In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Halo Collar Managing Partner Ken Ehrman joins us to talk about the Internet of Dogs – that is, pet location tracking with IoT-enabled smart collars. Ken speaks to some of the Applications that make pet tracking such an attractive option for the consumer market, as well as some of the considerations that have to go into developing IoT solutions for both consumers and dogs. Ken shares how Halo Collar came to be and some of the highs and lows of his experience developing IoT products for consumers. To wrap things up, Ken talks consumer IoT at large, sharing some of his predictions for the future of the landscape and some of the things he’s most excited to see.

Ken Ehrman is a technology and safety visionary, who has spent 25+ years pioneering IoT innovations. As the founder of I.D. Systems (now PWFL:NASDAQ), he has 40+ patents that have revolutionized efficiency and worker safety for the biggest and most demanding companies in the world. He is now leveraging his industry relationships and expertise to bring best-in-class safety solutions to dogs and dog lovers.

About Halo Collar: Halo Collar allows you to safely allow your dogs to have a life off leash!

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(00:53) Intro to Ken Ehrman

(07:43) Intro to Halo Collar

(15:09) How did you manage hardware challenges – like battery – while developing the Halo Collar?

(30:02) What trends have you seen in the Consumer IoT world?

(37:16) What does the future of Halo Collar look like?


Transcript:

– [Announcer] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.

– [Ryan] Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, or join our newsletter at iotforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. But before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location and status updates for assets indoors and outdoors at the lowest cost possible with Leverage’s end-to-end IoT solutions. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s i-o-t changes everything dot com. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome, Ken, to the IoT For All podcast. Thanks for being here this week.

– [Ken] Thank you so much for having me, Ryan.

– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. I’m excited to have this conversation. Why don’t we start off by talking a little bit more about you just individually so our audience has some more context, and give a quick background to yourself, kind of how you got into this space and anything you think will be relevant.

– Sure, I’m kinda old, so I’m in my early 50s, but when I graduated college, I was an engineer. I went to Stanford, and I got a job in Silicon Valley focused on, they were really the pioneer in the Internet of Things. I would say-

– [Ryan] Okay, yeah.

– [Ken] If you had to name a company that was the first, the company was called Echelon, E-c-h-e-l-o-n. It was founded by one of the founders of Apple, Mike Markkula, and one of the founders of a company called ROLM, where the O is for Ken Oshman. Their goal for Echelon was to be the chip in everything else, except for computers. They’re like Intel can have the computers, and we’ll be in the light switches and the air conditioning systems and-

– [Ryan] Gotcha.

– [Ken] Everything else can be smart. And I loved the company after a year being there and just falling in love with the benefits a smart technology could bring. I ended up leaving to bring smart technology to the RFID industry.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Ken] So back then, tags were very cheap, but they were always more expensive than a bar code. So it was a really tough business case. And people always said, well, if it just was more volume, it would cost less. But because it doesn’t cost less, there’s not a lotta volume. So it was a chicken and egg problem. And what I decided was, let’s just make the RFID tag smart by putting intelligence into the tag to make decisions on its own, to bring real benefits to the point where you could charge, and we did, $2,000 a tag.

– [Ryan] Wow.

– [Ken] And it’s crazy, but it provided many thousands of dollars in benefits every month. So it was worth it, because our customers were not just tracking their assets, but they were making sure that they were utilized efficiently and safely. So we were basically, our tags were on, by the time I left the first company I started that was based on this Echelon technology, we were on about 500,000 high-value assets-

– [Ryan] Wow.

– [Ken] For half the Fortune 500. And it was a public company called ID Systems. And we grew from an idea to make RFID tags smart to really using that intelligence to make businesses safer and more efficient. But then, unfortunately, due to a personal issue, I had to leave my first baby to tend to my second one who needed me, who’s doing much better now. But as a result, I was no longer at ID Systems. But about six months thereafter, my niece’s dog got out of their invisible fence and was run over by a car.

– [Ryan] Oh, wow.

