The lightweight gear built around a harness and a cheap computer is designed to communicate with human handlers wirelessly, and if necessary. through mobile base stations brought in for an emergency.
The system has three main goals. First, it monitors a dog’s posture, movements and vital signs, including skin temperature and heart rate. This data can help handlers tell if a dog is tired or stressed.
Second, it lets handlers communicate with the dog via small vibrating motors. Working dogs can be trained to stop when, for instance, they feel a back vibration. The harness also includes a speaker so the dog can hear voice commands.
Third, the system monitors the dog’s environment through a microphone, a video camera and a GPS receiver. A connector permits the attachment of gas sensors for hidden threats such as carbon monoxide or methane.
David L. Roberts, co-author of a new paper on the research, said the whole system weighs approximately 4 pounds and is noninvasive. He tested the system on “Diesel,” his family’s 70-pound Labrador Retriever.