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The pet industry is big business, often larger than most appreciate.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), revenue in the pet industry is expected to be $62.75 billion in 2016, an increase of more than 4% over 2015.  The average annual growth rate since 2002 is 5.4%, and revenue has been growing steadily for well over 20 years.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, above average job growth is expected for the industry – 11% growth between 2014 and 2024.

Logically, food is the largest spending segment, followed by veterinary care. Within each segment, however, there is quite a degree of variability in the type, quality and price of goods and services.

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This is massive.  Naturally, the technology industry is paying attention to this industry and especially the good folks focused on the Internet of Things or IoT. The pet industry may be a traditionally low-tech space, but a slew of new companies are working to leverage Industry 4.0 innovations and create a burgeoning space that can only be described as the ‘pet tech industry.’  The products they are bringing to market may be a peek into the future of many other industries – and they show us how Industry 4.0 will turn almost every aspect of our lives into a quantifiable data stream, allowing us to manage everything from air conditioning to water consumption from one single interface.

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Many types of pets have long been considered part of the family, but in recent years that has started to translate to actually treating pets more like people – a trend called “humanization.”  Pet owners are seeking out higher quality foods, more high-end accessories, and more expensive medical treatments.  Largely gone are the days of “outside dogs” that just “see to themselves.”

Since our pets are are a vital part of our families and they are considered to be highly vulnerable, the idea of losing them or having them run off as a result of scary fireworks explosions, or a gate carelessly left open, is frightening to us.  As a result, some of the IoT technologies used to track Alzheimer and dementia patients are now being repurposed to track our pets, most notably dogs.

We have had M2M (machine to machine) solutions for nearly 20 years now.  But, these devices are large, heavy, and consume too much power.  Not exactly ideal for a dog collar.

DC 2Competition between operators in the old M2M space, as its blurs with the new enterprise IoT sector, is fierce.  Only a handful of operators have been able to generate annual revenues close to $1 billion from their M2M activities, achieved by focusing “beyond the device and its connectivity” to explode opportunities for corporate customers with analytics and other platform services.  Vodafone, AT&T, and China Mobile were cited as the must successful of these operators.

LTE-M (also known as eMTC and Cat-M1) and NB-IoT are both good connectivity options for industries, such as the Pet Tech players, looking to take advantage of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology.  But which is the best choice for your low-power IoT application?

Deciding between LTE-M and NB-IoT requires an understanding of the key differences between these two technologies, such as latency and speed.

So, what exactly are the differences between LTE-M and NB-IoT? Both are LPWA technologies for low-bandwidth IoT applications defined by the 3GPP in Release 13 and meet the requirements for low cost, low-power and extended coverage.  The choice between LTE-M and NB-IoT depends largely upon the amount of data that you plan on using and how much latency is acceptable for your application (i.e. whether or not you require real-time communication).



Latency is the amount of time it takes to get on a network and send a message.  A device can either collect information and send a packet to the cloud in intervals or it can communicate in real time.  This is where you will see the most difference between LTE-M and NB-IoT.

For mission-critical applications, LTE-M is the only option.  It supports devices that need to communicate in real time to ensure the application meets user-experience requirements.  Some examples of real-time communication include voice, emergency data and precision tracking data.  When it comes to voice, there are a couple things to clarify.  First, although LTE-M technology supports voice, it will be up to each network operator as to whether or not it gets implemented on their LTE-M network.  Second, in extended coverage situations, voice would not work at all with LTE-M — voice is only supported in standard coverage scenarios.  But, do we really need to talk to Fido when he has run away?  Is there a value to voice in a dog collar tracking option?  Perhaps not.

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Higher speeds mean that you can push more data through the network in a given timeframe.  Speed is especially important for more data-intensive IoT applications like home security or wearable devices.  Although LTE-M will never compete with the standard LTE and LTE-Advanced network bandwidth or speeds, it does allow for more data throughput compared to NB-IoT.

Another important fact to consider is that there are no NB-IoT use cases that LTE-M cannot also support.  In other words, LTE-M supports any LPWA application, whereas NB-IoT is designed for simpler static sensor type applications.

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While LTE-M is here now, we expect NB-IoT to widely deployed in 2020.  Even if the cost per month for the NB-IoT service is the same, the coverage footprint for the service is expected to outperform LTE-M in urban areas.  In rural areas it may be the similar.  Today, the option is only LTE-M, but soon, you may have a choice and NB-IoT can be less costly if the trends in Europe are copied in North America.  Sure, NB-IoT is slower, but it is fast enough for tracking dogs, and if it is more affordable, then this IoT solution may gain wider market acceptance.  While some folks may be able to pay more, most people will design a lower cost solution.  But, it must work effectively and help us find our missing pets.

The best tracking collars are equipped with GPS.  Its primary function is to provide nationwide location tracking in real-time to help you locate your canine should they get lost.  It does this through advanced GPS and cellular technology, which allows it to pinpoint your furry friend’s exact location.  This GPS monitor is a lot like a cell phone for your dog and required a cellular connection to work correctly.  This translates into a monthly subscription that is needed to keep the tracker working correctly.  Plans start at $7 (US) a month and are selected through an application provided with the collar.

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As a secondary function, some dog collars are equipped with an Activity Monitor that keeps track of your dog’s movement so you can interpret whether they are getting enough exercise or not.  Pet obesity is a huge problem.  According to a clinical survey, 56% of dogs can be classified as clinically overweight.  And, it is estimated that most dogs do not get that recommended amount of exercise, especially if they are left alone for long periods!  This tracker can help you figure out if your dog falls into this category, and can help track your dog’s progress after you make efforts to increase their activity.

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To stay ahead of your canine, these trackers features proactive alerts that notify you through text, email, or the app if your dog leaves their designated safe area.  So, some of the apps allow the users to geofence the dog’s permitted environment and alert the owner if the dog violates this perimeter.  This innovative feature allows you to locate and find your pup before they get too far away.  The last thing you want to do is check the app only to realize that your canine is miles away from home!


Blackman, J. (2019). Operators will struggle to monetize 5G, NB-IoT, LTE-M in M2M market, says report. RCR Wireless. Retrieved on September 21, 2019 from,

Hitchcock, K. (2019). The Best GPS Dog Trackers & Collars (2019 Reviews). Family Living Today. Retrieved on September 21, 2019 from,

Lee, B. (2019). What the Pet Technology Boom Tells Us About the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Retrieved on September 21, 2019 from,

Unknown. (2018). LTE-M vs. NB-IoT: Make the Best Choice for Your Needs. Sierra Wireless. Retrieved on September 21, 2019 from,

Unknown. (2019). Pet Care Industry Analysis 2019 – Cost & Trends. International Franchise Association. Retrieved on September 21, 2019 from,

About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.

He is a business and technology consultant. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.