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Gadget Freak Case #227: Wearable Computer Keeps Tabs on Fido & Kitty
10/5/2012

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The PCB has dedicated power and ground planes on each board. The electronics package, including batteries, fits into a cylinder 28mm (1.1 inches) in diameter and 23mm (0.9 inches) in length.
The PCB has dedicated power and ground planes on each board. The electronics package, including batteries, fits into a cylinder 28mm (1.1 inches) in diameter and 23mm (0.9 inches) in length.

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armorris
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What a gadget!
armorris   10/5/2012 9:07:01 AM
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What a sophisticated gadget. Extremely well documented with a 504 page pdf file. A huge amount of work went into this. How long did it take Mr. Cross to develop this?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What a gadget!
Rob Spiegel   10/5/2012 11:11:07 AM
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Yes, Andrew, I was also impressed by the complexity of this gadget. As for the pdf, we actually asked for a shorter version. In the end the production folks decided they could post the entire novel-length code.

naperlou
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Re: What a gadget!
naperlou   10/5/2012 11:30:23 AM
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Yes, it is a very cool gadget.  The only thing I can say is that our cats would not wear it.  They have destroyed all the collars we have gotten them.  We also don't board the cats.  They are easy to care for and we can get neighbors to come over and feed them.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What a gadget!
Rob Spiegel   10/5/2012 2:02:58 PM
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Yes, I can understand what you're saying about cats, Naperlou. Over the years, my dogs have been fine with collars, but I've never even tried to get one of my cats to wear a collar. It will be interesting to hear what our gadget maker says about this.

pete.cross
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Re: What a gadget!
pete.cross   10/5/2012 4:30:02 PM
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If you want your cat to wear a collar, then it's best to start with them when they are young.  They just expect that to be normal from then on.

If you try anything like this at home, then please do use a proper collar bought from a pet store.  Cats can be strangled in the event they get it hooked up on a branch.  That's extremely rare and can be avoided entirely by buying one designed to break when that happens.  I just bought a cheap flea collar for this project.  It is designed to expand and break under the weight of the cat.

Depends on how adventurous your cat is!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What a gadget!
Rob Spiegel   10/8/2012 12:46:08 PM
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That helps a good deal, Pete. I didn't realize cat collars had a breakaway function.

RICKZ28
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Re: What a gadget!
RICKZ28   10/18/2012 4:08:10 PM
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Our cat has lost several collars over the years.  I'm not sure if the collars were of break-away design, but we don't put the collar on too tight.

The gadget does seem like it would have appeal to many pet owners.  There may be a good market for such an item, especially for the folks with smart phones (with app for that).

I think I would find-out what I already know...my cat is sleeping all day while I am working.

Coyotes have been a problem lately where I live, many have lost cats and small dogs that were out at night.  The gadget may help resolve some losses, but frequently a collar and a bloody mess is left behind by the coyotes.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What a gadget!
Rob Spiegel   10/22/2012 8:39:41 PM
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Rick, we have the same problem with coyotes where I live in New Mexico. Most of the car owners I know keep their cats inside at night to avoid the problem. Owls here are a similar problem.

gsmith120
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Re: What a gadget!
gsmith120   10/8/2012 1:30:18 PM
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I agree cool project.  My Mom's cat will not wear a collar either.  My Dad use to put a collar with a bell on him but he always found a way to take it off.

pete.cross
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How long did it take? A year
pete.cross   10/5/2012 4:23:19 PM
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This all started out as a year-long Master of Philosophy thesis at The University of Waikato.

That project was about putting it  _inside_  a cow !!

See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378517304002911 for details...

Dave Palmer
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Re: How long did it take? A year
Dave Palmer   10/5/2012 5:20:31 PM
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@pete.cross: That's a very interesting master's thesis ("Control, communication and monitoring of intravaginal drug delivery in dairy cows").  I'd imagine that getting a cat to wear a collar is very simple in comparison.  

Charles Murray
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Successful product
Charles Murray   10/5/2012 5:36:36 PM
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I'd bet money this could be a successful product. Dog and cat owners now spend fairly large amounts of money for shots and veterinary bills. This cost of this product might be small by comparison.   

pete.cross
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Re: Successful product
pete.cross   10/5/2012 11:24:04 PM
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I agree Charles:  this would be a great product.  

  - It could automatically upload to a website for comparison of different types of activity across pets and over time.  

  - The pets would effectively be blogging about themselves.   We could call it Furry-Face-Book  ;-)

  -  Boarding catteries and kennels could put them on their guests, renting the web-monitoring as an extra service.

If we take the pressure sensor out, and change some of the parts, the total BOM cost is $22, quantity 10K.

Cadman-LT
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Re: Successful product
Cadman-LT   10/8/2012 10:29:43 AM
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I'd buy one for my cat!

