As far as connected devices go, pet collars would seem to list low on the priority scale. As an assistive technology, the expectation would be even lower still. And yet, they converge in the most sensible way possible.
For Ken Ehrman and his team at Halo Collar, the opportunity to mash tech and pet care together makes complete sense. The $699 so-called “internet of things” device uses Wi-Fi and GPS tracking technology to create a virtual fence for one’s dogs using the companion app on iOS or Android. The goal of the Halo Collar is to not merely to help keep pets safe and sound, but help make caring for them more accessible to humans. Ehrman and team believe they’ve built a product that’s truly a first of its kind in the marketplace. They even asked noted dog behaviorist, Cesar Millan, to assist with the collar’s design and behavior.
“My background focuses on using technology to invest in solutions and monitor high-value assets. I pioneered countless safety and tracking developments in the industry for over 25 years, alongside my brother [and co-founder] Michael,” Ehrman said to me recently in an interview conducted over email. “We have brought the principles that we have learned over the years to Halo. We both wanted to use our technological expertise to support our mission of saving dogs’ lives and allowing them to be safe off-leash. I saw that 10 million pets are lost in the United States each year and I knew that as an entrepreneur and inventor this was an important issue where I could use smart technology to solve it. I was in the mindset where I was going to do anything to make it happen in order to keep dogs everywhere safe and protected.”
As is often the case with tech, the Halo Collar came into existence to address a problem. Like the adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Ehrman explained “currently the way we are keeping our pets safe is not working.” His young niece’s dog, Ruby, escaped her invisible fence one day, leaving Ehrman “astounded” by the number of dogs that are lost, hurt, or killed during roadside accidents. What’s more, Ehrman’s elderly mother had never had the capability in the past to watch her dog in part because her home didn’t have a fenced-in yard.
Owing to his technical know-how, Ehrman told me he felt confidence he had the prowess to make a meaningful contribution to this niche. “Seeing my niece’s pain, I knew that I wanted to solve this problem–and I had the experience and capabilities to prevent it from happening again,” he said of the inspiration to build a smart dog collar.
Ehrman’s anecdote about his family go a long way in illustrating the point I made in the lede. While it is true dog collars are not typically associated with technology nor accessibility, the convergence makes a lot of sense. Especially for Ehrman’s elderly mother, some combination of her age plus any underlying condition(s) may make it such that it isn’t physically possible for her to chase after a dog if it ran away. A literal fence is an accessibility aid in that sense, but the Halo Collar takes the concept much further. Now, she can have peace of mind having a dog in the yard because, if it does escape, she has tools with which the track it that don’t involve an old-fashioned foot chase. It certainly isn’t assistive technology in the conventional sense of the phrase, but it is undoubtedly accessibility—enabled by advancements in modern technology.
Ehrman believes Halo Collar is ideal for “every dog and every owner.”
“People across the country are living more transient lifestyles and want to take their dogs with them, so Halo allows you to do that safely and with confidence,” he said of the Halo Collar’s customer base. “It’s for the traveler who wants to bring their dog on the road, a grandmother who is unable to chase after a dog, people who want to take their dogs on regular walks, or it’s even to be used at home.”
Ehrman went on to say that, with the Halo Collar in tow, people should start to feel more at ease with letting their dog go off-leash. From a technical perspective, he told me this is doable because there’s zero way the dog can escape Halo’s virtual fence because it’s obviously tied to the collar. The animal is tracked “wherever they go even without a Wi-Fi or cellular connection in the most remote locations,” Ehrman said.
In terms of feedback, the Halo Collar has received some weighty endorsements. According to Ehrman, the device has been championed by numerous celebrities such as the D’Amelio family, Mario Lopez, and Ashlee Simpson. Ehrman added the company has seen “significant revenue growth” now having sold 150,000 collars to date. “We are quickly growing at this early stage and we have a tremendous opportunity as the company continues to grow,” he said.
Ehrman went on: “We have addressed any and all feedback to-date. We are continuing to monitor and improve Halo Collar in real-time. We also continue to add new features to the collar. We want all our customers to have access to the best updates even if they already own a collar.”
As for his company’s ambitions moving into the future, Ehrman said a major goal for him is to work with guide dogs. He told me the need for service dogs is high, but called the process in obtaining one “very costly and includes a rigorous training process.” It’s an area, he said, that’s very close to his heart. For now, he wants people to “stay tuned” to his work on the Halo Collar, saying there are “exciting updates coming soon.”