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Gadget Freak Case #215: Automating the Doggie Door
6/5/2012

Les Kelly's remote can control your pet flap opener from the couch or bed when your pets need to go in or out.
Les Kelly's remote can control your pet flap opener from the couch or bed when your pets need to go in or out.

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NadineJ
User Rank
Platinum
Very cool video
NadineJ   6/5/2012 1:10:12 PM
I like the progression.  It works very well.  I'd love to see the next step maybe targeting cat owners...a door that unlocks with a signal from a receiver on the collar and relocks automatically once the collar is out of range.  But, with an option to turn off the signal to keep the pet inside.

From a users point of view, something that could fit in an open window would be commercially popular for cat owners.

Jennifer Campbell
User Rank
Gold
Re: Very cool video
Jennifer Campbell   6/5/2012 3:36:19 PM
NO RATINGS
Sounds like a great project NadineJ! Get to work and if we like the end result, we'll feature it on designnews.com, possibly in our print edition, and we'll send you a check for $500! What have you got to lose?

novahokie
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
novahokie   6/5/2012 3:55:12 PM
NO RATINGS
Thank you for your comment.  I definitely enjoyed making and watching back the video!  In regard to your idea about an opener that is triggered by a tag on a cat's collar, keeps out other animals not wearing the special tag(s), and locks again after they pass through, there are actually quite a few different ones available on the market.  Just google "automatic pet door openers" or "electronic pet door openers" and quite a few will come up.  This link will take you to one of the fancier ones that has a timer function and can handle multiple cats separately: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=24097&cmpid=02cseaz&ref=4144&subref=AA  They're usually expensive, but these products have been available (especially for dogs) for a while.  The key point of my invention is that the freedom to come and go is instantly, remotely, and spontaneously when necessary, controlled by the owner, not the pet, for cases where the owner wants that type of control.  For example, you might want to keep your dog or cat inside until you're ready for them to go out, or outside until you're ready for them to come in, etc.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Very cool video
Rob Spiegel   6/5/2012 3:58:08 PM
NO RATINGS
I agree, Nadine, this is a good gadget. With the remote (or the timer) it means you can let your pet in (or out) without having to get up early.

novahokie
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
novahokie   6/5/2012 3:58:16 PM
NO RATINGS
PS:  I guess I should have identified myself in my post just now... I am the inventor, Les Kelly :-)

NadineJ
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Very cool video
NadineJ   6/5/2012 4:44:57 PM
NO RATINGS
OK.  It's on my list of future projects but that scroll is really long!

@novahokie(Les)-the doors on the market are big projects.  Here in San Francisco, there are thousands of renters who have pets.  Landlords wouldn't tolerate what's needed to install one of the current doors on the market.  What I love about your door is that it's small, simple and easy to make. 

Years ago, I had an outdoor cat who roamed between 1-3am and hunted from 5-7am.  I don't know what he was up to while I was at work.  I left the window cracked open for him to get to the backyard anytime.  For security, I put a window lock that would hold it open only 6 inches.  Rain or shine, the window was wide open.

A door, like yours, that could fit in the window (similar to the aftermarket adjustable screens that many use in apartments) with a door that locked if the cat wasn't nearby would have been great.  No majour construction in the rental unit, no rain in living room and a happy cat that could come and go as he pleased.

Ok...it just moved up a bit on my list....

novahokie
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
novahokie   6/5/2012 5:18:30 PM
NO RATINGS
Great idea Nadine!  The original version of my invention is going to be available on the market later this summer under the name EasyOut.  It is going to be marketed as an add-on product for wire crates, but I modified the standard version of it very easily to open common bolt-action latches like you see on cabinets, and I use it every night to open a large wooden door on a pen in my basement where our dog eats while my wife and I eat dinner upstairs.  One push and she comes running up the stairs and joins us without me ever leaving the recliner I eat dinner in.  I agree with you that its main appeal is that it's a simple, cheap, and modular way to open any latch that can be opened by a simple lateral translation - ie it can't twist anything, etc. - by pressing a remote control button.  I even used to have a version where I used the same remote that I use for the TV.  I'm also working on getting the built-in remote pre-installed by GM in my Camaro's dashboard (normally used for garage doors) to open it, so I don't need the separate remote that will come with the product to let out our dog(s) when I'm driving into the driveway.  We're also looking into activating it via a smartphone app like you see advertised now for other home automation stuff, and/or using a timer.  A driving factor for the smartphone app or other PC control would be to let your pet in from the yard at work if a storm came up suddenly similar to what you mentioned, or out to pee if you realize you're going to be late getting home due to work or traffic, etc.  There is also interest from folks who raise chickens, as a way to let them all out of their coops into their yard automatically at a given time each morning.  Also dog kennels/etc. to remotely open specific cages from a large bank of them, etc.  My personal favorite benefit is to release your dog from an outside kennel to come into the house for the evening if it's raining, cold, or snowing, without going outside.  It could also be set up to be triggered by the tags worn by the pet for them to go in/out at their discretion.  I have patents that mention all this stuff as possibilities, it's just taking me a while to develop them all!  :-)

Barney48
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
Barney48   6/5/2012 6:01:32 PM
NO RATINGS
I am very much interested in something similar for opening and closing the chicken run door for my chicken coop.  It would need to do more than just unlatch/latch, but actually open/shut the door at predetermined times.  I would think there would be a lot of interest in this as well as the Doggie Door.

novahokie
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
novahokie   6/5/2012 6:18:03 PM
NO RATINGS
Yes, we've heard from a couple of folks who have chickens.... apparently the organic chicken market is pretty vibrant!  It's very easy to train a dog to nudge open any door when they hear the click of the opener unlatch it, especially after they've gotten used to listening for it - which only takes a couple of times.  I haven't tested with any chickens yet, but the other chicken farmers tell me chickens would be able to open a light door and come out.  Shutting doors later is another topic I've thought about a lot and have some ideas about, but haven't built any prototypes for yet because that aspect is more dependent on the particular application - i.e. what type of animal, what type of door, how/when do you want it to close, will the animal go back in on their own or not, etc.  For example for applications where the animal would naturally go back in on their own during the day you could just spring load the door they come out in the morning such that it would shut after they leave their coop in the morning, lock it remotely with 1 of my boxes equipped with a "push" solenoid inside it instead of its normal "pull" type that pulls open the latches, or use a combination push/pull solenoid (they're a little more expensive but available) and then let the animals return inside in the evenings through a 2nd flap/etc. with a simple setup that allows them to pass through to go back into the coop/pen/etc. in the one direction but not the other.  For example a very light spring-loaded pivoting flap.

novahokie
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very cool video
novahokie   6/5/2012 6:22:22 PM
NO RATINGS
You could also create another device that pivots/opens a door radially instead of my current device that only provides a lateral translation for the latch, if it was necessary to open/close a pivoting door.... or use a guillotine or sliding door and keep the current design because a sliding door would only require lateral motion.  In other words, my current device would pull open and later shut the door.  The challenge would be getting solenoids strong enough and with long enough travel to do that if you needed to stick with battery-powered operation (which was a major challenge in my development)... however, if you were free to use AC power like I had for my prototype then it becomes a lot easier.  There are already "gate openers" on the market that people use to open gates at the ends of their driveways, let out livestock, etc... one of those might be just what you need!

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