According to an Oct. 12, 2013 article by Medical News Today's Marie Ellis, researchers from Newcastle University in the UK are developing a biometric monitoring system which uses the behavior and mood changes of dogs to provide health insight for their elderly owners.
A highly-evolved sensor in the dog's collar could trigger an alert when an elderly owner's health shows a cause for concern. This early warning opportunity would give nearby friends, family and caregivers the opportunity to check in on the individual before a major health event occurs.
How does it work?
According to the article, the team developed "a waterproof dog collar containing an accelerometer that collects data (for up to 30 days) for 13 different dog breeds, ranging from a small dachshund to a large Great Dane". Since most of a dog's activities involve its head - for example, directly for barking, chewing or drinking, and for balancing full-body movements like walking, running or shaking - the team chose the collar as the best location for the sensor.
To set a benchmark, Dr. Cassim Ladha and his co-authors, Ph.D. student Nils Hammerla and undergraduate Emma Hughes, mapped the behavior of healthy, happy dogs. Using two datasets, the team was able to map 17 distinct dog activities, which included barking, chewing, drinking, laying, shivering and sniffing. With approximately 70% accuracy, the sensors recognized these activities, which the team says are linked to behavior traits that are indicative of a dog's well-being. (Source: Medical News Today/Marie Ellis)
Read the research team's full report here, as presented at UbiComp 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland. As the team noted in the report, "In the future we will explore coupling the core elements demonstrated herein with a fully-automated wireless data transfer and a meaningful graphical visualization."
How can it help?
Ph.D. student Nils Hammerla says this kind of monitoring system provides the opportunity for "man's best friend" to be used "as a discreet health barometer." He adds that "this new technology means dogs are supporting their older owners to live independently in even more ways than they already do." (Source: Medical News Today/Marie Ellis)