By Azim Malik • February 10, 2019

HomeAgain; A Brief Study on the Company’s Technology

The HomeAgain brand is owned and managed by Merck & Co. In order to identify the true manufacturer or supplier of the chips sold under their brand name or different brand names, it is necessary to look back at the different acquisitions and mergers over the years that detail the history of the animal identification industry. Identifying the true manufacturer could be challenging without enough information, as ICAR allows manufacturers to sell another manufacturer’s products under certain conditions as mentioned in the ICAR regulations.

The HomeAgain brand was previously owned by Intervet, a subsidiary of Schering-Plough. Schering-Plough was the US subsidiary of German company, Schering AG, that was merged with Plough to form Schering-Plough. Schering-Plough was later owned by Merck after a merger and renamed the animal health division of Intervet/Schering-Plough as Merck Animal Health in the US. Elsewhere, it is known as MSD Animal Health. So, who the makes the chips for Merck? It could be Digital Angel from this resource: http://www.newswithviews.com/Albrecht/katherine100.htm

Destron Fearing is a subsidiary of Digital Angel, that was sold to Allflex USA. If you look at the HomeAgain scanner manual, you may also note the name Allflex in the same. http://devvetportal.homeagain.com/download/Microchip-Management-Software-UserGuide.pdf

If you take a look at the ICAR website - http://www.service-icar.com/tables/Tabella3.php you will see that Destron Fearing/Digital Angel and AllFlex are the two prominent names on the chart apart from companies like AEG. It is highly possible that Destron and HomeAgain scanners could be from the same manufacturers/developers, but sold under different names. The same applies to microchips/tags as well. HID Global is also a key player in the RFID industry but they do not have a listing on the ICAR website.

1. For overlap - the technology used for identification can be highly similar as the approach to the problem is the same for a majority of these manufacturers. HomeAgain network comprises of veterinarians, shelters and volunteer pet rescuers. In an event of a missing pet, the network is alerted of the same through a service, Lost Pet Alerts - which comprises of a team of customer service representatives and a national pet recovery database. Volunteers, who had signed up will receive an email alert. The same may apply to veterinarians/hospitals/animal shelters.

2. Bluetooth Reading Capabilities - Yes, bluetooth powered communication by Class 2 Bluetooth module that has a range of about 10 - 15 m.

3. USB - Yes, data transfer via USB to a computer.

4. The microchip size and syringe gauge mentioned on the page is about 1.4mm x 10.3mm and 15G respectively - which is smaller than the size that we had decided to go ahead with - 2.12 x 12mm. The needle gauge will be significantly bigger in our case.

5. Any sources that we can cite as to why our chips will have a longer range - A chip’s probability of detection is highly reliant on the reader’s ability to pick signals from it. If the reader is capable of activating a microchip which smaller than the conventional size (2.12 x 12mm), the chip can be detected else it remains elusive. Various factors can affect this process. In most cases, migration, environmental disturbances or expiry of the chip’s life. Again, it is the reader’s range that matters not the chips.

6. Their sources regarding syringe size - Already mentioned above regarding one of the chip models - HomeAgain XS Syringe and Microchip.

7. If the samples we have been given do in fact have a 23 cm range and greater distance than the smaller sized chips - Where did you get this information from? As a matter of fact, larger microchips can be read quicker than smaller microchips. But, some designs of smaller microchips have shown similar read range/detection as the larger variants. The design of the microchip highly matters here.

8. Composition of chips - The HomeAgain XS microchip is encased in an inert, hermetically sealed, biocompatible soda lime glass and is coated with Parylene C to promote tissue fixation - most chips are made of similar or same materials.

9. Longevity of chip - Lifetime (previous research has claims of upto 20 years).

10. Do Home Again chips have their own ICAR certification - As mentioned above, Destron/Digital Angel or AllFlex could be the manufacturers. The chips definitely have ICAR certification in that case. HomeAgain is a brand name.

11. Ambiguity on their site needs clarification regarding annual and lifetime registration - For pet registration/membership, they charge $19.99 for an year which maybe eligible for a discount through a HomeAgain vet clinic or pet shelter. The membership has to be renewed every year in order to maintain exclusive member benefits like missing pet loss alerts across the network, medical insurance for lost pet, travel assistance for found pet, 24x7 hotline, etc. Once registered the pet details will remain in the database for life. Non-members will not have access to the exclusive member benefits which makes it necessary to renew the annual membership.