Recently I had an opportunity to road test a Veterinary diagnostic collar. If you know anything about diagnostic collars, you would know that these toys are preceded by a great deal of hype. I am talking ‘the future of Veterinary industry’ and similar big claims. Don’t get me wrong, I love diagnostic data as much as the next Veterinarian, and the idea of continuous live streaming biometric health data does get me a little excited. So when the opportunity came to test one of those babies, I took it with both hands.
The collar I got to play with is one of the more advanced variety – it has a bunch of biometric sensors (heart rate, respiration, surface temperature, three axis gyroscope) and a base station for continuous recording. The data is fed through some proprietary software and presented online in the form of colourful graphs.
What it does well
The collar unit synched with the base station beautifully, the battery life was impressive, the data was easy to read and seemed to match up with the dog’s real life behaviour, to the delight of the owners. All in all, the hardware performed impeccably. In the graph above (activity and movement), it is easy to see when the dog was let out of the crate in the morning and what time the afternoon walk took place. Incidentally, owners go ga-ga over that stuff.
What it doesn’t do as well
That’s all great, you say. But as a Veterinarian, I need a little more than cute colourful bars on a chart. I need diagnostic data I can use to interpret disease states. And this is where the picture becomes a little muddled. Unlike say a blood test result, there are no reference ranges for me to look at, no colourful atlas or a user manual to explain what I am looking at. Without a reference range, all I can do is look at trends, and even then it’s hard to know if the change is due to the dog’s physical state or some other external factors. I actually contacted the Rep asking for some disease data, and all I got was some random screenshots without much of an explanation. I suspect the technology is so new, that kind of data may not exist yet.
Do I believe this technology will revolutionise the industry as weak know it? Maybe, but not just yet. Before Veterinarians like me can use (and sell) this technology with confidence, someone need to develop some reference ranges and maybe an online support service. Until then, the dream of a brave new works may need to wait.