Cadman-LT
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Re: Successful product
Cadman-LT   10/8/2012 10:31:20 AM
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I couldn't tell, would it help you find a lost pet?

jhankwitz
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Re: Successful product
jhankwitz   10/8/2012 12:54:49 PM
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It doesn't look like it.  I've use the 'Loc8tor' for keeping track of my cats and dogs.  It provides directional (arrows) as well as distance (sound) information up to about 600'.  The same company has other products that work from further distances, but not as precise.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Successful product
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   10/8/2012 1:14:23 PM
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For tracking devices, the genre falls into LBS, or Location-Based-Services.  LBS devices generally have some type of transceiver (I've developed many; from GPS to WAN-cellular, to RFID and even ZigBee protocols), and then the big kicker: a significant battery for the transceiver.  All this adds up to a relatively larger volume than what is depicted in this device shown, which I liken more to a collection of sensory collectors.

Charles Murray
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Re: Successful product
Charles Murray   10/8/2012 6:57:11 PM
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Pete, can we expect to see this as a commercial product any time soon? 

pete.cross
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Re: Successful product
pete.cross   10/9/2012 2:28:16 AM
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It's something I'd like to see developed into a product, and something I'd like to work on -- but I  don't have the resources to do it myself.  

At least the concept is out there for others to pick up on.  If anyone wants to develop this further, I am happy to help.

 

notarboca
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Re: Successful product
notarboca   10/17/2012 8:40:04 PM
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Have you considered a fundraising site such as Kickstarter?  Quite a few great concepts like yours have been brought into being through community donations.

78RPM
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Re: Successful product
78RPM   10/18/2012 8:34:21 PM
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I agree that this would be a great product to launch on Kickstarter.com. It's amazingly complex and can be commercialized.  Of course, you have to have a business plan and the will to work the plan. Go for it.

cookiejar
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Re: Successful product
cookiejar   10/19/2012 10:36:15 AM
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I'm overwhelmed by the thought of all the work that went into this project.  It almost seems to me to be a "make work project."

I tend to be a lot lazier and spend a significant amount of time looking for easy and hopefully elegant solutions.  Why bother re-inventing the wheel?

The first thing that came to mind for me for this application was TI's eZ430-Chronos Development tool.  The MPS430 16 bit low power processor based tool is housed in a watch body and features a wireless link to its PC USB port as well as built-in temperature, pressure and 3-axis accelerometer with 5 buttons as well as a comprehensive digital display thrown in to boot.  The coupon I got after attending a free TI MPS430 seminar allowed me to purchase the whole development kit and caboodle for less than $2 on my MasterCard. It seems hardware-wise all you'd have to add for this project would be a light sensor. 

But then of course a project this simplified would hardly qualify for a Master of Philosophy thesis.  But for you guys out there wanting to build a similar functioning device, you have a very attractive alternative.

78RPM
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Re: Successful product
78RPM   10/19/2012 6:24:06 PM
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Hi, Cookiejar. I read the literature on the Texas Instruments eZ430-Chronos Development tool. I'll have to agree that it would sure make this project simpler. Thanks; it's cool.

Yet, I'm still inspired by the fact that one guy designed and soldered together and programmed the Wearable Computer. Before the days of us geeks and robot dweebs, guys cusomized cars and built furniture even though they could just buy the stuff. Maybe Elon Musk will market a kit for a space ship -- or we could just build our own.

pete.cross
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Iron
Data Visualisation
pete.cross   10/9/2012 2:38:35 AM
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The PetInspect article can be downloaded with the link above by clicking on "Build Instructions", or here: http://downloads.deusm.com/designnews/20120926-build-instructions-with-source-code.pdf

My way of presenting the data in that article was quite boring.  I imagine there are better ways to express the sensory data than being limited to lines on a time-series graph.

Here is a kind of time-series pie chart that looks cool.  http://richworks.in/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/1110.jpg  In the case of PetInspect, each ring could represent a day, and each section of the ring, a type of activity level:  sleeping, mild activity, running around.

The graph in this next link includes the route of a cat as it moved about:  http://richworks.in/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/431.jpg

Here is a time-series data visualization tool that looks like a step in the right direction: https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery

 

 



Rob Spiegel
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Re: Data Visualisation
Rob Spiegel   10/16/2012 12:02:34 AM
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This additional information is very helpful, Pete. Thanks. Have you used this gadget often with your pets? What has your experience been like?

Herb_the_Engineer
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Iron
Great idea; I may try it
Herb_the_Engineer   8/7/2013 4:16:47 PM
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Great idea, but a lot of work!   I may try it on my (indoor only) cat.   The GPS won't get much of a workout, but my wife keeps the windows open in all kinds of weather, so the other sensors might.  Coyotes here trot the streets in broad daylight.  Most cat owners defy the coyotes and let their cats run at night.  If the letters to the local newspaper editor are any indication, it's working out pretty well for the coyotes. 

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