A big trend this year is wearable gadgets that are made for dogs and cats, which has been a common practice for service animals for many years. Now, a group at Georgia Tech is looking to make service dogs’ vests more technologically advanced to allow them to better care for the humans that they help.
This new vest is the brainchild of the FIDO project. The group is headed up by Dr. Melody Jackson, the director of the Center for BioInterface Research at Georgia Tech. The name stands for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations, and the group’s goal is to drastically expand what service dogs are able to do for their owners and handlers.
The FIDO vest has sensors that dogs can activate through everyday actions including tugging, biting, or simply touching it with their nose. Not only can the vests be used to help service dogs in private homes, but they could also be a huge help for search and rescue dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, and any other working dogs as well.
Jackson says one great example of how the vest could help service dogs perform their job better is to think about the benefits it would have for an epilepsy alert dog. Traditionally these dogs are trained to push their handlers up against a wall to prevent them from falling down and also to lick their faces in order to wake them up if they become unconscious. Jackson says that with the help of the FIDO vest, the dog would be able to activate a sensor that would use the handler’s cell phone to call 911 and ask for help.
A GPS tracking sensor could also be activated to help handlers locate a search and rescue dog that was pursuing a target that was on the move. Sometimes people with disabilities or small children get lost and continue moving even while being pursued.
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To take that one step further, the dog could also find someone and then activate a geolocater that would send a message to their handler and let them know that they found the person and where they are located. The dog would be able to stay with the person and the handler would still get the message that the individual had been found.
Jackson also says that the group is currently working with Georgia Tech police officers to implement a system that would allow bomb sniffing dogs to inform their handlers of exactly what kind of explosive they have found.
This technology will be groundbreaking in the working dog community. There are an endless number of ways that it will benefit all types of service dogs and their handlers. Researchers at the institution will continue to use technology to make the FIDO vest as versatile as possible.