, PAWLS — Shriya Hardikar


Ubiquitous computing coursework project

1 Minute Project Summary

What is PAWLS

Solution to decrease behavioral issues in dogs using ubiquitous computing

What did I do?

Conducted user research to build a prototype of a ubiquitous computing solution and designed a prototype. The solution was a physical PAWLS device + PAWLS app


What roadblocks did I face?

- Crate focused product only (dog needs to be crate trained)
- Prioritization of issues through multiple dog issues
- Solution focus of trigger nullifying VS long time behavioral change
- Product automation VS owner control

Team size



Skills & Tools


Sept - Dec 2019

UX Researcher & Designer

Literature review, Contextual Inquiry, Ideation, Survey, Diary Studies, Affinity Map, User enactments, Prototyping, Interaction Prototype, Arduino

Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Rasbian OS, Motion Camera Software


PAWLS is essentially a smart crate system that decreases disruptive barking in dogs using positive reinforcement and stimulus masking methods. It can collect data about a dog’s barking, collect information about what triggered the barking, and is capable of coming up with personalized recommendations for users detailing steps that the owner can take to aid the training. There are two components to Pawls, the physical crate that uses pervasive technology and the mobile app which gives users the power to access all the collected data in digestible form and it also allows them to control the crate.

Process flow

Design problem

How can ubiquitous computing assist in training and mitigating behavioral issues like barking in adopted dogs?



Each year, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the US. Less than half of these animals are adopted. One of the main reason why animals are returned is behavioral issues. In order to address this issue of pet homelessness, we decided to explore how ubiquitous computing can do two things: decrease the number of dogs being given up by their previous owners to shelters and ensure that adopted dogs stay adopted and remain in their new homes.


Using semi-structured interviews, literature reviews, and informal observations, we developed the following key findings:


Behavioral issues are both the number one complaint of new pet owners, and the number one reason animals are returned to shelters.


There are some solutions that have been proven to work, but could potentially be augmented further.


New pet owners are willing to invest in solutions, but affordability and effectiveness are key considerations for them.


Our study was designed so we could help answer the following key research questions that will help us further re-define our concepts to address the actual problems many dog owners face:

1. What kind of behavioral issues do dog owners typically deal with?

2. What typically triggers a behavioral issue with the dog?

3. Have dog owners conducted any training or coaching with their dog?

4. How do dog owners address behavioral issues?

5. Where do dogs normally feel safe?


For our survey, we tried to get an idea of how we can further define our scope and concepts by focusing on what specific behavioral issues dog owners are dealing with, and how common they occur.

Survey analysis


For our diary study, our goal was to understand how dog owners addressed behavioral issues right as they’re occurring, along with their frequency. For five days, 2 participants recorded dozens of entries in a behavioral log every time a dog experienced any emotional distress.The first part of the diary study allowed us to better understand each dog’s unique history and temperament.In the second part of the diary study, participants were tasked with keeping a behavioral log of every instance of their dog experiencing any distress, when and where it occurred, what triggered the dog’s response, how serious the dog’s response was, and what the owner’s did about the dog’s distress.

The diary study was analyzed by breaking down every component of the behavioral log, including each specific trigger, location, the dog’s response, and how the owner responded to the dog’s inappropriate behavior. We used Trello to create an affinity board to help organize common themes between the participants and their dogs.

Diary study analysis


Project concept 1 : Owner receives an alert and closes the blind using his PAWLS app
Project concept 2 : PAWLS device notices the dog barking, activates and calms using music

To narrow our scope, we elected to just focus on discouraging dogs’ disruptive indoor barking rather than try to target both behavioral issues since aggression involved more variables such as another animal. Using positive reinforcement and stimulus masking methods, we hope that our solution will train the dog when the owner is not home to provide the training themselves.

We made sure that our product had following criterias which we defined using our previous research:

1. Dog Oriented : PAWLS is a system meant to augment the house for dogs that are not kept in crates when the owner is not home.

2. Involves Positive Reinforcement: Rewards the dog’s good behavior. When the dog stops barking for a certain amount of time, a treat will be automatically distributed by the Guardian.

