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Automated Pet Feeder

ECE4007 Senior Design Project Section L02, Group 01 Kevin Clark, Robert Fleming, Vishak Ganesh, Viet Nguyen, Vu Tang

Submitted September 17, 2007


Executive Summary...ii 1. Introduction..1 1.1 Objective... 1 1.2 Motivation.1 1.3 Background... 1 2. Project Description and Goals 2 3. Technical Specification3 4. Design Approach and Details..3 4.1 4.2 4.3 Design Approach... 3 Codes and Standards..... 5 Constraints, Alternatives, and Tradeoffs. 6

5. Schedule, Tasks, and Milestones... 7 6. Project Demonstration... 8 7. Marketing and Cost Analysis.... 8 7.1 7.2 Marketing Analysis. 8 Cost Analysis... 9

8. Summary.12 9. References...13

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Our pet feeder is designed to make the pet feeding process more automated and efficient. This pet feeder is controlled by a microcontroller. As the pet approaches the feeder, the food is dispensed. A transmitter, located around the pets neck, sends a 16 bit binary code to the receiver. This 16 bit binary code is a numerical identifier that will be hard coded into the microcontroller. The numerical identification feature will allow the pet feeder to identify a particular pet. Once this ID is verified, the pet feeder dispenses a certain amount of food and closes the food latch. This process ensures that the stored food remains fresh. Our products selling price is $165. This price is $10 to $85 more than similar food dispensers in the market. However, our food dispenser has the RF/IR ID capability that will compensate for the higher cost. In addition, as the cost of ID tags and components of the feeder decreases, the product becomes more affordable to a wider range of customers. With over 140 million household pets in the U.S., we anticipate that market for our product will be substantial [1]. If RF technology is used in our final design, we will need to comply with part 15 of the Federal Communications Commission to make our product legally marketable and available for sale. The expected outcome of our project is to make a prototype that can be turned into a common pet household product.

Automated Pet Feeder 1. INTRODUCTION Over half of American households have pets [1]. Feeding these pets can sometimes be a chore. Our project aims to help pet owners reliably feed their pets while saving time. 1.1 Objective The automated pet feeder allows pet owners to conveniently feed their pets with little to no human interaction. Reliable automatic pet feeders have the potential to ease the schedules of busy pet owners. We seek to improve existing timer based automatic feeders on the market by adding a pet identification system. The systems main components consist of the timer, a wireless interface, and a feeding mechanism. When a pet approaches the food bowl at certain times, the pet feeder dispenses its contents. 1.2 Motivation Our project modifies an existing product that will save pet owners time and money. The automated pet feeder introduces the additional feature of pet identification. This feature tailors to the needs of the pet and the pet owners lifestyle, providing convenience and reliability. 1.3 Background Automatic feeders on the market feed pets on a preset schedule [2]. However, these timer based systems do not take into account the needs of the pet. This issue can lead to wasted food or the food being eaten by another animal, in the case of an outdoor feeder. Our product hopes to close this gap by only feeding the pet at the correct time and when the pet is within three to six feet.

Examples of previous products include timer-based pet feeders and gravity-fed feeders. The gravity feeder lacks any moving parts, is relatively inexpensive, and dispenses food continually. This type of feeder has many disadvantages: the pet may be encouraged to over-eat, other pets may eat the food when the pet is not nearby, and food will not remain fresh. Timer based feeders are more expensive and dispense set amounts of food at specified periods of the day. This mechanism addresses the issue of overeating, but not the problem of other animals and stale food. Our project, however, addresses these problems by using a transmitter and receiver between the feeder and the pets collar. By recognizing that the pet is within close proximity, the dispenser would release a predetermined amount of fresh food. 2. PRODUCT DESCRIPTION AND GOALS Our project is intended to create a prototype pet feeder with a numerical identification feature based on RF or IR technology. An eventual outcome is to make our feeder viable for mass production. The intent of the pet feeder is to feed a particular pet when it comes up to the bowl. It accomplishes this task by the use of RF or IR technology. In addition, the feeder would employ a timer to limit the number of feedings a day to prevent overeating. The functionalities of our product will include the following: Automates feeding Dispenses preset amounts of food Activates a certain number of times a day Recognizes specific pets via collar transmitter Holds a reservoir of food Requires low maintenance

Prevents the pet from overeating Prevents food being eaten by other animals Costs approximately $160 Pet owners as target audience


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Design Specification 3 to 6 ft < 2 minutes < 6 ounces 16 or 32 bit digital signal Small enough not to impede pet 6+ months Small cell battery Standard household AC; <20 Amps TBD; motor powered TBD; sizes based on pet breed Accurate to a minute; time to be set. TBD EM spectrum, i.e. RF or infrared

Aspect of Design Transmitter/Receiver range Time between transmitter pings Transmitter weight (worn by pet) Identifier Code Transmitter size Transmitter battery life Transmitter power supply Receiver power supply Feeder mechanism Container volume Timer Transmitter/Receiver

The pet feeder will weigh about two to three pounds and be less than three cubic square feet in size. The feeder would run on household AC power so battery life will be conserved. In order to reduce interference from similar transmitters, the ID tag will use a multi-bit digital code.