– [Ken] And it was really traumatizing. My kids hadn’t experienced a death yet, and they loved their dog, and same with my nieces. And it was really just like a tragedy, but out of that tragedy, I was thinking to myself, this is a problem I could fix, because-

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ken] I knew for Avis, for example, they wanted to know what space number the cars were parked in to optimize their efficiency. So I knew GPS was now accurate enough to literally replace the wire that’s been around for in-ground fences in the dog industry for 25 years. You know, that’s just the way it’s done. So for people who aren’t familiar with the technology, invisible fences are a cost-effective way to keep your dog safe and not running into the street. So people used to put in, well, what happens is, you get a dog.

– [Ryan] Yep.

– [Ken] And then you say, huh, this dog wants to get out, wants to go out, outside. And then you say, well, wait a minute. If I let them out, they’re gonna run away. So the problem is when your dog is either inside or when they’re outside, they’re on a leash. So people might wanna fence in their yards, which, when I bought my house, that was the first thing I wanted to do for my dog, it was extremely expensive. This was eight and a half years ago. I thought a fence would be pretty inexpensive, but it turned out to be, I think, $20,000. I was like, what?

– [Ryan] My parents did the same thing. Yeah, they did the same thing. Instead of doing an electric fence, they did a backyard fence and it’s not any cheaper.

– [Ken] We couldn’t believe it. And so we ended up getting an invisible fence. So I had the invisible fence. My dog was trained on it eight and a half years ago. And I knew about all the problems that it’d have like wire getting cut all the time, couldn’t take my dog with me. Like my brother, who I started this company with, he, always the smarter and better-looking brother, by the way, but in any event, he lived in town. So I would wanna bring my dog with me to his house and let him play with their dog, but my invisible fence wasn’t compatible with their invisible fence. So I had to have my dog on the leash, and she would just fight and bark, and wanna get off and play with my brother’s dog, and I couldn’t let her. And so it got to the point where I wouldn’t even bring her any more.

– [Ryan] Um-hum.

– [Ken] Which is crazy. But she wanted to play and who can blame her? So at that very moment, I was like, wow, we can really change this industry. It’s kinda based on some antiquated technology. And, as a result, it’s very expensive. So it’s an amazing business ring, obviously.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ken] But in the case of ring, you’re convincing someone to buy $100 doorbell where most people, the doorbell’s $10. So it’s more than normal. In this case, the invisible fence is two to $3,000. So paying $999 or $799 right now ’cause we have a sale, but to get it out there is not the, so that’s money, sets up instantly, and keeps your dog safe, which is the most important thing about it.

– [Ryan] Yeah, so why don’t you go ahead and kind of just jump in a little bit more to the product itself, kind of what the offering is. Obviously, you’ve alluded to kind of the features and kinda how it works at a high level, and what it can replace that is out there now. But just talk a little bit more about just kind of the general, the product itself, kind of what it does, the purpose of it, and what you’ve kind of learned so far from having it out in the market.

– [Ken] Great, well, first of all, I know this is a podcast so you can’t see what it looks like, but I’m putting it up here for you to be able to see. But basically, in many respects, it’s like an iPhone for dogs or a smartphone for dogs. Because it has built into it the ability to communicate to the dog. So we have a speaker in here that outputs various sounds. According to Cesar Millan, who I haven’t even mentioned him yet, but he’s been our partner for the last three years, helping us to understand how dogs think and will respond to sounds and vibrations, and static if necessary, to keep them safe. All of that, we have taken that wisdom that he brings to the table and built it into the Halo Collar. But the point is-

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Ken] That you have a speaker here so you can have sounds. So for me, when my dog nears the edge of the fence, it beeps; the same thing the old wire fence used to do.

– [Ryan] Sure, sure.

– [Ken] So it just goes beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

– [Ryan] Gotcha.

– [Ken] And she knows what that means, and that means beep means fence. And then what’s amazing about it, and she learned it eight and a half years ago, is if I take her to other places that she doesn’t even know and I let her off and she hears that beep, she knows what it means, she just stops.

– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s amazing.

– [Ken] It’s crazy.

– [Ryan] Yeah.

– [Ken] The first day she did that, I literally was jumping for joy. I mean, I knew it was supposed to work, but I was like, that’s sick, it really works.

– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s awesome.

