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Bear Lisota showing off his Whistle activity tracker.
Bear
Bear — GeekWire Guest Columnist

Hello, humans. My name is Bear. I’m a dog and not much of a geek, but I’m told that wearable technology is all the rage right now. My owner wants to track what I’m up to, and stuck this thing called Whistle on my collar. Apparently I’m supposed to show up Todd Bishop, who is tracking his activity and fitness with his new Microsoft Band.

My days are pretty simple. I eat, walk around, play and take dumps. Oh yeah, I do like to beg for food and sift through the trash, too. Not really sure what more my owner needs to learn from this device, but I’ll roll with it because he’s a super-reliable source of food and attention.

Activity tracker

Humans like to gripe about their bulky activity trackers. Whistle doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a stainless steel puck that I don’t even notice on my collar. It’s waterproof, so I can even swim with it. Medium and large dogs won’t even notice it’s there, and it’s still OK for small dogs. However, if you are small enough to get carried around in a purse all day, it’s probably a little much.

Whistle OOBE

Whistle on collar
Showing off my Whistle activity tracker

Setup

Setting up the Whistle was pretty easy for my owner. You simply set up an account, then pair the Whistle with your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth. You can also pair Whistle with Wi-Fi networks at home, work or at those dog-filled places where it is OK to pee on the floor (a.k.a. doggie camp).

Once the Whistle is paired, it checks to see if any connected phones are nearby. Once per hour, it will sync activity data to the app, either via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, depending on what’s available. Battery life seems pretty decent, as I got about 12 days out of a charge. It comes with a USB charging cradle and takes about an hour to get recharged.

Tracking what I’m up to

Whistle uses an accelerometer to track the length and duration of my activity, along with periods of rest.

Whistle activity chart

You can also set a daily activity goal for a certain number of minutes each day. The app says that dogs like me usually get 31-64 of activity per day. I set my sights a bit higher than the pack.

Whistle activity goals

You can track a few types of activities in the app such as walk, play, run, swim or active. Is it just me, or is there an activity missing here? Given the user base, and the obvious cardio benefits, the absence of an option for “humping” seems like a major oversight.

Whistle activity types

The app lets my owner add and share notes and photos about what I’m up to, what I ate and medication reminders. I eat the same damn thing everyday (and love it!), so not sure what kind of spoiled dogs need a diary of their diet. My owner likes to share notes about “unusual” foods that I eat, like bars of soap or part of a shirt.

Whistle food tracking

Whistle medication tracking

Pairing with my other human buddies

As one of the Geek Dogs of Seattle, I get to hang out with my owner pretty much the whole day, whether at home, in the car or at the office. If you have more than one owner, or if you’ve got some buddies who come and take you for a walk, you can pair their phones to the Whistle. That way, your owners can see what you’ve been up to and how active you’ve been each day.

Since Todd Bishop is getting all fancy with his Microsoft Band, I hooked up with him for a walk in Fremont last week. Adding an owner was easy, and my owner could see my activity with Todd and exchange messages with him about our play date.

Whistle dog walk with Todd
Owners can see when other dog caregivers are active with your dog

My Whistle tracking showed a nice intensity walk at noon.

whistle stats - dog walk with Todd
Whistle shows activity during our walk at noon

Todd’s Microsoft Band said that he burned 258 calories during our 22 minute walk.

Microsoft Band stats from walking the dog
Todd burned 258 calories during our 21 minute walk together.

Now that he’s my new workout buddy, Todd even gets Whistle alerts on his Microsoft Band, via iPhone notifications, when I reach my activity goals.

Whistle alert on Microsoft Band
Since Todd is one of my workout buddies, he can see when I reach my fitness goals

Device teardown

If you want to check out the tech inside of the Whistle, the folks over at adafruit did a nice teardown.

Do all of my dog buddies need a Whistle?

My owner thought that Whistle was pretty neat, but I reminded him that it was pretty obvious how active I am, since he’s with me almost 24 hours a day. I suppose if he left me at home, or if there were multiple busy dog owners trying to juggle their schedule, it could help to see if I need some more activity. That said, I’m a dog, so I’m an expert at pestering when I’m hungry, bored or need a walk. The $99 price tag of the Whistle is a bit of a luxury and would sure buy a lot of chew toys and treats instead!

The killer feature of a dog activity tracker would be GPS, so I can’t wander off and get lost. Looks like Whistle is working on another device called the Whistle GPS to support this. Whistle isn’t the only dog activity tracker out there either. Fitbark looks pretty darned similar and is in pre-order now. Tagg looks like it already supports GPS. Voyce is another forthcoming dog tracker that goes way deep on data, tracking calories burned, heart and respiratory rate.

Personally, when it comes to Whistle, I don’t see what the fuss is. I’d rather track when the UPS delivery lady is coming with my next treat or have a countdown timer to my next dinner time. That would be awesome! But I suppose if having your owner looking at some charts on their smartphone gives them motivation to go on more walks with you, I’m all for it!

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