4. 4.1

DESIGN APPROACH AND DETAILS Design Approach As a starting point for our project prototype, we plan to improve on an existing

timer-based product. We will modify this product by adding a microcontroller that controls the dispensing mechanism. This microcontroller will receive inputs from the timer and from the transmitter on the pets collar. The feeder dispenses food automatically when the pet is nearby. The user will only need to interface with the timer by setting up a specific feeding schedule that limits the number of time the pet feeds. The hardware block diagram is shown below.

Figure 1. Hardware block diagram Basic hardware components are outlined in Figure 1. The pet wears a transmitter that broadcasts its identification code approximately every minute. This code is transmitted to the receiver on the feeder and relayed to the microcontroller. Additionally,

the timer provides a signal to the microcontroller that initiates the feeding process. The microcontroller will output a set of instructions to the feeders motorized mechanism, which will dispense food. The microcontroller will use a state machine as diagramed below.

Figure 2. Software state machine block diagram. In Figure 2, the microcontroller will first wait for a timer signal and then the transmitter signal. Once both signals are received, the feeder will dispense the pets food. The implementation of the wireless link between the pet collar transmitter and the feeder receiver has not been decided. We have narrowed our options to radio frequency or infrared technology. The RF technology is prevalent in garage door openers and keyless entry fobs for cars, and the IR technology is used by television remotes [4].


Codes and Standards If we use an RF based communications link, we will need to comply with Part 15

of the FCC rules which states guidelines for RF devices such as general technical and labeling requirements [3]. As a result, production costs will increase due to adhering to these rules. Using an IR transmitter/receiver eliminates this problem [4]. Our feeder will use an American 3-pin/Type B/NEMA 5-15 power plug and will follow guidelines for its design and use [5]. 4.3 Constraints, Alternatives and Tradeoffs Some other design alternatives focused on the wireless link. RFID was initially considered, but due to the high cost of RFID readers and a desire to make this pet feeder affordable, RFID was rejected in favor of a simpler link [6, 7]. Motion detection allows for detection of an animals presence, but does not distinguish between animals. One of the constraints is the dimensions and weight of the RF/IR transmitter. This constraint restricts the amount of power available. For the transmitter, we are considering a PIC type microcontroller that will be used in a low-power mode, which sends out a signal once a minute. This method allows the pet feeder to be programmed to wait for two consecutive pulses. As a result, a pet randomly passing by the feeder will not activate the food dispenser. Another constraint is the range of the transmitter/receiver. By having the range relatively small, triggering only occurs when the pet is close enough to the bowl.


Figure 3. Projected schedule of pet feeder project.

The Gantt chart on the previous page presents a projected schedule. Controlling the feeders motor using the microcontroller is likely to be a straightforward task. Integration of the microcontroller with the transmitter and receiver will be the most difficult, as the interfaces of these devices are unknown at the moment. Robert Fleming will be the lead in microcontroller design and programming transmitter integration. Viet Nguyen is the webmaster and will help microcontroller transmitter integration. Vishak Ganesh will be the lead in microcontroller design and programming receiver integration. Kevin Clark will support the microcontroller receiver integration and transmitter design. Vu Tang is lead in transmitter design and support with microcontroller receiver integration. All group members will be involved with testing at each stage. Ordering parts will be a group effort. Knowledge of programming the microcontroller is expected of all group members. However, in case of potential issues, help is readily available. 6. PROJECT DEMONSTRATION Demonstration of our project will consist of filling the pet feeder with food, setting the timer program, and bringing the transmitter close to the bowl to allow the automatic dispensing of food. The pet collar will be placed on a large stuffed animal or similar construction to ensure that the demo simulates a real life scenario. If time and resources allow, however, video taping the automatic feeder being used by a real pet would be more advantageous. 7. 7.1 MARKETING COST AND ANALYSIS Marketing Cost The primary objective of our device is to help create a more efficient method of feeding pets. Our device is especially geared towards pet owners with hectic lifestyles.