– [Ken] So there’s a speaker to communicate with the dog. There’s vibration, which again, will help get the dog’s attention, which you can custom configure. We also have dog whistles built in, so you couldn’t even hear it, but the dogs can hear it.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Ken] We have Caesar’s famous sound built in, and then we have static. And to some people, that’s kind of controversial, but it really shouldn’t be, because it’s like anything-

– [Ryan] Why is that?

– [Ken] It’s how it’s used.

– [Ryan] Why is static controversial, by the way?

– [Ken] Hum, many people equate static with a shock. And by the way-

– [Ryan] Oh, okay, I see. Okay, I gotcha.

– [Ken] Yes, that’s a big problem. And to be honest, that’s how the invisible fence trained my dog originally, which was-

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ken] It’s through pain. Like, you don’t want to cross this fence. If you hear that beep, that means you’re about to get shocked. And that’s how my dog learned it, and that’s not how we do it.

– [Ryan] Right, right.

– [Ken] Not at all. Caesar doesn’t believe in that.

– [Ryan] Yes.

– [Ken] So it’s really, you’re training your dog, beep means fence.

– [Ryan] Yes.

– [Ken] And this is something that Caesar came up with as well, that no one has and no one had ever thought of, but when you put Caesar in a room and say, what could this do, this is what he came up with, whistle means come back.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Ken] And it’s two basic things. But what’s amazing about the whistle, and I use this every day with my dog, is now I can take her on a hike off-leash and let her run, and then, and by the way, in my town, you’re supposed to have your dog on a leash, but I will walk her off-leash. And then if there’s people coming in the other direction with a few dogs on a leash, pulling and yanking their neck, I hit the whistle button on my phone. It’s like a video game. She runs right back to me every time.

– [Ryan] Wow, yeah.

– [Ken] And what’s crazy is she used to not listen. I would call her name, like Reeses, and she’s smart. Like I always thought she was like the smartest dog, but she maybe listens like 20% of the time when I call her name.

– [Ryan] They have selective hearing, a lotta dogs do.

– [Ken] Right. Well, I asked Caesar why; it was very interesting. I said, “Caesar, why do they not listen “when you call their name?” He said, “Well, Ken, you use Reeses’s name “for so many different reasons. “So they don’t understand why you’re calling their name “or that you mean you want them to give you their attention “because that’s not the command for that “or the feedback for that.”

– [Ryan] Sure, sure.

– [Ken] So you might say, “Oh, Reeses, you’re so cute,” while you’re petting her, so they don’t understand that. That’s why if you follow Cesar’s training, the best way I could explain it is, I also happen to have the ring doorbell. And every time she hears that sound, she barks.

– [Ryan] Um-hum, yeah.

– [Ken] Every time.

– [Ryan] Our dog does the same thing.

– [Ken] Right. And she could be eating a steak dinner, but she’s barking because she knows someone’s at the door.

– [Ryan] Yep, definitely.

– [Ken] If you follow this process for 21 days, they are gonna know it the same way your dog knows ring means someone’s at the door. Because you repeat it, you repeat it, you repeat it.

– [Ryan] Agreed.

– [Ken] And now my dog gets it. Beep means fence, whistle means come back. And when I walk past those people, they were like, what, I don’t understand what just happened. I said, “Yeah, she’s on a wireless leash.” And they were amazed. And then you could just keep walking, then you let her explore, explore. If a car’s coming, you hit the whistle, she comes right back. I mean, it is really a cool way to give your dog the ability to kind of be off-leash. But I don’t know how I got off the product, but I’m sorry about that.

– [Ryan] Yeah, totally fine.

– [Ken] Should we go back to that? So it has all those different methods of communicating with them.

– [Ryan] Okay, gotcha.

– [Ken] Which you can use in different ways, by the way. The fence, which is the fundamental thing, that’s feedback the dog will get, your dog will get, if they wander beyond what you define on your phone, we have like a Google map view of your house or the beach or a park, and you basically just draw the fence on your phone. That gets downloaded, because remember I said it’s like an iPhone. This has, inside of it, Bluetooth, cellular, Wi-Fi, different methods of communicating like static and vibrate, and everything else, and also sound. So it’s rugged enclosure. I mean, it really has almost everything you would have in your iPhone. But what the point is, it has the memory on here. It stores those fences, and you can then let your dog off-leash in a park, or I have people who use it, who told me they use it at work. I have people who told me they obviously have used it at the beach and at parks.

– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah.

– [Ken] Really anywhere. And the dogs that are trained fully, beep means fence and whistle means come back, you really can take advantage of it. Because even if you set up an area in a public space and someone’s coming, you just hit that whistle button, and they will really just come back.

– [Ryan] So that’s basically the, aside from the microphone part, the geofencing component of the tool that it seems to be. So we actually had one of these sent to us to play with and try out, and a friend of mine used it on her French bulldog. It’s a puppy.

– [Ken] Wow.

– [Ryan] Well, puppyish, but she has horses, so she goes to a horse farm, and it’s just open all over the place. But she used it to build basically the geofence around certain areas where the dog could and could not go, and she said it worked flawlessly. The app was very intuitive; obviously came in a very sleek packaging. And she just said like, it was super-seamless for her to get it set up. The one thing she did mention, and I wanted to ask you just kind of your experience when it comes to the battery life component of this. Because obviously, the collar can only be so big, and the battery then can only be so big. So what were the kind of experiences you had trying to find a battery that would last long enough for this to be useful without it being something that only could go a couple hours. Because, for her, it was, every night she recharges. The next day, it was at full capacity, just ’cause she didn’t know what was gonna happen the next day. But what is the experience and the development of this product when it comes to battery life? ‘Cause that is a very real challenge companies face regardless of what they’re building an IoT device for.

– [Ken] Absolutely, absolutely. In fact, I would say back when my brother and I were doing this for the Fortune 100 companies, we would do it on tractor-trailers, and they wanted a five or 10-year battery life. But they wanted reporting updates of where their trailer was every few seconds.

– [Ryan] Exactly, just the math doesn’t add up, right? Yeah.

– [Ken] Exactly. So it’s amazing, and it’s all about trade-offs and that is a fantastic question. And it really also depends on the application. Because a few things are going on right now, certainly as it relates to our product and battery life. One is with the most current Internet of Things, chip technology, whether it’s u-blox or Redpine or Silicon Valley, it’s just all the different major companies that are in Internet of Things chips, they’re all focused on power. And there are, amazingly, even with the GPS chip, they’re like four levels of power that you can set your chip to draw, but then it’s a trade-off between that and how quickly it’s going to wake up and get a GPS fix. And therefore, how deeply do you put it to sleep? And so for us, we wanted to have the GPS receiver on all the time. That was super-critical to me-

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Ken] In the design of the product. Because as soon as you go off, you stop collecting data that is used to make sure that you can collect accuracy information. You have to be outside, when you turn a cold start on a GPS receiver, you might have to be outside for at least two minutes before you start getting accurate data. And that wasn’t gonna fly for our customers because the dog could go right out the front door. So we had to have the receiver on all the time, but there were other things that we could turn off. So, for example, the Wi-Fi and the cellular connection.

– [Ryan] Um-hum, um-hum.

– [Ken] So if someone is not in the app, well, then you don’t have to provide data back to the app about where your dog is, because why would you have to? ‘Cause they’re not looking, no one’s looking.

– [Ryan] Right, right, right, right.

– [Ken] So you kind of have to think about the, I mean, I can’t tell you how many hours of time we went through all the different Applications of when you can turn which parts of your system on and off. But we happen to get kind of lucky that in this application, the standard in the industry is you take the invisible fence collar or unwired collar off at night-

– [Ryan] Okay, right, sure.

– [Ken] Even regular invisible fence collars.

– [Ryan] Sure, sure, it makes sense.

– [Ken] So it made perfect sense that if we could have one day of battery life, A, people are used to that with their iPhones, and B, it’s the same basic thing you’re doing with the current invisible fence. You just, instead of just taking it off and throwing it on a desk, you’re taking it off and plugging it into a charger. So this application, like if you tried to tell Walmart with their 50,000 trailers that you’re gonna have to charge the battery every week in the trailers, they’re gonna tell you that it’s not gonna happen.

– [Ryan] Yes, I agree.

