Triangulating the office dog

Emma, our office manager, has forbidden us any office pets of the higher orders. She has said she’ll allow hissing cockroaches, which was a singularly unpopular option. (Emma has a PhD in entomology – the study of insects – and we’re worried she’s serious.)

Hissing cockroaches, like dogs, tend to wander (cockroaches do it in more of a scuttling style than dogs, but the principle holds), and in a large office with many rooms, it can be hard to locate your pet. So we are extremely impressed by the problem-solving hacking of the folks at Red Pepper, a digital agency in Atlanta and Nashville, whose office dog is a) adorable and b) bionic. Bean the greyhound wears a collar fitted with a beacon, and Red Pepper’s office is equipped with three bluetooth-sniffing Raspberry Pis, so she can be located at all times.

We are unclear on whether this approach will work with cockroaches.

Matt Reed, Bean’s caretaker, and Red Pepper’s hacker-of-things, is behind the project. He says:

Beacons are usually placed in stationary locations such as displays or areas of interest in retail stores. They emit a polling signal every second or so that any device with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) can pick up, your phone being one of them. That signal includes a few unique IDs and a value called an RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) which basically tells how close you are to the beacon.

If you have an app that is configured to listen for a beacon with a certain ID it can make things happen behind the scenes. For instance, at a retailer, the app could determine if you’re standing in front of a pair of jeans and then tell a server on the internet this information. The server can then send out a push notification giving you a deal on jeans.

For Sniffur we flipped this scenario and put the normally stationary beacon on a moving dog. The signal strength then emits from the dog for our three antennas to pick up and process.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.57.23

You can read more about the build, and about Bean, over at Red Pepper’s website. Thanks Matt – please give Bean a cookie for us!


Jim Manley avatar

This is a very cool idea! I will be sure to visit Bean and the people she owns (let’s get the relationship straight – who’s buying the food, toys, etc.? :) since I’m in the neighborhood!

Alan Mc avatar

I’ll have to see a man about a dog…and a Pi. (Sorry…)

Jean-Louis Z, one of our Rhône Valley Jam (and Cour_Tech_Zone fablab) friends, is a major Open Street Maps France and Mapillary head. He was wondering how we might triangulate inside buildings using Bluetooth and RPI to place his 360° photos on the Maps and for building interior documentation/surveys.

Et voilà, a big part of an answer….I think he’ll be pretty interested in what Matt and Bean have been getting up to =o)

NobodySpecial avatar

Back in the day, lower order pets (aka grad students) could be tracked in the computer dept by active badge technology.

Haven’t been back there for years – is it still used / what happened to it?

lwr20 avatar

I believe the setup is still in the CL. Not sure how much use it gets these days. But the creators of the active badge went on to found a company to commercialise the tech – Ubisense.

The Other Peter Green avatar

1) You will need very tiny collars to put on your cockroaches.

2) Was that Emma in yesterday’s xkcd?

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