Battlepanda: Chip market dysfunction


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Chip market dysfunction

I am in the process of jumping through all the official hoops so that I can take my beloved schnauzer, Dodo, with me when I move to London. As England, understandably, is really serious about staying rabies-free, every animal entering the country must get, microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, pass a 6-month waiting period and get wormed, in that order, before entering the U.K.

"At least the first part would be no problem" I thought to myself. Dodo already has a microchip. Au contrair, my vet informed me. Dodo has a chip by the "Avid" company, which is not ISO compatible, which is what the Brits want. They carry "home again" chips, which are ISO compatible, but putting two chips in one dog could result in interferance. I called Avid, who told me not to worry, because they have an Avid brand scanner at Heathrow airport. But then we found out that my vet down here in North Carolina does not have a scanner that read Avid chips, meaning we'll have to make a trip to another clinic. I think it's all sorted out now, but it has certainly been an aggrevating episode. The vet told me that the microchip market is a mess, with different companies producing proprietary chips and scanners that are totally incompatible with each other because it is the goal of every company to squeeze everybody else out. "Just about the only thing they agreed on is to make the chips visible X-ray, so we can at least see if the animal has got a chip," he said.

My question is this: When the main object of microchipping animals is to identify them and return loved pets if they get lost, how can the companies justify deliberately sabotaging the usefulness of their products? Not every vet or shelter have the ability to purchase every scanner (they are expensive) and it is easy to imagine pets languishing in shelters, perhaps even put down, because a rival-brand scanner did not pick up their chip.

It seems like in "competing network" scenarios like this, the free-market does not deliver the optimal solution. I don't mean competition between formats, such as DVD vs. VHS, are bad. I'm talking about companies deliberately making their technologies mutually incompatable in the effort of creating monopolies.