The most advanced pet feeders in the market today are based on timer technology. Our product, however, takes the next step towards automation. In addition to a timer, our product will have an IR or short range RF sensor. IR or RF will be used in the form of an ID tag that lets the feeder know when a dog is near the device. Many of the feeders on the market are priced in the range of $135 [2]. Our product will be priced at around $165. So for a marginally higher cost, our pet feeder provides newer technology that reduces human effort. In addition, the pet feeder only releases a certain amount of food when the pet is near and stops soon afterwards. This process ensures that the food is fresher as the food remains sealed for the majority of the time. There are currently 140 million estimated dogs and cats in the United States as of 2005 [2]. The households that own these 140 million domestic pets will be our primary market. We are confident that our product design based on IR or short range RF technology will gradually become a viable and desired substitute for timer based feeders. 7.2 Cost Analysis Table 1 on the next page shows a cost analysis of parts necessary to build a prototype pet feeder.

Table 1 Automated Pet Feeder Cost

Item Dog Feeder Micro-Control Relay Motor Sensors (Tran/Rec) Encoder/Decoder Power Supply Bowl Container Base Dispenser Qty 1 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 Misc Parts Cost $100 $15 $2 $5 $4 $3 $10 $3 $3 $3 $3 10% Total Total $100 $30 $2 $5 $8 $6 $10 $3 $3 $3 $3 $17 $190

The initial cost of prototype construction will be higher compared to the final production cost because certain materials will be purchased straight off the shelf. As a team, we expect to spend an average of 8 hours per week for each member. Half of weekly labor time will be spent in class lectures and group meetings on progress and issues, and the other half will be spent on direct project work and documentations of design implementation. All labor time is based on developmental costs at standard engineering rates. We predict an average of 120 engineering hours per group member, summing up to a total of 600 development hours. At a rate of $50/hour for each engineer, we see a total development cost of $30,000. We project sales figures totaling upwards of 300,000 units per year for a total of 1,500,000 units over a five year period. This total represents approximately one percent of the estimated 140 million pets in the United States [1]. The total cost of production will be $9 for each unit. $6 will be spent on the assembly line, and $3 will be spent on

testing. Table 2 below shows the accumulation of total cost from initial development of the prototype to mass production. Table 2 Development Cost and Profit
Development Cost (Non-recurring Cost) What it costs the company to develop the product Parts Labor Fringe Benefits, % of Labor Subtotal Overhead, % of Matl, Labor & Fringe Total 190 31,925 7,981 40,096 22,053 $62,149

Determination of Selling Price What the customer pays the company for the finished product
Based on: Parts Cost Assembly Labor Testing Labor Total Labor Fringe Benefits, % of Labor Subtotal Overhead, % of Matl, Labor & Fringe Subtotal, Input Costs Sales & Marketing Expense Warranty & Support Expense Amortized Development Costs Subtotal, All Costs Profit Selling Price Total Revenue Total Profit 1,500,000 50 6 3 9 2 61 34 95 41 8 0 144 21 $165 $247,500,000 $30,781,601 units


Our group projects a 12.4% profit margin over a five year period at a selling price of about $165 per each unit. This represents a $20 profit per unit sold. Our selling price will be competitive compared to similar products such as Petmates Le Bistro and ERGO Systems Autopetfeeder that sell at roughly $130 [2] [8].



We have done research on RF and IR communications. We have noted that they are both low cost and readily available in the form of ICs. In order to decide between these two technologies, we are consulting with various professors and different industry experts. Once we have chosen, we will begin ordering of parts. Upon acquiring the parts, we can begin the implementation of our prototype.

9. [1]

REFERENCES Pet Food Institute Pet Population Data [Online Document], 2006, [cited 2007 September 16], Available HTTP: Petmate Le Bistro Electronic Portion Control Dog Feeder [Online Catalog], [cited 13 September 2007], Available HTTP: productId=2751238&cp=&sr=1&origkw=dog+feeder&kw=dog+feeder&parentPag e=search&keepsr=1 Reynolds Electronics Remote Control Store [Online Catalog], [Cited 2007 September 14], Available HTTP: Federal Communications Commission Part 15 Regulations [Online Catalog], 2007 May 4 [cited 2007 September 14], Available HTTP: Wikipedia Contributors NEMA Connector [Online Encyclopedia], 2007 September 4 [cited 2007 September 14], Available HTTP: ZietControl Cardsystems GmbH Online Order > Hardware [Online Catalog], 2007 August 7, [Cited 2007 September 14], Available HTTP: Avid Wireless RFID [Online Catalog], 2005 April 27, [Cited 2007 September 14], Available HTTP: main_page=index&cPath=6 The Pampered Pet Mart Feeding and Watering Products [Online Catalog], [cited 13 September 2007], Available HTTP: Screen=PROD&Product_Code=LAPF&Affiliate=nextag