– [Ken] So it’s probably one of the first most important things that you need to do when you’re designing an IoT product. Just consider that our case, especially because what we ended up going to, at least at my former company, was solar, but there’s a lot of issues with that, too. From the size, it doesn’t really. So we’re not gonna put a solar panel on the back of a dog.

– [Ryan] Yep. No, I mean, but your point is well-taken. I mean, I think it’s just the fact that, just like with any component of an IoT solution or product, like the connectivity has to be correct for the Applications, the battery life has to be correct for the Applications. And if you get any of those wrong, they influence not only the experience, but also the cost. And the cost could be a deterrent for somebody whether it’s an enterprise looking to track 50,000 trailers or an individual consumer tracking one of their dogs. It just has to fit across the board not just functionality-wise, but also to make the price point something that is affordable. And that makes total sense.

– [Ken] Um-hum, that was definitely part. But if I was gonna, and I know this was potentially one of the upcoming questions, but I’m gonna mention it.

– [Ryan] Yeah, sure, sure.

– [Ken] I was gonna think about the most complicated part of this.

– [Ryan] Yeah, that was gonna be my next question. Perfect.

– [Ken] Well, I would say, first of all it’s crazy, but again, I will just say that my brother and I have been developing this type of technology for 25 years. So we were using all the best practices, all the resources that we knew, like from an antenna designing capabilities, to designing for rugged environments, like we were doing. We put all the expertise together, and Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, for the dog component of it, and put this into one thing that all had to work together seamlessly. And that was by far the hardest part.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ken] So like high level, I would say, that there were so many bugs, not just in what we were doing there, because we find all these different Applications-

– [Ryan] Sure, of course, of course.

– [Ken] And different things that are going on, But in every chip that we were designing in.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ken] So, and they had bugs. And then IoT Hub, which we used, they had bugs. So everyone’s got bugs, and all those bugs affect each other. And then they fix their bugs, then you have to go back and fix the fixes that you’ve made to fix their bugs. It’s crazy. But you really, in order to keep up with that, you have to really have state-of-the-art kind of ability to see that happening in real time and understanding what you’re looking at, and then making the ability to change that. But to give you an idea, we’re on version 92, or maybe 93 today, of our firmware.

– [Ryan] Wow.

– [Ken] That’s a lot of revisions.

– [Ryan] I will say, I mean, the hardware component to any IoT solution usually seems to be the trickiest. There’s a lot of different components that have to go into it. They all don’t come from the same place. And the sophistication of each piece is not always the same. The hardware still has a long way to go to be something that is seamless from an adoptive standpoint but at the same time, from a cost standpoint. Because, I mean, for instance, in this case, the dog collar can only be so big. So your form factor only can be, it has to work within these parameters, and you don’t have much wiggle room, because you can’t put, like for instance, this Frenchie dog, who’s 10 pounds, if that, you can’t put a massive collar on the neck. And the same with a large dog, you can’t put a small collar. So you have to have this variability that plays into the development of your product, while at the same time, keeping the experience and the intended usage or Applications viable for what you’re building for.

– [Ken] Definitely. I mean, by the way, so many things, just this, this was designed, the Halo Collar device, that you could attach it to your existing strap. But we also want it ’cause we knew we were gonna take it off and on very frequently, we wanted to make sure it had a collar that kind of like snapped on or off.

– [Ryan] Yeah, sure, sure.

– [Ken] If you can hear this.

– [Ryan] Ah, yeah, I can hear it, yep.

– [Ken] That was critical, but not really in version one. Version one was a belt.

– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, right. It’s a prototype. You’re starting just to prove the technology works. Because anybody can build a collar. It’s whether you can build a smart collar like this.

– [Ken] Right, well, what’s funny is the, okay, I never got back to the biggest challenge. It was keeping everything working together because they all have bugs.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Ken] But one of the things this collar will do is, if you have your app up, then obviously now it’s gonna start communicating. That’s what I was saying earlier. But in addition, it’s going to communicate in the most efficient way. So if you’re near that collar, it’s gonna use Bluetooth, ’cause that’s the lowest power and the most real time. If you’re somewhere in your house, and the collar is on Wi-Fi and your app or your phone is on Wi-Fi, and the collar can’t reach you by Bluetooth, it’ll go by Wi-Fi. But then let’s say you’re in the backyard and you just step out of the Wi-Fi range, it’ll instantly switch to cellular.