3. Effective: Is able to locate potential triggers before behavioral issues can arise using motion, light, and sound sensors and notifies the user through phone notifications and the central communication screen located near the home’s thermostat(s).

4. Trigger Nullifying: Can sense outside noise and play calming music to mask the auditory stimulus and to accommodate for instances when the stimulus is visual, the dog’s view will also be blocked off by automatically drawn curtains.

5. Behavior Change: As the dog’s barking frequency decreases, over a period of time the PAWLS responses such as calming white noise playing and closing of blinds will also “weaken.”

6. Well-being: The comfort of the dog is our highest priority. PAWLS does not confine the dog to a small space and rather allows the dog the freedom to roam throughout the house.


Our experience prototyping study involved conducting five user enactments with each of our five participants for a total of 25 user enactments to answer our four research questions. Through the user enactments, we wanted to understand users’ perception and the strengths and weaknesses of our product in varying scenarios.

Study Design Primary Research Questions

1. What smart crate features do users see themselves using at home versus when they are away from their home?
2. Does the smart crate feel invasive?
3. How much remote interactivity and automation do owners expect from their smart kennel?
4. What kind of information should be regularly available from their mobile devices?

Scenarios given to the users
Findings and Design Implications

While earlier research informed us about user’s general pain points, it was in this stage of our research that we were able to directly observe users interacting with our product in the way they would in their home. As a result, we were able to observe the user's authentic reaction to our suggested features, rather than our abstract ideas or hypotheticals. It was these reactions that helped us gain a more accurate understanding of if and how our ideas were addressing user needs and the pain points we had previously identified.

1. Owners would like to have more control over the system, and rely less on automation

Setup should include features to learn about suer's preferences, notify users, and give control over actions.

2. Being unable to react is just as bad as being uninformed

Notifications should be solution-oriented and give the owner a sense of agency

3. Data is king

Display information in an easy to read visualizations, and show progress.

4. The system should train the owner as much as it trains the dog

Data gathered should recommend yours about future plan of action, and educate users.


Storyboard 1
Storyboard 2


High Level Architecture
High level architecture of the proposed system

PAWLS is a solution which the owners has to use with the dog crate. PAWLS is comprised of features like video camera, speaker, sound sensor, video feed, crate door control, and blind control. PAWLS app is essentially used with the device. The app’s main purpose is to receive real time notifications from the device. It provides users with features such as real time interaction with the dog using camera and video feed, and control of crate doors and blinders. It helps set up the usage of PAWLS device.

Key Features
High level architecture of the proposed system
PAWLS App Prototype

Video camera will be used to record the dog behavior. Video camera is controlled using the PAWLS app. Owners will be able to talk to their dogs using the speakers. Sound sensors will essentially help the PAWLS detect when the dog is barking. With treat dispensor the owner can give treat to the dog anytime with just one click on the app. PAWLS app lets the owner controls blinds and crate door using the app. With visual video owner can video chats with their favorite pet!

PAWLS Device Prototype

After researching various IoT microcontrollers, our group decided on utilizing a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ instead of an Arduino or Particle Board. The Raspberry Pi’s quad-core processor is best suited for processing and streaming high-definition video. The Raspberry Pi’s extensive DIY community helped guide our software implementation, which involved running open-source “Motion” software, which offers extensive options related to recording video streams. We also needed to identify a camera that could record the entire area within a kennel using a fish-eye style lens. Materials needed were Cardboard, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Night Vision Fish-eye Camera Module, and Bluetooth Speaker. Software needed were Raspbian OS, and Motion Camera Software.


Dogs might not be accustomed to crate training or worse, the crate can be a source of negative and hostile feelings for the dogs. When the owner is not home, PAWLS is most effective once the dog is lured into the crate, but is not effective when the dog is not. Trying to lure the dog into the crate might be more difficult in real life filled with many variables. Connect with sensors within and outside the home, rather than just solely rely on sensors within the smart crate.

Final Project Presentation
More information on project