IoT Idea: A Smarter Pet Door

LabradorBlackSome years ago I installed a MaxSeal pet door into one of the French doors that leads into my home office. This lets Shadow & Gwen wander in and out over the course of the work day. I opted for their dual-flap model, which aims to be more weather-tight. We get heavy rain, and there’s no point in attempting to air condition the back yard.

In general, we’re very happy with the pet door. Where “we” are the two quadrupeds, who like their independence, and the bipeds who don’t want to be pestered about every possible coming or going.

If there’s one complaint I have about the dog door it’s the clatter it makes when it closes. Each flap has six metal clips that swing past magnets embedded in the aluminum frame. This acts as a brake for the flapping action, and holds it closed between ingress/egress events.

In my otherwise quiet office the process of a dog making their way in or out makes a unique sound. Most of the clatter is created when the passage has finished and the door flap closes. This noise is brief but audible if I happen to be on a phone call, even when I’m using a headset.

Security Boss Max Seal Pet Doors

There are other dog doors that focus on securing the premises. Those designs generally have a locking door, with some kind of sensor to unlock the door as a pet approaches. These usually require the dog to be wearing a keyed trigger on their collage. It’s a lot like an automotive toll-tag for pets. However, I’ve yet to see such a device that had any kind of built-in connectivity.

In a truly Smart Home I would think that the distraction should be avoidable. The dog door would be IP-connected (IoT, baby!) so that we could track the canine coming and goings, and act on that information, in real-time if desired.

A sensor in the frame would know when the critter is accessing the pet portal. That status would allow a trigger mechanism to mute my telephone just long enough to avoid the clatter. Since there’s an issue of pace, it would need to track when the flap returned to a resting state to trigger the unmute.

It would also need to cross-reference the state of my outgoing audio, so that the auto-mute (gating?) only happened if I wasn’t actually speaking. If I was talking at the time I expect that my voice would largely mask the noise. Loss of my outbound audio would be more disruptive than the noise.

Adding the sensors to the dog door would seem simple enough. It’s connectivity that poses a certain challenge. I’m a big fan of Ethernet for it’s simple reliability. The ability to deliver power as well connectivity is a big advantage. I accept that most people would not want or be able to run cable everywhere.

The more I think about this the more complicated it becomes.  Not that any particular aspect of the implementation would be that difficult, but it would all have to be built from scratch. None of it would be off-the-shelf.

This is the classic problem of home automation. Anything that not dead common is wholly custom work. That makes it costly, even if it’s not especially difficult.

I have a lot of ideas. Some are destined to remain just ideas.