The market for pet wearables and pet health monitoring is growing. Will veterinarians benefit?
It was really just a matter of time. Developers that have seen the success of wearable devices in the human market – such as the Fitbit and Apple’s Smart Watch – have turned their eye toward pets and the opportunities they represent in the U.S. economy.
According to a report from Transparency Market Research, that opportunity in the global pet wearables market is estimated to rise from $1 billion in 2016 to $2.5 billion by 2024.
GPS devices that can track a pet’s location. Monitoring products that allow pet owners to watch their pet’s activities from a remote location. And though it’s in its early stages, developers are even coming out with devices capable of collecting health data on pets that could be useful for veterinarians in numerous ways.
Adam Little, DVM, president, Exponential Vet Inc., and Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says one device won’t change the industry. But a combination of capabilities are indeed being created for the veterinary space, “at a much better price point and more convenience and accessibility,” he says. “We’re already seeing those trends emerge.”
Little discussed the emergence of sensors and wearable technology, and how it may affect veterinarians and their business model in the near future.
Little says wearables technology is really just in the beginning stages. Many of the vendors of animal health related products haven’t even been targeting veterinarians themselves. They were going after consumers.
“They were focused on the consumer experience, trying to drive a social experience, engaging with pet owners and not so much concerned with how the data generated could be used in a veterinary context,” he says. “These companies largely recognized that their insights were limited and superficial. They were focused on building a community of pet owners.”
The traditional veterinary-client model, too, was a factor for why these vendors targeted consumers initially. Little says there’s just not a lot more time to push any more information into that interaction between client and veterinarian the way it’s currently structured. “Companies are trying to find ways to incorporate data and insights into those conversations. For example, vendors may try to create veterinary specific dashboards and tools. But we still have veterinarians squeezed for time. There might even be valuable data now that they could use, but if the veterinarian can’t seamlessly integrate it into the way they communicate with pet owners, it’s difficult.”
New ways to work
However, as wearables and sensor technology gain popularity, consumers will begin to demand veterinary practices incorporate the data collected. Little says he sees new processes within veterinary clinics emerging as a result.
“It’s going to force us as a profession to find new ways to work with that information,” he says. “I don’t think that’s going to be happening in the traditional 15-minute appointment. It may create new roles in the veterinary practice around informatics and data management, and very different ways to deliver veterinary services.”
The hope is the new process will be more a more streamlined experience, similar to how a company like Uber functions. “Uber is a seamless interaction,” he says. “If each time I stepped into an Uber and had to give the driver my information, credit card, profile, etc., it wouldn’t work. But in the veterinary space that’s kind of where we are today. We’re still repeating information. As people are collecting more data through sensor technology, consumers will be looking at veterinarians to work with that information, and personalize care based off of that information.”
A deeper dive
Aided in part by these devices could be a fragmentation of primary care, Little says, “where there are going to be different services that could go very, very deep on certain aspects of primary care,” he says.
A vendor could develop a device and service that builds an entire pet owner experience around a particular insight. For instance, along with a wearable pet health device, a company could offer a subscription service that gives the pet owner access to a nutritionist who aides in creating and maintaining a diet through the appropriate pet food.
“In doing so, the role of primary care veterinarian as a ‘Be all, end all’ to pet health and wellness … that may be challenged as a result,” says Little.
“It will be interesting to watch vendors and veterinarians working together,” says Little. “It might be an opportunity for new types of clinic models that will lend themselves to accelerate the development of these tools.”
The technology will be disruptive, but there are plenty of ways veterinary clinics can make it work for them. Veterinary clinics that try to understand how these devices can extend the way they provide care, and possibly extend the way they reach clients out of the exam room to create a more connected experience, can use it to their advantage.
Pet health monitoring in the news
In early December the news came that Voyce®, an innovative animal health monitoring device that was marketed to pet owners and veterinarians, was shutting its doors. Adam Little, DVM, president, Exponential Vet Inc., and Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says Voyce ran into the same challenges that he sees lots of startups encounter.
“Voyce was a big and complex offering,” Little says. “There were several use cases where veterinarians and pet owners saw some sort of value, but it never really achieved the transformative impact for any one individual case. There wasn’t a single use case that potential customers recognized as being so valuable that Voyce became a must-have. Platforms don’t start off as platforms, they build towards it by creating immense value each step of the way.”
To read more of Little’s insights, access the January 2017 digital issue.