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Surprising Science

If Grandma Won’t Wear A Tracking Device, Maybe Her Dog Will

Two Newcastle University researchers have developed a canine version of a device that tracks its wearer’s behaviors. They theorize that changes in those behaviors could indicate a problem at home with the dog’s owner.

What’s the Latest Development?

Two Newcastle University researchers have contributed to the quantified self movement in a way that fans of “Lassie” would appreciate: Electrical engineer Dr. Cassim Ladha and computer scientist Nils Hammerla have designed a special kind of dog collar that identifies and tracks 17 unique behaviors “including chewing, peeing, shivering, and sniffing.” They presented the device at last month’s UbiComp conference.

What’s the Big Idea?

The device follows up on the researchers’ past work with sensor-based technology and vulnerable populations such as those living with Parkinson’s disease or in assisted care. To that end, the collar is less about tracking the dog and more about tracking its owner, particularly if they are elderly and not keen on wearing a device themselves. Ladha and Hammerla say that in theory, changes in certain dog behaviors, such as feeding times, could signal that the human is having problems. “Because we’re closely linked to dogs in a social aspect…there’s a close companionship bond there. That’s what makes this system possible,” says Ladha. Despite this, if a person really doesn’t want to be tracked — even through a surrogate — they can always remove the collar.

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Read it at FastCompany/Co.Exist


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