Photo/IllutrationA toilet for cats developed by Sharp Corp. that analyzes felines' urine enables users to check their pets' health data via smartphones. (Shiki Iwasawa)

Sharp Corp. has developed a smart toilet for cats that analyzes their urine, detects health problems, and sends reports to owners’ smartphones using artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The toilet, priced at 24,800 yen ($225), plus tax, will be sold on Sharp’s website from July 30. Users of the product are also required to pay a monthly usage fee of 300 yen, plus tax, for the service.

AI and IoT technologies, which connect electronic devices and household appliances to service providers via the Internet, enabled Sharp to create the smart “pet tech” device for cats that are prone to kidney and urinary tract diseases.

“Pets are now considered members of the family,” said Yoshisuke Hasegawa, a senior official at Sharp, which has set a sales target of 10 billion yen for its pet tech products in fiscal 2020.

The smart cat toilet works by using sensors to collect relevant information, including an animal’s weight and urine analysis, and then sends the data to an AI program via the Internet.

Next, the AI analyzes the information based on data collected in a joint study between Tottori University and Sharp.

When abnormalities are detected in a cat’s health, the AI program sends a report containing that information, along with the cat’s daily health data, to the owner’s smartphone.

Taking advantage of technologies it owns, Sharp plans to focus on developing healthcare products for pets.

The company has already developed technologies to measure the balance of autonomic nerves that signal whether dogs feel relaxed or nervous by measuring their heart and respiratory rates with a sensor that can be attached to a dog’s front leg.

Sharp will initially target the product at companies and researchers in hopes of it helping the company hit its fiscal 2020 sales target in this market segment.

KEEPING CANINES FIT

Pet-related industries have been expanding in line with the rising number of owners who consider their animals as members of the family, and a host of products using IoT have hit the marketplace recently.

A wearable device called “Inu no Kimochi Osampo Time” (How a dog feels while taking a walk) produced by Tomy Co. that attaches to dogs’ necks enables users to measure the levels of their dogs’ physical activities when they take them for walks.

It advises users if their dogs’ walks give them sufficient exercise or not based on expert analysis of their activity data.

An automatic feeding device for dogs and cats called the “Kari Kari machine SP” developed by Access Line, based in Hyogo Prefecture, enables users to feed their pets remotely via their smartphones.

When users cannot get home, they can also check the state of their beloved pets on their smartphones via video footage taken on the camera-equipped device.

“It’s much easier to collect data on pets rather than human beings in terms of personal information protection,” said Kenji Toyoda, a consultant at Mizuho Information & Research Institute Inc.

For this reason, healthcare products using IoT technologies for pets will evolve faster than those for human beings, Toyoda predicted.