Automatic Smart Pet Feeding Station; Examining Smart Home Technology Effectiveness and the User Onboarding Processes

Mulquin, William, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, University of Virginia

Have you or someone you know ever found it difficult at times to take care of a pet? Forgetting to feed a pet, forgetting to fill a water bowl, or overfeeding a pet all represent rare, but prevalent occurrences for pet feeders all across the United States. The idea for an automatic dog feeder and water bowl filler stemmed from my grandmother’s dementia and the difficulties surrounding owning a pet, while simultaneously battling a disease. However, the design and implementation raises a broader concern regarding the benefits and risks behind smart home technologies, as well as the public’s perception of these technologies. How can individuals maximize usage of their smart home technology and continue to use it to its full potential? The study of smart home technology, the user onboarding process, as well as the public’s concerns and hesitancies of smart home technology has guided the STS Research paper.
I used the Law and Callon’s Actor Network Theory STS framework to analyze smart home technology and the relevant stakeholders. Actor Network theory shows the relationships between relationships in an overall framework. Within my actor network theory diagram, I used three separate categories. These categories were human actors, nonhuman actors, as well as data/metrics to analyze the successfulness of smart home technology. The human actors are companies, stakeholders, and users. The nonhuman actors are training time, cost, installation cost, and user friendliness. The data/metrics used to analyze smart home technology efficiency are public perceptions, overall health and well being of users, as well as effectiveness in efficiency and money saved for users.
The automatic dog feeder and water filler, a two-in-one system never seen before, was designed to eliminate the issue of failing to properly fuel a dog of all sizes. This design employs peristaltic pumps, water level sensors, as well as a force sensor to dispense food to a certain weight designated by the owner, as well as two different water levels placed within the water bowl. By completing our design, pet owners can experience increased assurance that their pet is being taken care of and never hungry or thirsty.
The STS research paper examined the effectiveness of smart home technology and the user onboarding process, as well as fears held by the public, elderly, disabled and/or potential customers. The research showed that while smart home technology is growing at extreme rates in the US and around the world, there remain road blocks that either stop users from maximizing their efficiency, or problems with the user onboarding process that cause users to stop using their technology to its full potential. I found two effective research studies that installed smart home technology and then examined the results months after installation. The results showed overall that of the households studied, users had limited time early on in the study to familiarize themselves with the technology that later caused several of the homes to revert back to their old, outdated technology over time.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Smart Home Technology, Pet Feeding Machine, Elderly Care, Pet Care Accessibility , Smart Home User Onboarding Processes, UVA Engineering

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineer
Technical Advisor: Powell, Harry
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Matthew Garrison, Luke Orioli, Landon Rhodes

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