When SNIF Labs Inc. introduced its flagship product, the SNIF tag, the target audience was America’s canine population and the owners who obsess over them. But a combination of lean financial times and imaginative university researchers have led the company to a completely different market, the staff of an Arizona hospital.
SNIF tags (the acronym stands for Social Networking in Fur) were created to provide dog owners with an insight into their dogs’ lives away from them. The small device holds an accelerometer and an RFID tag, and can be attached to a dog’s collar. The accelerometer logs a dog’s activities – sleeping, running, sitting around – and the RFID tag communicates this information to a Facebook-style Web page where owners can monitor their dog’s social lives while the owners are at work.
The system costs around $150, and the company has been adversely effected by the slump in consumer spending. Sales are slow, and half the employees at the Boston-based tech company have been laid off. But an unexpected sales opportunity has arrived.
A researcher with Arizona State University read about the SNIF tags, and realized the devices could prove useful in a study the university is conducting looking at staff movements and interactions at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. The tags, in a slightly modified form (no dog collars needed,) are being worn by staffers in the hospital’s emergency and intensive care units. The data recorded by the tags, coupled with audio from portable voice recorders, creates a record from which the researchers can extrapolate how staff interacts during the course of each patient’s care.
Though the company has not given up on the pet market, it is in the midst of preparing a new marketing push for the health care industry. “We’re actually making more money in health care than we are in the consumer market,” says SNIF Labs CTO Jonathan Gips.
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