Australia’s CSIRO builds a pet tracking collar 

Tracking your pet’s whereabouts could get a bit easier in the near future, if an Aussie idea manages to get off the ground.

Some pets like to wander, and that can be bad. You’ll know the problem only all too well if you go to feed your cat, and rather than come when it’s called, it saunters in at about ten minutes before bed time meowing for warmth, attention, and something to eat, when you intended to give it all of those things hours before.

It has been some time since this journalist had a cat, but the social and fairly independent nature of the animal meant it was usually walking about the place, rather than existing the way his dogs do now: in your home, rather than in other’s peoples.

That’s not always a bad thing, though it would have been nice to have some idea where the cat had gone, and if it was nearby, so we could have brought it back for dinner and medication all the same.

Fortunately, the tech to do that may be coming to a pet collar near you in the very near future, as the CSIRO’s technology arm, Data61, has announced that it is building something that might just help with that.

Worked on in collaboration with an agriculture technology company, Ceres Tag, Australia’s government science department that is the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been working on a gadget that could make cat tracking a thing in the very neat future.

Back in 2018, the CSIRO launched a sort of a Fitbit for a cow in the “Ceres Tag”, a sort of a gadget that was worn on a cow’s paw and used GPS to track the location of cows on a farm.

This week, the CSIRO’s efforts take the Ceres Tag and apply it to more commonly domesticated animals, building a prototype collar that leverages both Bluetooth and GPS satellites to track the location of a much smaller animal depending on how far they go.

In its current form, the gadget — called a “Companion Collar” — will use power saving options when they’re inside a virtual boundary set up by the user, while going outside of this boundary will cause the GPS to switch on and communicate the pet’s location with the user, likely their phone.

The result is that pet owners and parents (so to speak) could potentially have an idea where their pet is, and find them if they’re within reach.

“The Companion Collar uses Data61’s EIP (Embedded Intelligence Platform) and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to determine if the pet is nearby, automatically switching to satellite communications when the collar is outside of the home network,” said Dr Phil Valencia, Senior Research Engineer for Data61.

“Owners will get valuable insights into how their pet has behaved throughout the day, with the system identifying if the animal’s activity is above or below its typical levels, and whether it was significantly different at a certain time of day.”

The Companion Collar isn’t a released thing nor is there a picture of the pet wearable just yet, and the whole thing may not see commercial availability for some time, but it’s an Australian project that could end up on the collar of your pet in the eventual future, so stay tuned.

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