While radio frequency identification (RFID) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are becoming common for tracking luggage as it moves through airports and between flights, one new solution is focusing technology on the location and well-being of a plane’s living cargo—namely, passengers’ pets.
This month, Unisys released globally an IoT-based solution known as Digi-Pet that provides passenger pet-owners with a view into their animals’ environment as they are being transported to the belly of an airplane, and again when they are removed from the plane until they are delivered to the owner or agent. The system employs Wi-Fi and cellular networks to share sensor data with Unisys software, which then shares that information with an app. The system has been available and in trials in the Asia-Pacific region for about a month.
The IoT-based pet-monitoring app was conceived of by Dheeraj Kohli, Unisys’s global leader for travel and transportation vertical industry business. Four years ago, he bought a pug puppy named Buster for his daughter, but hadn’t thought much about the challenges the dog would pose when it came to flying. When the family had to move by air four months later, Buster came with them, of course. However, he says, arranging airline transport for his latest family member proved more difficult than he’d expected. To meet the size and weight limitations that the airline dictated for a dog, Kohli had to travel with the puppy before he got any bigger, which meant moving two months early and then living and working out of a pet-friendly hotel.
At the time, Kohli thought that travel for pets should be easier. Since then, he notes, there have been many cases of pets being injured or even dying during transportation (see Dog Dies In Overhead Bin On United Flight; Airline Apologizes, for instance). So he began considering IoT-based solutions and received the support of Unisys to build one. Unisys’s tagline, Kohli says, is “enhancing the lives of people.” Therefore, he recalls, “I thought, why not enhance the lives of [other] living beings?” The result is Digi-Pet, and Unisys is currently in discussions with several airlines about adopting the technology.
The hardware requirements are minimal, Kohli reports. Pet owners simply need a kennel for their animal, with a Digi-Pet sensor attached. The sensors are made to specification for Unisys by a third-party supplier, and the system requires that users have a smartphone to view sensor data.