specific goals, but as described right now, the FitBark is only a partial solution. You want your dog meeting its goal, not "a goal."
Unlike many fitness trackers for humans, the FitBark doesn't include a GPS. While you can probably live without doggie GPS pace, distance and speed information, a GPS would give the device the extra function of tracking your dog should it wander out of the yard or get lost. FitBark designers explain that they wanted to make the device light enough for small breeds, and leaving GPS out helped keep the weight down to 10 g. Battery life is also longer without a GPS. Still, we think the addition of GPS tracking could broaden the device's appeal to owners that aren't sold on a doggie fitness tracker.
A FitBark representative at CE Week told us that the device will launch for pre-order on Kickstarter next month for US$99. Interested parties can sign up for an availability notification on FitBark's website. A previous Kickstarter campaign in May only met about half FitBark's $100,000 goal before it was cancelled early.
FitBark is designed to work with iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad 3, iPad mini, iPod touch 5th gen and Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note II, 10.1 devices. While the app will work on other iOS and Android devices, the FitBark will only sync on the aforementioned devices. If you don't own a compatible smartphone or device, you can also use the home base unit (sold separately).