Jiobit is a wireless location technology company based in Chicago that is proud to announce the release of "Jiobit for Pets” which is the smallest location monitor available that can be used to track and protect pets of all sizes. The company gained acclaim in 2017 for their “Jiobit for Kids” which helped protect children from wandering off and getting lost. The success of that tracking product resulted in consumers asking for a pet version, something that the company is now launching as 2019 commences.

According to the American Humane Association, more than ten million cats and dogs (let alone other types of animals) are stolen or lost in the United States alone every year.

The invention of Jiobit for Pets aims to help ease the owner’s minds so that, if their beloved companion is ever lost or stolen, they will have a way to track it down. Using their own patented “Progressive Beaconing” technology, Jiobit uses a smartphone app to monitor the Jiobit wearer’s location and, since it is only about the size of a sugar packet, this technology is discreet, lightweight, and waterproof. It can be purchased with a fabric pouch or a secure loop which enables owners to place it on a pet in a way that will be unnoticeable to bandits. The Jiobit comes with long-lasting batteries, can be synced with Geofences, and offers “Location Timeline” history reports. It retails for $99.

Jiobit for Pets became a reality after the company earned a $6.5M investment round courtesy of A-list technology veterans and the NETGEAR networking organization. Recently co-founder John Renaldi, who is a former Motorola executive, discussed his company and this new invention via an exclusive interview.

Technology, pets, and design

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you first get interested in technology and how did you break into the field?

John Renaldi (JR): My first interactions with technology started at a very early age, around seven. My father, Jack, worked as a field engineer for IBM through the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the time he’d work from home and then would be on call to fix mainframe systems in downtown Chicago.

One day my father came home with one of the first two-way pagers ever built. They had an endearing nickname for this thing: they called it the “Brick” (clearly marketing geniuses). When this Brick came into our home, it was really novel. It started chirping and coming alive like R2D2 on a bender. It was truly magic. Some stranger could send my dad a wireless message without calling our home phone. Amazing!

Fast forward a few years: For a sixth-grade class project, I imagined what technology would look like in the future. Miraculously, my mom saved a concept sketch and turned out, and I was pretty spot on. My futuristic phone had a hinge (it was a flip phone - years before the first hinge design came out), retractable/telescoping antenna, video chat, and a front-facing camera for selfies.

It was 1991.

I went on to college and studied business courses, but during this time friends of mine in the engineering school started to encourage me to learn how to code. So, I was teaching myself how to code. I built a few web-based apps for my church with ASP (dot) net (member databases, streaming servers, custom CMS/blog platform, and several other advanced apps for 1999) and used that as a sandbox to demonstrate what I could do. Eventually, I would use that demo to land a software analyst job at Deloitte Consulting which launched me officially into the field.

MM: What prompted you to start Jiobit and why did you select that name?

JR: In 2015 I lost track of my then 6-year-old son, Ethan, at a crowded park in downtown Chicago.

He ended up turning up safe and sound, but it was 30 minutes of sheer panic until I found him. After that, I bought several kid tracking devices, but all were subpar - big and bulky with poor battery life and tracking limitations. I decided to solve the problem on my own after annoying most everyone I met complaining about how bad everything was!

The name Jiobit came from a discussion my wife and I had on our 10th anniversary. Yes, I pitched her the entire business on our vacation, and for the first time, she told me this idea wasn’t stupid! But it was on this trip that we came up with the name. The goal in the name was to give the nod towards location and small size and in 2-3 syllables.

So, we joined the word -geo (the prefix associated with the location and derived from the Greek word for ‘earth’) with -bit (the computer terminology for small storage/size).

But instead of g-e-o, we liked the aesthetic look of a small case “j” and “i.” So while it would have a different phonetic spelling from g-e-o-bit, it would be pronounced the same. And when we wrote it out on a notebook, we noticed that when you place the “j” and “i” together, they resemble a parent (“j”) and child (“i”) where the dots are the head.