– [Ryan] Exactly, yes.

– [Ken] So the ability to kind of instantly switch onto cellular, back to Wi-Fi to Bluetooth, and wherever you might be with your dog, took a tremendous amount of time to get right. And then another tricky part, this was crazy, was, you know, there’s so many Bluetooth devices in your house-

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Ken] You don’t even know; they’re everywhere. And so what happens is when the collar comes near a beacon, which is one of the parts of the collar, is that you can put a beacon like in the kitchen, your dog can’t go in the kitchen, or my brother puts it by the front door so his dogs don’t even try to get out of the front door. It has to hear the beacon the instant you come near it. So what was happening was the beacon Bluetooth receiver that was in the collar would hear the message, process it, send it into our processor. And then our processor would say, wait a minute, you don’t need to talk to those headphones; that doesn’t mean anything.

– [Ryan] Right, exactly.

– [Ken] But we took some cycles out of the processor to focus on the things that it needed to focus on. And so what we had to do, and my brother came up with this, it’s pretty amazing, which was, we created a filter at the front end of the Bluetooth chip that looked at the header of the filter and changed it from an individual number, which was the scheme they already had, to more of a group basis. So you could look at the first, just the header, for example, and not bring it into the main processor to analyze. So we had to come up with that, we had to write it, we had to build it into the Bluetooth chip manufacturer’s chip. But once that was done, it was flawless, it was amazing.

– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s always interesting to hear kind of the evolution of a product like this and kind of the struggles you went through. ‘Cause a lot of people out there just don’t understand how complicated these devices that are then very easy for them to use, how complicated it was to build, and the iteration cycles you went through, you know.

– [Ken] Oh, my God.

– [Ryan] Just the stress it probably put on to your entire team trying to build this to the vision that you saw. Having Cesar obviously involved-

– [Ken] Right, it seems easy, it’s a dog collar.

– [Ryan] Exactly, exactly. It’s a dog collar that allows me to set these geofences wherever I am, speak to the dog in some capacity through different sounds and stuff. It’s like, oh, that should be simple, but it’s not. It gives-

– [Ken] I know.

– [Ryan] It should give people an appreciation for a lot of the devices they have that are so seamless to use from a user perspective, and how much actually goes into it. And I think you’re shedding a lot of light on just that experience for any device manufacture for consumer products.

– [Ken] Right, I mean, by the way, we didn’t even talk about it, but security is another huge element to consider. Like when we were designing the products for Avis Rent A Car, they were extremely worried that people could hack into the car through the RF-

– [Ryan] Yep, yep.

– [Ken] Through the cellular network, and turn the steering wheel or hit the brakes or cut the HRN or whatever they could do through the onboard diagnostics board that we were connected into. So security has always been something that we’ve focused on but it’s not easy to build in. It requires a lot of extra overhead in messages and things of that nature. But to me, it’s worth it because not as much in a dog product, but I felt that very strongly that people love their dogs more than anything, and I don’t want, just ’cause, I mean, you just don’t want someone hacking into your dog’s collar, and it’s just-

– [Ryan] Right, no, no, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

– [Ken] The other thing is you don’t want anyone stealing the collar. So, you know if you-

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Ken] That was another thing we had to build, which is everything, all the messages are synchronized and secure, so if someone stole your collar, we can deactivate your collar, they can actually, the person could just deactivate their collar. Actually, if it stays in their account, no one else can ever add it to their account.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Ken] So it’s extremely secure in that someone can’t just take it off of your dog and start using it; it’s not gonna work.

– [Ryan] Um-hum, right, okay, that’s fantastic. One of my next question’s actually gonna be about security aspects. So that makes a lotta sense. One other thing I wanted to ask you is just generally from throughout the development of this and your whole experience, going all the way back to when you started in Silicon Valley, what have been some of the biggest trends you’ve noticed in the consumer IoT device world in the last, I guess basically since you started with the product, and kind of what you knew going into it?

