A team at the renowned animal welfare charity Soi Dog Foundation, based in Phuket but very active in Bangkok as well, is pushing ahead with a project to transform unwanted – and often brutally mistreated – street dogs into a valuable watchdogs to protect communities.
Together with a creative team at advertising agency Cheil Thailand, collaborators are developing a “smart vest” to take full advantage of the dogs’ biologically-bred sense of purpose and keen senses, with the hope of integrating them better into Phuket’s communities.
Leading the team, Pakornkrit Khantaprab explained, “We’ve created a smart vest for stray dogs to turn them into watchdogs. The vest will combine technology with dog instincts – such as barking, super senses and territorial behavior.”
When the dog wearing the vest barks, a notification will be sent immediately to people near the location where the dog is barking via 4G/WiFi, Pakornkrit said.
Anybody with the mobile phone application the team created can access the information and even view what the dog can see via a high-definition camera stitched into the vest, he added.
“Our app can distinguish between normal barking and furious barking. The sound waves are different,” Pakornkrit explained.
“Technically, the camera can be accessed all the time but we can program it to activate only when the dogs are barking,” he said.
To prevent the camera from being activated when the dogs are getting up to inappropriate “happier” things, Pakornkrit said, “The sound waves are also different. We have programmed it to detect only when they bark at something suspicious.”
Regarding the development of the vest itself, Pakornkrit said, “The vest was created based on Raspberry Pi technology (a small single-board computer). We programmed it to detect when the dog is barking, then we linked it to a camera. After we finished with the mechanics we made sure the vest fits comfortably on most dogs.
“However, right now, the vest is still under development. We did use it a couple of times to improve it, including when we filmed the video (announcing the project),” he added.
Pakornkrit says he thinks the biggest challenge for the project is to convince people that it is possible for stray dogs to become watchdogs.
“However, we believe that there is no need for stray dogs to be trained to be watchdogs. The only thing they need is love and care. Every dog is different and they are all unique but we believe that deeply inside, the watchdog is already in every dog,” he said.
The long-term aim of this project is to create a mutual relationship where communities and stray dogs can sustainably live together.
“Our aim is to get people to perceive stray dogs in a better way and ultimately, solve the stray dog issue in the long term. The stray dog issue is becoming more crucial in Thailand. This issue leads to a bigger problem of animal cruelty and dog meat trades- we do not want to see that,” Pakornkrit explained.
“We hope that people are going to like the idea, so that we have more confidence to develop it further,” he said.
“We think that stray dogs have the right to live [freely]. There is no need for stray dogs to be kept in cages. The solution for the stray dog issue is not in an animal shelter or government control.”
Regarding where in Thailand the team will launch the project, despite Soi Dog Foundation being based in Phuket, Pakornkrit said, “We will be happy to launch this wherever the project is welcome.”
Story: The Phuket News