Los Angeles Start-up Seeks Backers to Develop GPS Pet Microchip

Los Angeles Start-up Seeks Backers to Develop GPS Pet Microchip

Using a smartphone to track lost pets through a postage-stamp-sized smart chip, one with global positioning software, planted in its skin was a bit of fanciful science fiction when Jane Moneyham first fashioned the idea three years ago. As with many a great idea, the technology to fulfill it lagged behind—until this year. Moneyham’s company—Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Escape Alert LLC—will launch a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter that runs from Sept. 23 to Nov. 11 to raise $50,000 to make a working prototype of the company’s first product to be—its pet-locating microchip. “We were on the Internet, and we were seeing all these people talking about [the microchip] in forums and learned it was a battery issue … and the technology just wasn’t there,” said Karen Zaxton, Moneyham’s daughter and Escape Alert’s publicist. But like all great entrepreneurs, Moneyham didn’t sit idly by or get easily discouraged. “My mom stuck with it, and she filed a patent early this year,” Zaxton said. “Within a month of filing the patent, the technology became available.” A Whole Different Animal “My thinking right now is that [the chip] is going to have to be implanted surgically, so it is probably going to be distributed through veterinary offices,” Zaxton commented. Because the Escape Alert microchip is much more technology reliant than the current rice-grain-sized ID chip and will most likely require minor surgery to implant, battery life could have been a sticking point if the chip had to be surgically removed every few years to replace the battery. Ideally, the battery bugaboo is being put to bed by reaching out to Zhong Lin Wang, PhD, a Georgia Tech professor and inventor of the piezo-electrical nanognerator. “We’ve reached out to Dr. Wang … to work with us on the battery, and he’s expressed his interest in collaborating with us,” Zaxton said. Dr. Wang’s invention increases a battery’s life indefinitely by converting muscle movement into electrical energy that is self-propagating, provided the source of movement continues. In fact, a Korean scientist has adopted Dr. Wang’s nanotechnology to self-power a cardiac pacemaker through the heart muscle’s movement. “Typically, the microchips are implanted in the shoulder … so not only do we have the ability to pick up on the muscle activity which powers the battery but there’s also less interference with the dog’s movements,” Zaxton explained. Escape Alert’s smart chip will turn animal microchipping technology on its head. Wayne Norris, who signed on as Escape Alert CEO in mid-July, calls it “a game-changer …[that] could put an end to lost pets once and for all.” “All current chips are ID chips, and all they can do is be scanned and give off a number that’s entered into a database to determine who the owner is and that database has their contact info in it,” Zaxton said. Escape Alert’s patent, according to Zaxton, combines the use of implantable microchip technology, GPS technology, geo-fence technology (smartphone users set a virtual fence using GPS coordinates; when a chipped pet crosses a virtual fence line, the owner is alerted via text or email) and piezo-electrical nanotechnology along with a software app into one working unit. “This revolutionary microchip for pets is one of the first examples of a commercialized product using piezo-electrical generators to power the battery,” Norris said.

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