Kansas City company FitBark’s activity tracker measures the health and wellness of man’s best friend.
Story by Riley Mortensen
If you find yourself in conversation with Davide Rossi, chances are he’ll start with one simple question: “Are you a dog person?”
Rossi is the co-founder and CEO of FitBark, a company that produces health-tracking devices designed specifically for man’s best friend. While your mind may drift to an image of a step-counter for furry companions, FitBarks are in fact much, much more.
“It’s a way to understand behavior,” Rossi says. “It’s a way to understand health, and it’s a way to choose a lifestyle for your dog based on the knowledge of what’s typical, what’s average, for dogs compared to yours.”
The device (available on the company’s website for $99.95) attaches to your dog’s collar and shows you a 24-hour daily view of your pet’s activity with features such as a lifestyle break down, measured activity points and how many minutes of sleep your dog got. You can see what your dog needs to do to reach his or her daily goals as well as go back into your dog’s history. You can even link your fitness tracker with your four-legged pal’s for some friendly competition. Data is accessible through an app or a WiFi base station ($79.95), which turns your Wi-Fi router into a real-time synchronization hub, giving you peace of mind when Fido is home alone.
Rossi says the concept was born of the agony of not knowing enough about someone who means a lot to us, someone who we spoil and only want the best for: our pets.
“I realized we’ve been failing at monitoring one of the most essential pieces of their health, which is activity and lifestyle and sleep,” Rossi explains, adding that when coupled with the idea that your pet can’t talk, it was a perfect application of technology that’s up and coming in the human world.
And in the pet world, this is big stuff. Not only do the FitBark trackers allow you to monitor your dog’s health through an app linked to the device, but they also allow for veterinarians and researchers to collect data on the many breeds of dogs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“Imagine for example a veterinarian who’s doing ACL surgery and they want to understand how a dog is recovering from that day after day, week after week and how that dog compares eventually with similar dogs,” Rossi says. “Imagine a dog that is trying out a new product for arthritis; as they test and try that product in a dog, you can quantify if it’s working or not.”
Rossi could go on and on about all the doors this product could open and the consumers are just as enthusiastic, he says.
Since launching a campaign on Kickstarter two years ago, news of FitBark has spread. The team has many followers who have been tracking the company and have given them diligent feedback, which they used when developing the product.
Now that FitBark is finally shipping and hitting the mainstream market, Rossi says the company is set on explaining why if you’re serious about the health of your canine, FitBark is for you.
“One of the reasons why from New York [where the company started] we looked into Kansas City was the understanding that there are so many companies that play a part in animal health here in this space and region,” Rossi says, referencing the Animal Health Corridor with its more than 300 businesses.
Rossi says the companies in the surrounding areas helped the team of six to fine-tune the prototype, making sure that they collect data in a way that is helpful to researchers and pet owners alike. Now many view FitBark as an ambassador for the Animal Health Corridor, he adds.
If sharing the data and concept with any and all willing to listen in this dollar-driven market sounds a little strange to you, you’re not alone.
“An alternative would be to try to stay as secretive as possible and hope that somebody’s going to buy the data at some point,” Rossi says. “But we just can’t contain our excitement.”
And at the end of the day, sharing will lend itself to establishing credibility; researchers name-dropping where their data came from doesn’t hurt either, he adds.
As far as the dog who started it all, that would be his family’s dog, Freud, who still lives it Italy, where Rossi grew up.
“He was the inspiration behind FitBark, especially the way he’s been therapeutic to our family at times when things were not easy and we were struggling,” Rossi says with affection. “He’s our personal psychologist.”