Fighting Fido’s fat

11/28/2012
By

Japanese technology provides an answer to the problem of portly pooches

TOKYO (majirox news) — Anyone who has walked around a Japanese city recently will have noticed that canines almost appear to outnumber humans. The so-called “dog boom” has been going for some years now, and small dogs are everywhere. Nearly one in five Japanese households now owns a dog (17.5 percent, according to the Japan Pet Food Association’s 2011 survey).

However, the smaller dogs so popular as fashion accessories are often carried by their doting owners, or even wheeled around in special dog buggies. Their legs never seem to touch the ground, at least out of doors.

The result is a population of dogs that fails to obtain the regular exercise needed for good health and who often suffer from obesity and related health conditions. And not only does Japan have an aging human society, it has an aging canine society, too.

Japanese pampered pooches have an average age of over 13 years, which is roughly equivalent to a human age of 72. For desk-bound humans there are smartphone applications available to monitor activity patterns and to nag the owner into a healthier lifestyle. But not for the dogs, until now.

A Japanese maker has applied its ingenuity to solving this problem, and Fujitsu have come up with the “Wandant” (bow-wow in English plus “pendant”). Attached to a dog’s collar, this gadget senses and stores the number of steps taken by a dog, the temperature surrounding it, and the pooch’s shivering. It uses the same accelerometer technology as contained in smartphones to work out the dog’s exercise patterns,running, walking, or standing still.

When the pendant is held near a suitably equipped smartphone or personal computer, it employs the technology used for electronic money. For example, a Suica card or edy e-money (FeliCa) to transfer the data stored in it wirelessly. The data is then uploaded to a cloud platform on the Internet and may be viewed as a graph on a Web browser.

The owner can add other data such as details of food, and other health-related items, in order to build up an overall picture of the dog’s health. However, the pendant is unable to be used with the very small dogs so popular among the Japanese. Fujitsu warn that the dog’s legs must be at least 15cm (6²) long for the technology to work.

Available from November 28, the “Wandant” canine pedometer may be purchased from a variety of outlets, including online malls, at an open price, to include one year’s cloud service. Following the first year, the service is expected to be priced at 420 yen, a little more than $5 per month.

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