Lost pets and drained batteries will be a thing of the past if Escape Alert gets its way.
Coming as soon as 2015, if the Los Angeles company raises enough money and perfects the technology, is a veterinarian-implanted microchip with GPS capability. Pet owners could set virtual boundaries, receive a text message or email if the cat or dog strays across the line, and follow and recover the animal.
Unlike today’s competition — battery-powered GPS collars that owners must remember to recharge — Escape Alert intends to use piezoelectrical nanogenerator technology. That means the microchip would be recharged through the pet’s body movement alone.
Compared with the common rice grain-sized implanted microchip, which reveals owner information only when scanned, the first-of-its-kind Escape Alert chip would be much larger — at least initially.
“There is a lot of technology which needs to fit in that tiny space, including, but not limited to, the GPS, battery and antenna,” spokeswoman Karen Zaxton said. “We know we can make it as small as a postage stamp and are now working to make that even smaller.”
Escape Alert reported that patent applications have been filed, and in the meantime the company is looking to raise $50,000 to fund the development of a prototype. A fundraising campaign is scheduled to run on Kickstarter.com from Sep. 23 to Nov. 11.
Wayne Norris, who co-founded Escape Alert in 2010, is confident his microchip will succeed.
“We have been working on this GPS microchip for years, but the trick was how to power the battery of an implanted device,” Norris said.
Veterinarians would act as intermediaries in the sale and implantation of the device. Escape Alert estimates a price of $99 to $129.
What might raise the cost is the ability to track a pet both outdoors and indoors.
“It adds cost to make the chip function indoors,” Zaxton said. “I was soon made aware by our friends from the UK and Ireland that dog theft is a huge problem there. And so for that reason, it is important to make it work indoors.”
Escape Alert forecasts a large market. The company quotes national figures such as 1 in 3 pets will become lost during their lifetime and 32 percent of lost dogs are found more than 10 miles from home.
“This is a game changer and could put an end to lost pets once and for all,” Norris said.