You may have heard of Petcube, the company that makes pet-related hardware like the Petcube Play, which allows you to remotely control a laser pointer to make your cat go crazy. Or maybe you own a Petcube Bites that lets you fling a treat to your dog when you’re not at home. Petcube is also known for its pet-monitoring WiFi cameras that let you interact with your pets when you’re away, and even share footage on social media – all done remotely.
But that’s not Petcube’s real agenda. The real purpose is to use all these technologies and ultimately develop artificial intelligence software that can help understand what Fido is trying to tell you, or help spot Fluffy’s health issues from changes in her behavior patterns.
To that end, Petcube has just raised $10 million in a funding round led by Y Combinator and Almaz Capital. Says Petcube CEO and co-founder Yaroslav Azhnyuk:
“Right now, we make hardware and apps that allow you to watch, feed and play with your pets remotely. But we can really advance our understanding of pets as well. We are starting to think about our potential to be helpful to research institutions, much like Google, Twitter or Facebook have become over the years.”
The long-term goal is to develop artificial intelligence software that can analyze the thousands of hours of video that is captured on pet monitoring cameras such as their own, and learn how animal behavior is linked to health issues and so on.
Pet spending is one the rise, notes Azhnyuk. People in the United States spend, on average, about $3500 a year on their pets.
I did a little digging of my own (pardon the pun, Rover), and I found these nuggets of information:
After freshwater fish, of which people in the U.S. have about 139.3 million, the second most popular pet is the house cat, at 94.2 million. Pet dogs follow closely at 89.7 million.
In 1988, 56 percent of all U.S. households had a pet. As of 2017 that’s up to 68 percent. That means seven out of ten homes have at least one pet.
About $70 billion is spent on pet care every year in the United States. For perspective, the total amount of money earned by app developers on Apple’s App Store is also $70 billion, but that’s total earnings from 2008 until the middle of 2017. $70 billion is also the amount that Americans in 43 states spent on lotteries in 2014. So the pet industry is huge, to say the least.
In case you didn’t know, there are dozens of recognized pet holidays through the year. Ever heard of these?
National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (Jan 22),
Spay Day USA (last Tuesday in February),
Hairball Awareness Day (last Friday in April),
National Dog Party Day (June 21),
National Mutt Day (July 31),
National Hug Your Hound Day (second Sunday in September), and the one that’s coming up in a couple of days,
National Pit Bull Awareness Day (Oct 28).
So, there’s really no wonder why Petcube would want to be a big name in the pet industry using artificial intelligence as their entry point. With most large pet companies resorting to acquisitions to keep their top lines growing, Petcube would make an ideal acquisition target once it’s able to develop smart software for pet owners.
But even if they go it on their own, there’s huge potential for artificial intelligence applications within the $70 billion pet industry. After all, the entire artificial intelligence market itself is only worth $2.42 billion as of 2017.