Well, it has been a long haul and we still have much more to do, but the PetTrax RightBite system has entered its pre-beta testing phase. The idea that started as a way to keep my loved cats Ricky and Teddy on a healthy diet, is on its way to helping other pet owners conveniently keep their pets fit.
Ricky and Teddy – Gobblers and Nibblers
I embarked on this journey over 2 years ago when my wife Sheryl and I started traveling more and spending more time at our summer home on Cape Cod. It became apparent that our pet cats (Ricky and Teddy) could not handle the stress of travel and our veterinarian recommended that we keep them at home while away.
We followed our vet’s advice and hired a person to come into the home while we were away overnight. Our sitter would stop by the house 2 times a day and feed Ricky and Teddy, change the water, give them their medications, and clean the litter boxes. While this was a decent solution, we noticed that Teddy would be ravenous when we got home. You see, Teddy is a very slow eater and typically takes small nibbles throughout the day. Ricky, on the other hand, is a gobbler, eating all of his food within 5 minutes of it being made available. The sitter could only stay for 10 to 15 minutes at a time and this was not long enough for Teddy to finish his food. Also, the sitter was not allowed to leave the food out because Ricky would eat it and be overfed.
I thought that there must be a better way to deal with this problem. I scoured the Internet and the best I could find were scheduled feeders that simply dumped food into a bowl at various times during the day. While this might be a solution in a single pet home, it certainly would not work in a multi-pet home. Additionally, there was nothing out there that would collect and analyze feeding data to determine if there might be potential health problems while pet owners were out of the house.
PetTrax RightBite is Born
With a computer software background and an interest in solving this problem, I decided to build an Internet of Things (IoT) solution for intelligent pet feeding. I designed a system that would bring together a physical feeder, cloud infrastructure, and a mobile application. The combined solution would be the most sophisticated pet feeder ever devised.
I purchased a Raspberry Pi computer board (a $30 computer the size of a credit card), an old DVD drive, and a bunch of electronic sensors. Leveraging my carpentry, electronic, and software skills, I built the first prototype feeder and tested it on Ricky and Teddy. I was amazed when my very first prototype worked just as I had imagined (see video below). I set the feeder to allow Teddy to eat but not Ricky. I was so thrilled with the results that I quickly finished the design (added food storage, dispensing, and meal scheduling), built out 10 feeders and deployed them in 4 homes. The initial trials convinced me that this product could help lots of pets and pet owners so I founded PetTrax.
PetTrax RightBite – First Prototype Video
The PetTrax Team
Since then, PetTrax has partnered with a number of individuals and companies that have enabled us to reach this pre-beta stage. Our first partner was David Cowan, founder of Inch out of Brooklyn NY. David is an industrial designer who, along with his team, took our crude prototype and designed the beautiful consumer product you see on our home page. We then engaged with Apps Associates, a software development company, to build out our cloud infrastructure and mobile application. Sridhar Bogelli is the CEO and Founder of Apps Associates and has been fantastic as a PetTrax partner and advisor. The firmware that runs on the feeder was designed and developed by Mark Goodrich and Greg McGurk. Mark and Greg have been with PetTrax from the beginning working late nights and weekends to code the most intelligent pet feeder ever created. Dave Dean of Sinewave (out of Cambridge Massachusetts) designed the electronics, including the main computer board and external sensor boards of the feeder. Ashley Gallagher, DVM is a PetTrax advisor and subject matter expert on all things related to pet health. Ashley also is a regular contributor to our website blog.
Most recently, Ann Sardini (former CFO at Weight Watchers) has joined PetTrax as an advisor. Ann has really helped to define our business plan including financials, marketing, and distribution strategy. Ann is the proud pet parent of 2 cats and understands the need for convenient health options for pet owners.
Revolutionizing Pet Care
The PetTrax RightBite feeder and software solution was built from the ground up to deal with pet health issues caused by overweight and obese pets. It is the most versatile feeder ever designed, enabling most pet homes to control and monitor calories consumed. Additionally, it provides advanced analytics that can proactively alert pet owners to potential health issues.
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