Qualcomm's consumer services business going to the dogs

Tagg is a mobile pet tracker and promising veterinary diagnostic tool, offered by Snaptracs, a Qualcomm subsidiary. The hardware costs $100, with ongoing service at $8 per month for the first pet and and $1 for each additional one.

Tagg on a not-so-lively dog

That eight bucks gets you a text message whenever your dog strays from home, with GPS feeds to help you find him. Or your cat, if it’s one of the few big enough to handle the weight and tolerant enough to wear it.

It also lets you analyze the GPS and accelerometer data it collects all day to assess his activity level and give you a rough indicator of his overall health. The online analysis can be passed on to your veterinarian for assessment.

It’s popular enough that Snaptracs is wholesaling the hardware to vets and using them as a distribution channel. But Snaptracs is missing a bet by not including them in the ongoing revenue stream.

True enough, Tagg isn’t any use without an ongoing subscription and it’s a new enough product that early sales growth will swamp anychurn at this point. But the novelty will wear off and the actual utility will diminish in value: most dogs don’t often stray far from home (although the ones that do can lead you on a merry chase) and you don’t really need daily confirmation that he’s getting his usual 16 hours of sleep. The business model is heading toward an annual churn rate north of 50%.

That’s where vets can help. Use more of the sensors on the chipset – thermal and audio, for example – to monitor vital signs, mine the data and pass it on to vets. They can tell you when your dog might be having health issues and be frontline churn fighters. And the more skin they have in the game, the more enthusiastically they’ll fight. Right now, they don’t have any.

Snaptracs is working on the technology needed to boost utility, but not as yet on the business model. Parent company Qualcomm is a dominant player in mobile hardware and intellectual property with a poor track record selling services and content. To turn that around, they need to give their distribution channel partners a reason to help.