July 6, 2017
A Baltimore startup, backed by over $140,000 in funding, is gearing up to test its prototype smart collar, that helps train and control pets without the need of a shock collar.
Barttron Inc. has developed a tech-based pet collar called "Chord" that is designed to use a combination of vibrations, voice commands and positive reinforcement training to help owners train their pets and eliminate unwanted behaviors, even when the owners are not around. The startup has built on the combined knowledge of engineers and animal behaviorists to create its technology.
"Basically, it's like you are with your dog 24 hours a day, always there to monitor behavior, even when you're at work for eight or nine hours," said CEO Jared Marmen, a computer and electrical engineer. "But it's not a shock collar. No one really wants to hurt their dog, so this uses a different kind of reinforcement to get rid of those unwanted behaviors, like climbing on furniture. "
Barttron is now working Blue Line K-9, a dog training business in Aberdeen, to test its prototype collar. The tests will look at how dogs respond to the sound and vibration commands from the collar across several variables — including different ages and breeds of dogs, time of day and environment. The tests will be the next step in the commercialization process, as Barttron moves toward commercial sale of its collars in the fall.
The company is named for Marmen and his wife's first dog, Bart. Marmen said he has put about $45,000 of his own money into the business so far. The startup recently received $25,000 in seed funding as part of Emerging Technology Centers' 2017 Accelerate Baltimore cohort. Barttron also won an extra $100,000 from the ETC, as the winner from its cohort pitch competition. Another $19,000 from Maryland Technology Development Corp. will be used to test and further develop Chord's technology.
About $6,500 of the TEDCO funding will go directly to Blue Line K-9 to plan, conduct and report on the testing of the prototype collar, Marmen said. And $12,500 will be used by Barttron to fund the cost of materials and fabrication of the components of the collars.
Barttron has three full-time employees and about 11 part-time employees. Marmen said he ultimately wants to grow the company as it proves out its technology and starts scaling up production. The startup is currently accepting online pre-order requests for Chord.
The Chord technology is app-based and owners can program virtual boundaries and unwanted behaviors into the app. So if you don't want your dog on the couch, Chord will know that and alert your dog when he gets to close or give him a command using your recorded voice telling him to get down.
"People always say things like 'I can't train my dog, my dog can't learn those things,' and we know that's not true," Marmen said. "Successful training is about having the right motivation. We think this can make the whole process easier for both the pets and their owners. They are working together to learn good and unwanted behaviors."
Marmen said he started working on the idea for the Chord collar back in 2014. He had moved into a new home and wanted to let his dog run around outside, but he did not have a fence and didn't want to buy a shock collar either.
The collars will start out as basic training assistance devices, but Marmen said he eventually hopes to build in features like virtual yard boundaries, which will keep dogs safe without the need for an electric fence.
*This article originally appeared on the Baltimore Business Journal. View the article here.