CSIRO’s Data61, the digital specialist arm of Australia’s national scienceagency, announced today it is developing a prototype smart pet collar incollaboration with agtech company Ceres Tag, that will enable pet owners toaccurately track the location of their animal from a short and long distance,filling a gap in the smart collar market.

The prototype builds on work between CSIRO and Ceres Tag to develop smart eartags for tracking livestock across expanses of open grazing and monitoringtheir activity and health.

Unlike similar products for pets, the prototype collar uses both Bluetooth andsatellite communications rather than one or the other to track an animal’smovements in real-time.

Updates are sent to the owner’s phone via an app whenever their pet wandersoutside of a boundary they’ve established.

Dr Phil Valencia, Senior Research Engineer at CSIRO’s Data61, said thesolution developed for the agriculture industry could also have flow-onbenefits for conscientious pet owners.

“The Companion Collar uses Data61’s EIP (Embedded Intelligence Platform) andBLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to determine if the pet is nearby,automatically switching to satellite communications when the collar is outsideof the home network,” Dr Valencia said.

“Many devices only employ Bluetooth or WiFi-based tracking, which ofteninvolve a community of people listening’ on their phones and sharing theirlocation data with a service in order to report the tracking device. Thismethod is also only suitable for short distance monitoring.”

The other approach available on the market is a GPS-based tracker thatrequires a mobile plan. These devices are often expensive, rely on cellularcoverage and use a large amount of power, requiring weekly, if not even morefrequent, charging.

The Companion Collar requires monthly charging on average, depending on theamount of activity the animal performs.

Pets who remain within the virtual boundry set up by their owner will triggerthe device’s automatic power saving mode, but those who wander outside willcause it to switch to GPS location and direct satellite reporting.

Other crucial information such as specific behaviours, out of the ordinaryactivity and data for health metrics will also be monitored by the Collar,with information being uploaded to the cloud and displayed on a smart phoneapp.

“Owners will get valuable insights into how their pet has behaved throughoutthe day, with the system identifying if the animal’s activity is above orbelow its typical levels, and whether it was significantly different at acertain time of day,” Dr Valencia said.

Lewis Frost, Ceres Tag Chief Operating Officer, said insights will lay thefoundation for personalised pet treatment and medication, suggesting thecollar will vastly improve the health and welfare of domestic pets.

“Ceres is leveraging all its learnings from the livestock smart tagdevelopment to create a superior product in the companion animal marketutilising the skills of our very capable development team,” Mr Frost said.

The Companion Collar is the latest project in a longstanding partnershipbetween Ceres Tag and Data61, with CSIRO’s Kick–Start program making thisproject possible.

CSIRO Kick-Start is an initiative for innovative Australian start-ups andsmall SMEs, providing funding and support for innovative Australian start-upsand small businesses to access CSIRO’s research and development (R&D)expertise and capabilities.

The Kick-Start program provides dollar-matched funding vouchers of betweenAUD$10,000-$50,000 and access to CSIRO expertise and capabilities to help growand develop their business.

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