– [Ken] Um-hum, so, I mean, I was more in the B2B world. So my background was 500,000 devices for Ford and Walmart, and Toyota, and Procter & Gamble, and those guys. But I think what they instilled in us was they wanted perfection. I hate to say that term, because perfection is the enemy of good enough or whatever, is a typical saying in engineering. So finding the right balance between achieving perfection but still doing that in a cost-effective and timely way so you can achieve the benefit that’s waiting for you to do that. I mean, it’s pretty amazing. Although my career, for some reason, it’s been a lot of focus around people had an idea. So Avis was like, we wanna put a device in our car so that we know where they are, and we can let our customers rent and return them anywhere, cnd we could collect the fuel when they return. So they knew what they wanted, but we had to kind of design it for them from scratch. And then say the other thing we did was kind of in the forklift world. So if you can imagine a forklift in a manufacturing facility like a Ford manufacturing plant, and as the operators walk around with 150 keys in their pocket, inevitably, the keys are just left in the trucks, which means that anyone could jump on ’em and use ’em at any time, and they did. And it was actually the number two cause of deaths for Fortune 100 companies, second to highway accidents. And so, basically, we develop a device to link to a forklift to control access, so the same way you would use a badge to get into a building. You had to swipe your badge on the vehicle. That’s why it was expensive. It had Wi-Fi built in; it had location capabilities built in. It had a display, so operators could do their daily checklist and make sure they were inspecting the vehicle for safety every day. But like basically, it’s always been about people had a vision of how they could use this technology to make their lives better and safer. And so I think that the idea is, the best advice I would give is, you have to have that vision and you have to see it to completion because, and you’ll have a lotta doubters-

– [Ryan] Absolutely.

– [Ken] Along the way. I went to a professional, this is a crazy story, by the way. But right when I started this company, I decided, I don’t want to name names. I’m a little concerned, but I’ll do my best. But I decided I wanted to talk to a Stanford Business School Professor about my business plan. I’m like, I know that, you know, I went there, I knew a lot of people in the senior management there, and I knew I could get myself to a Business School Professor. So I flew all the way out to California and I was so excited. I sent them the business plan in advance. And we sat down together and he said, “Ken, I don’t know why you’re going after dogs. “You should be going after cows.”

– [Ryan] There are cows.

– [Ken] And I was like, what? Like have you ever heard of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer? I’m like, we’re all set up to go after the dog. That’s what we’re good at.

– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

– [Ken] And he goes, no, you should hire a salesforce of cowboys. Cows need this, blah, blah. I couldn’t believe it. I left that meeting, I was like, oh, my God.

– [Ryan] There are a lot of them out there already doing the cow tracking.

– [Ken] Oh, is that true? I was just gonna say, I don’t know.

– [Ryan] No, cow tracking is huge. There are so many cows that you just would have no idea how many cows are out there. It’s just tons of them all over the world. And in those very densely populated areas without cows, tracking the livestock is a big deal. There’s a company, I believe it’s out of Australia or New Zealand, I think it’s called Ceres Tag, and they actually have a tracker for livestock. And cows is one of the bigger groups of livestock that is tracked. It’s a pretty fascinating thing that most people would have no experience in and probably never learn about, because it’s just not really in their realm of thinking.

– [Ken] I was the CEO of a public Internet of Things company, and there were other ones like PAVAM and CR Wireless, and Digi and Orca, and we would all get together and talk about our businesses and our business plans. And obviously, we were competitors, but we also would see each other everywhere. So we had to be; we’re all in the same industry. And none of us really ever went after animals. It was very interesting.

– [Ryan] It’s not an easy space.

– [Ken] We competed like crazy amongst ourselves with trailers, but we never went after animals.

– [Ryan] Yeah.

– [Ken] So that’s kind of-

– [Ryan] I think the consumer space is kind of unique in certain realms, for sure. You know, I think obviously, you know this. Other people have tried to do this, to have a kinda smart dog collar in some capacity. It’s just been a very difficult thing to do. Or just pet tracking in general has not been an easy thing for companies to achieve. So the fact that you all have been able to get to the point where you have a very user-friendly, effective device out into the market is a huge deal. And a lot of these companies just weren’t able to make it there.

– [Ken] Well, it definitely has taken us a long time, many engineers, and a lot of experience, but it’s amazing. We’ve already sold over 11,000 collars.

