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Your Dog Could Go Hungry if You're Too Dependent on the Internet of Things

Petnet's "minor difficulties" prove that many of these companies are not yet foolproof.
Major. Photo: Adriannne Jeffries

Here's a reminder that the internet is not our end all, be all savior. In fact, it could kill your pet.

The $150 Petnet smartfeeder, an automatic feeding device that manages portion size, food supply, and mealtimes all through iPhones running on iOS 8 or later, failed cats and dogs around the country today. But just like human error, the Internet of Things isn't yet foolproof. The Petnet server has been down for at least the past 12 hours.

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Update: Experiencing some minor difficulties with a third party server. This is being investigated thoroughly.

Petnet(io) SupportJuly 27, 2016

That means cats and dogs are hungry, and pet parents are not happy.

JoseJuly 27, 2016

Nonetheless dependent on the internet, there's little Petnet users can do, especially if they're not home to feed their pets. But they're hoping companies like Petnet build in safety nets for their inevitable glitches.

"I actually think automatic cat feeders are a great idea, and even connecting them to the internet isn't a terrible idea—the thought of being able to check on pets while away on holiday to make sure they're not missing is a nice one, but it's ridiculous to me that the developers didn't write in a failsafe," the Twitter user behind @internetofshit told Motherboard. "They could've just done something to handle it like if the service is down—even just a slot of code that releases food every 12 hours when it's unavailable would be sane!"

For pet owners who are home and have a couple extra minutes to dish out some kibble, the Petnet server failure is inconvenient, yet manageable. But for those dependent on it when they're away, the pets could go hungry if the glitch lasts long enough. Petnet's service disruption goes to show that the Internet of Things is not bulletproof and could easily turn into a buggy mess.

And Petnet isn't the only company that offers automatic feeding devices. Autopetfeeder also has different sized devices for cats and dogs that run on a timer. The pets get fed at varying intervals set by their parents, but the device is not (yet) dependent on the internet.

It's not clear yet whether Petnet has resolved the server issue. The company has yet to comment on the glitch, aside from its Twitter update posted at 11:58 PM last night.

Until then, petsitters, here's your opportunity to bank on some hungry cats and dogs.