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SureFlap and the Internet of Animal Things

I’m a dog person, so I’m not sure how this one caught my attention, but recently I ran across something about SureFlap, a British company that makes products that work off of your cat’s microchip, governing the cat door and feeding dish. (The products will also work for small dogs.)

Anyway, the story behind SureFlap is interesting, and not just for technical reasons.

It seems that, in the UK, cats are more apt to be outdoor animals than they are in the States, which means that a lot of folks have cat doors. But the problem with plain old-fashioned cat doors is that they don’t just let your cat in and out. They let any old cat into your house, which may make for some unwanted intruders for both your cat and you. There are automated cat doors out there, which, for the most part, they work off of RFID. You tag your cat’s collar and the “smart” cat door reads it.

Problem is, cats in the UK are less apt to be wearing a collar than their American feline cousins are. And Dr. Nick Hill, who’s a physicist in Cambridge, England, didn’t want his cat Flipper having to wear one, given that they can snag on branches and otherwise hang a cat up. So he came up with the idea of using Flipper’s microchip, which was embedded so that Hill could find Flipper if he got lost. To get a cat door to work with a microchip, Hill had to develop a reader that would work with a moving object (as opposed to a hand-held device that, say, a vet or animal officer might use to scan the embedded chip when the cat was being held still).

This all led to the first SureFlap Microchip Cat Door, which led to one for larger cats (and smaller doors), which led to one that would work with more than one cat. Eventually, Hill also used the technology to develop a pet feeder, as well.

And, this being the world of the Internet of Things, pet owners are also now able to follow the comings and goings of their cats.

If  you’re interested in reading more about this, the marketing message is on the SureFlap site, and the patent info on Nick Hill’s invention is here.

As I said, I’m a dog person, but I found the SureFlap story pretty interesting.