Whistle straps its connected dog collar onto Sigfox’s new internet of things network

Quantified canine startup Whistle Labs is launching a new device that won’t just track your dog’s daily activity, but also its location. But unlike Tagg and other companies selling GPS dog tracking collars, Whistle is tapping into a new network built by Sigfox dedicated solely to the internet of things.

I reported Tuesday on Sigfox’s plans to launch an ultra-narrowband wireless network in San Francisco, connecting sensors, meters and other devices in the industrial internet of things. But now you can add dog collars to that mix. Whistle is building a version of its dog tag — which already connects to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — with a chip that connects to both GPS satellites and Sigfox’s low-power network.

Whistle CEO and founder Ben Jacobs said that Whistle originally considered adding pet location to its original dog tag design, but decided against it as the cellular connectivity required would have entailed high monthly subscription fees, added bulk and required much more frequent charging. The Sigfox network solves that problem as it’s optimized to transmit the tiniest amounts of data at extremely low power.

Whistle's original activity tracker

Whistle’s original activity tracker (Photo: Kevin Fitchard)

Every few minutes, the device, called WhistleGPS, will send out GPS coordinates, creating a breadcrumb trail of your dog’s location, but from the Whistle app the dog owner can turn on an active mode, which will track the dog in real time if it gets lost.

Whistle is taking pre-orders for WhistleGPS on its website, discounting its normal $129 price to $49 in the first week, and plans to start shipping it in 2015. But unlike its regular Whistle activity tracker, WhistleGPS will come with a monthly fee of $5. That’s cheaper than other pet locators on the market (for instance, Tagg charges $7.95 a month), but it’s still surprisingly high for a device that really only does one thing.

The idea behind Sigfox’s network is to connect millions of single-purpose devices and sensors that would normally be prohibited from a wide-area network connection due to cost. Jacobs acknowledged that $5 fee is high, but he said it’s the price Whistle and Sigfox have to charge until they achieve economies of scale. Once Sigfox begins loading its networks with millions of industrial and consumer devices, those prices will drop, Jacobs said.