CES 2020 Preview: GPS Technology has Gone to the Dogs With SpotOn’s New Smart Collar

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on January 6, 2020

On average, one in three American homes has a pet. Although the debate Cat vs. Dog rages on, there are more than 90 million dogs in the US, which represents more than a 20% increase in pet ownership since the turn of the century. Trends in dog ownership have also (thankfully) changed since that time with pets now widely regarded as family members who are part of the household instead of being tied up outdoors as was the common standard last century.

Grit Daily caught up with Ken Solinsky, founder and CEO of OnPoint Systems, to learn about the SpotOn Virtual Fence and smart collar before they made their debut at CES 2020. His team has an extensive and impressive background in designing high-quality electronic devices for military and law enforcement professionals, like the world’s most advanced night vision and electro-optical systems. As avid dog lovers, Solinsky and his team know that there is no room for shortcuts when it comes to safety for people or their pets. They also understand the healing power of dogs and how unconditional companionship can help military heroes and first responders who suffer from PTSD, so they partnered with HeroPups, an organization in New Hampshire that trains and places rescue dogs with these heroes.

Although the company only launched in Spring 2019, it has already garnered significant press and numerous accolades. The company was named as a CES 2020 Innovation Honoree in the wearables category. And, the New Hampshire Tech Alliance named them the 2019 Product of the Year.

You can find the SpotOn team at Tech West, Sands Expo, Level 2, Halls A-D and Venetian, Level 2 in booth #40550.

Grit Daily: Nearly all founders have a personal connection to their inventions and companies. What’s yours?

Ken Solinsky: SpotOn was an idea spawned from a few conversations with a friend of mine who owns an irrigation company. He was complaining about the buried wires of invisible and electric dog fences. Not only are they a pain to install and maintain, but they’re restrictive to the dog who can only walk and run leash-free at home, but not anywhere else. We quickly realized that there was a market opportunity for a product like SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence. Nothing like it existed until we launched. OnPoint’s VP of engineering, Sung Vivathana, and I spent years creating battle-tested technology for the U.S. military at my previous company, Insight Technology. We applied our knowledge of and experience with developing military equipment using global satellite positioning systems to make a highly advanced consumer dog containment and tracking system. SpotOn does not have the limitations of traditional solutions. Today, dogs are regarded as members of a family and they deserve to be leash-free yet safe to roam. We wanted to make the world your backyard.

GD: How can you just “walk around a perimeter” to define the boundary which then alerts the dog to stop? Tell us how this works in simple terms.

KS: Unlike traditional buried wire systems, circular Wi-Fi systems or physical fences, the SpotOn collar is an all-in-one containment system. This allows dog owners to enjoy all the benefits of a traditional wireless fence, but its GPS technology makes it portable. Our software enables customers to create and store up to 10 customer perimeters which enable dogs to safely go off-leash just about anywhere. Each custom map can be saved with any name that you like and then activated with a touch of a button on the smart collar or on the app. The setup of the virtual smart fence is designed to be simple: the user sets the collar to the “Custom Map” mode, acquires a GPS “Go” signal within about 30 seconds, walks the perimeter then clicks “End” to save the defined area. We also offer a “Quick Perimeter” setting where customers can select a desired radius to instantly set a circular perimeter. This is ideal for the beach or a campsite or when you’re hiking and don’t have a perimeter in mind.

GD: What about the accuracy?

KS: In general, the more satellites a receiver has to calculate position and time, the more precise tracking and location will be. SpotOn updates every 6 seconds, which is the fastest on the market and it is the only smart collar which concurrently tracks three constellations (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo). 

GD: Are there issues with dogs “breaking through” and running beyond the border?

KS: For the most part, no, but there are always exceptions, particularly if the dog has not been properly trained on the system. However, if the dog does breach the set perimeter, an alert is sent to the dog’s owner within 10 seconds and tracking begins automatically. Location, direction, and proximity to the owner is displayed via coordinated interaction with existing cellular networks and global navigation satellite systems. Every 6 seconds, an updated location is posted and accuracy is within 10 feet. “Compass mode” shows the distance and heading to the pet while the mapping feature provides the user with driving directions to their dog.

GD: What kind of training is required to get the dog comfortable with this tech?

KS: The folks at SpotOn are in the business of protection and truly care about the wellbeing of all dogs. We recognize that training dogs decreases the frequency of risk behaviors and increases safety which is why the collar comes with customizable training plans. Customizable plans are designed to suit all types of dogs, skill level and experience with training. Haeleigh Hyatt, our expert Director of Dog Training, has created a training program that marries positive reinforcement with traditional training methods to ensure that owners feel comfortable letting their dogs roam off-leash. The program is also designed to reduce the stress of containment for the dogs. Depending on your dog and dog’s level of training, SpotOn can be used within minutes or may require up to 4 weeks of training. SpotOn’s goal is not only to make it safer for dogs to roam freely but also to create more opportunities for dog owners to bond with their pets.

GD: When and where will it be sold?

KS: SpotOn was launched in April 2019 and is available for purchase via the SpotOn website.

GD: Thank you, Ken, for helping make dogs safer and for the work you to do to help military veterans with PTSD. We’ll see you at CES 2020 in Tech West, Sands Expo, Level 2, Halls A-D and Venetian, Level 2 in booth #40550.

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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