Sidenote: “Jio” in Hindi means “live life,” and coincidentally, that’s really what we try to do. Let parents live their life with peace of mind. Probably not surprising a few of my Indian friends assumed this is why we named it Jiobit.

MM: How did Jiobit help people keep track of their children and how well-received was the product?

JR: The product is small and lightweight and can discreetly clip onto clothing making it very easy to wear.

It pairs with the parents’ smartphone to deliver real-time updates about the child’s location - no matter the distance. It’s great for parents sending their kids off to school on the bus - they’re alerted when they leave home, arrive at school and everything in between. It’s also great for traveling families or for those who venture out in big crowds. It’s a great way to have peace of mind knowing that your little one isn’t going to get lost and it’s been extremely well received. PC Mag identified Jiobit as the editor’s choice for kid tracking products and said that “for pure tracking… Jiobit is the best product we’ve seen so far.” We’ve also had great feedback from parents.

MM: You cited information from the American Humane Society in your press release, so do they know about this product?

JR: We pulled those statistics about lost pets when we were doing our initial market analysis. While we haven’t connected to the American Humane Society yet, we certainly intend to make them aware of Jiobit once we launch.

MM: When did you decide to create Jiobit for Pets and how did it differ from the model for kids?

JR: We launched Jiobit for Kids in 2017 and quickly realized that it was being purchased and used for many other scenarios outside of just child safety. We learned that pet parents were looking for an effective solution to keep track of their fur babies. Jiobit for Pets leverages the exact same technology and design as our kid product. So pet parents can have peace of mind with real-time location updates at any distance.

Additionally, you can keep tabs on pet sitters and dog walkers by adding them to your Care Team and even see a history of what happened throughout the day. The app experience and attachment accessories differ slightly from our kid product. Other than that, it’s the same great tracking technology.

MM: What makes its design and technology unique and how does the pet one differ from the kid one?

JR: First of all, it’s incredibly small and lightweight so it’s suitable for any size pet - not just larger dogs. On the tech side, we use our own patented tracking technology called Progressive Beaconing. This is the use of several radios and sensors (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Cellular, and GPS) to track in real-time at any distance while optimizing power.

While we have optimized several parts of the software and algorithms for pet behavior, the core design and technology is the same for both products.

Reactions, experiences, and feedback

MM: What sorts of reactions have you gotten regarding the news of the Jiobit for Pets release?

JR: There’s been a lot of excitement around this news, and we’ve got a steadily growing list of pet owners who are waiting to purchase. Pet owners are really interested in keeping their pets safe and lost pets happen all too often. Also, there’s a misconception that “chipping” your pet can solve the issue of lost pets, but unfortunately that’s not the case. If your pet is chipped, the animal first needs to be found and then brought to a vet for scanning before being reunited with the owner.

MM: What are the best experiences your career as an inventor and entrepreneur has afforded you?

JR: I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet famous industry leaders, politicians, and inspiring behind-the-scenes technologists within our national security community. But the best experience on this journey has been that my kids get to be a part of our business. They know they were the inspiration, but they are also my beta testers.

Both my son and daughter come to our office, they met our employees, and regularly give the engineering and design team feedback. We also have them star in many of our photo-shoots and videos (along with many other employee’s children). Having witnessed an arc from dad just talking at dinner about a crazy new idea to seeing it being manufactured and in customer’s hands, will hopefully imprint on them to become tinker’ers and makers with a healthy dose of “get er done” vs “just talking about it.”

The other aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is simply, greater schedule flexibility (as I’m writing this at midnight).

I can work long hours, but I can fit it in during a sports practice or after bedtime. If I can be there when they leave for school and then be there for a couple of hours before bedtime every day, that’s a huge win.

MM: Aside from Jiobit for Pets, what else is happening for you 2019 that you would like to mention?

JR: Lots, but you’ll have to stay tuned! We have several new exciting things around AI and machine learning, security and encryption, as well as several new software and hardware products and features.