– [Ryan] Wow.

– [Ken] And we sell more than 200 a day these days. And, at the pace we’re on, it’s gonna be thousands soon, which, as long as people continue to have these great experiences, there’s $100 million dollars in the United States. So that’s just the United States. So there’s a huge opportunity that we have to really make dogs safer the same way I was doing that in the forklift world. Now, by the way, every forklift either comes with the system that Michael and I designed, or a direct copy that someone copied our patents.

– [Ryan] Yeah.

– [Ken] Every single forklift has it.

– [Ryan] Wow, that’s impressive.

– [Ken] And by the way, every single rental car now has our technology, too. Either ours or, again, another copy of it. But Michael and I were really the, I would say, the pioneers of forklift tracking and rental car tracking. And now we’re hoping to kind of really take it to dog safety, but also just letting a dog live a life off-leash. I mean, that’s really what it’s about.

– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s the idea, yeah. So as we wrap up here, one last question is just kind of what is the future of the kind of the company in your eyes as far as you have the halo device, the custom dog collar, but where do you see this all going? Like, is it building out a kind of a fleet of these different kinds of devices for different kinds of animals? Is it just like upgraded versions, different functionality? Kind of where do you see this going in the next, let’s say, year or so?

– [Ken] That’s a great question. Well, first of all, we have a roadmap of different features and functions we’re gonna continue to add to the Halo Collar. So sharing fences and community fences, and cutting off areas of the fence, a lot of training. You know, Cesar Millan is obviously very training-focused and there’s a lot of training functions in the app as well as online in the app training. So we’re going to offer a Gold Service training capability where if you want access to some of the world’s best trainers who will show you how to use the Halo Collar to communicate more effectively with your dog, that’s gonna be part of the Gold Service, so-

– [Ryan] I hear you.

– [Ken] We’ve been doing some of that, but that’s going to become our next big area, just building out that training service beyond just the fencing. But then my favorite part, by the way, now that you have me going, is what we call the Dog Park.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Ken] So it’s literally a part of our website now, if you go to halocollar.com/dogpark, you become a little mini icon, and then you can talk to others.

– [Ryan] Oh, wow.

– [Ken] It’s really a place for community.

– [Ryan] Yeah, sure.

– [Ken] And every week we have people, every day, we have people in that dog park for customer service. So let’s say you have a problem or you have a question, instead of having to wait on the phone or sending an email, you just go to halocollar.com/dogpark, and we have someone in there who’s gonna instantly video chat with you and help you solve the problem.

– [Ryan] Very cool.

– [Ken] But beyond that, we’re gonna have trainers in there every week. We’re gonna have, Caesar comes in there. My brother and I do a weekly presentation where we walk our new customers through the app and the basics of the product through a live meeting. So I think creating a community where everyone can interact is also a big piece of it, as far as the future goes.

– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s fantastic. I think that also ties into one of the things that was goin’ on in my head is just the general business model behind it all, which I know there’s obviously a subscription piece to it, but the training piece is a no-brainer. That was one of the things that Julia, who was the one that was testing out the product, mentioned is that the training that you go through, not even just the onboarding training, but just like everything that’s available in there to better understand how to use the device and train your dog, was of incredible value to her. This is a new dog in her life, so it’s not a dog that has tons of training. And the ability to be able to use a device like this and walk her through it was of incredible value to her. So I think it’s a fantastic product that you have, and I’m very excited to see kind of the future of it. But other than that-

– [Ken] Great, well, I really appreciate it.

– [Ryan] Yeah.

– [Ken] And I really appreciate you having me on.

– [Ryan] Absolutely, this has been great, Ken. Thanks again for your time, and look forward to getting this out to our audience. ‘Cause, you know, we have an audience of, a large audience of IoT enthusiasts, IoT kind of ecosystem players, people who buy IoT solutions and devices, and this could not be more relevant. I think it’s gonna be a very exciting thing for our audience. So I appreciate the time.

– [Ken] Great, I appreciate your time as well. Thank you so much.

– [Ryan] Thank you. All right, everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please leave us a rating or a review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next time.

Hosted By
IoT For All
IoT For All
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.