AT&T sees big cash in small gizmos like dog collars

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - With most Americans already toting cellphones, AT&T Inc now wants to target their dogs.

A wireless dog collar set to hit the market this year is just one of a plethora of new devices the telephone company hopes will catch on with U.S. consumers.

The collar could send text messages or emails to the owner of a pet when it strays outside a certain area, or the device could allow continuous tracking of the pet.

Other gadgets include a pill box that uses a wireless connection to remind people to take their medicine, e-readers, a device that tracks product pallets for shipping companies, and entertainment systems for people riding in cars.

When all these are connected to other devices or the Internet, they will connect using AT&T’s network -- meaning more revenue for the company. AT&T expects they will bring in about $1 billion in annual services revenue in about five years.

“We see opportunities in dogs, in pallets, in cars and how you take your pills,” Ralph de la Vega, the head of AT&T’s mobile business, said at the CTIA annual wireless trade show.

After talking up wireless dog collars for more than a year, the No. 2 U.S. cellphone company said on Wednesday that it is almost ready to reconnect dog owners with their lost pets.

It is for those people out there who care as much about their dog as they do about their children, joked Glenn Lurie, who heads AT&T’s emerging devices business.

Showing off a red collar designed for bigger dogs, the company said the device could work for virtually any size of dog, but would not reveal where it would go on sale or how much it would cost.

De la Vega noted that even if many of the emerging devices only use the wireless network infrequently, it could end up providing a lot of service revenue if millions of devices are connected.

However, the dog collar -- developed by Berkeley, California-based Apisphere -- may end up with a bigger market than expected. One person asked if it could track teenagers.

“My wife shot me a note and said she wants to get one for me,” said one executive who asked not to be named.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gary Hill