New device lets owners know exactly where their dog is

The pandemic gave people a lot more time with their dogs and cats, but return to the office has disrupted that connection. Pet cameras can help but are needed in every room and don’t really tell owners what their furry friend has been up to without reviewing all footage. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a new device that can put pet owners at ease.

PetTrack uses a combination of sensors to give the accurate, real-time indoor location of an animal. Ultra-wideband (UWB) radio wireless sensors locate the pet and accelerometers determine if it’s sitting or moving regardless of objects or walls in the way, giving owners more detail on what their pet is doing than a camera or GPS. All of this is located on a small sensor that can be put on a collar for minimal invasiveness and can be viewed via a compatible smartphone app.

« PetTrack comprises two things: one is knowing the pet’s indoor location and second is trying to understand their activity, » said Ashutosh Dhekne, an assistant professor in the School of Computer Science (SCS).

Dhekne and his students presented the research in the paper « PetTrack: Tracking Pet Location and Activity Indoors » at BodySys 2022 in July, a workshop on body-centric computing systems that was part of MobiSys 2022 in Portland, Oregon.

How PetTrack works

PetTrack’s innovative combination of sensors makes it unique compared to other pet-monitoring devices. The UWB radio wireless signal locates where the pet is in the home from up to 100 feet away, while the accelerometer acts as an inertial sensor that can track the pet’s pose. This means owners can learn whether their pet is standing, sitting, or even lying down.

Unlike with cameras, owners can always know where their pet is because the UWB network is accessible through walls, furniture, doors, or anything else a cat or dog can hide behind. The UWB network is plug-and-play and doesn’t interfere with existing Wi-Fi but should be connected to a home Wi-Fi network to give the owner smartphone updates. Location data takes up far less bandwidth than images and doesn’t burden the owner’s Wi-Fi. Multiple UWB sensors and a central anchor data collection module help determine the location via multilateration, or individual distance measurements from different anchors, keeping it accurate.

« Together, combining where the pet is and what the orientation of the pet is, we can create a summary map of where the pet has been during the day and what activity the pet was doing, » Dhekne said.

This could reassure owners who are concerned about pets getting into forbidden places or comfort owners worried about their sick or elderly animals.

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