A venture firm in the Japanese capital is calling for dog owners across the country to register their canines’ nose patterns with a smartphone app to help locate their missing pets
Every dog has a different nose pattern, and Tokyo-based S’more Co. focused on this feature to develop the new app. With this system, artificial intelligence analyzes snout patterns to identify individual pooches, and the app notifies owners of the whereabouts of their lost pets.
Quite a few owners and pets get separated in incidents such as disasters. The app is expected to become a tool to prevent owners from losing their dogs, and the developers are calling for more canine lovers to register their pets because increasing the number of registered dogs improves identification accuracy.
Like human fingerprints, nose patterns of canines as well as cows don’t change even when they grow up, and they are identifiable. Therefore, nose patterns of cattle have been used as proof of brand beef. The app utilizes the technology to identify dogs by their snouts, hence the name « Nose ID. » The test version of the app was released on May 21.
Users can register their dogs by taking a video of the nose with a smartphone. Meanwhile, if someone finds a lost dog and sends a video of its nose on the app, they can match with the registered pooch. Utilizing artificial intelligence’s deep learning function, the more registrations are made, the more accurately the system will work. When the nose patterns of a dog match, the person who found the animal and its owner can anonymously exchange messages.
The idea was triggered by a S’more founder’s fear of losing her canine. When a fire alarm went off at 31-year-old Qingyan Han’s apartment building late one night two years ago, she grabbed her pet and darted out of her home. Fortunately, there was no fire, but she was overwhelmed with fear that her pet might have fled in a panic if she had lost her grip even for a moment.
In the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, there were a number of reports about missing pets in the city of Sendai since shortly after the disaster hit the area, and many of them never returned. Every year in Japan, there are endless cases of lost pets even when not in times of disasters, and about 25,000 canines across the country were taken in by facilities such as animal care centers in fiscal 2020 because their owners could not be found.
Though a revision to the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals came into effect in June 2022, making it mandatory to implant microchips in pet dogs and cats so that owners can be traced, only a few facilities such as public health centers have microchip information readers. Han came up with the idea of developing the app because she thought, « It would be convenient if owners can easily refer to the information. »
S’more also plans to implement a function to send notifications to other users of the app in designated areas. Co-founder Satsuki Sawashima, 32, emphasized how useful it will be, saying, « People will be able to quickly search for their dogs within those areas. »
The company has collected data on some 4,000 canines primarily in the capital region and the Kansai area in the western part of the country to improve the accuracy in identifying the dogs. Though not much data had been collected in southwestern Japan’s Kyushu region, the Fukuoka Municipal Government adopted S’more’s program in a bid to solve social challenges using leading-edge technologies, and since April officials have jointly been calling for canine lovers in the region to register with the app.
The Nose ID app can be downloaded for free. Sawashima said, « Users can easily register with the app on a smartphone, and by scanning a nose, they can be ready just in case. In the future, we would like to centralize information such as vaccine certificates and health management. »
(Japanese original by Shizuka Takebayashi, Kyushu News Department)