Intro to Networked Collaboration

My dog as a sensor/actuator system

I was sitting in my living room reading the “Sensors and Actuators” portion of the Distributed Being reading this afternoon. My dog was lying on the couch next to me and it struck me that he is really a living, breathing sensor/actuator system, and he follows a very specific set of rules. First, a few definitions:

  • System = Lucky the dog
  • Default Location = within five feet of Owner.
  • Owner = Erin McIntyre
  • Default Mode = light snooze.
  • Alert Mode = eyes open, ears up, awaiting further information.
  • Greet Mode = tail wagging, feet prancing, toy or shoe in mouth.
  • Excitement Mode = jumping, leaping, tail knocking items off coffee table.
  • Sulking Mode = tail between legs
  • Home Territory = Erin McIntyre’s apartment

The rules:

  • When Sensory Input = Owner moves, Response = System relocates to within five feet of Owner and returns to Default Mode.
  • When Sensory Input = footsteps in hallway outside door of Home Territory, Response = System enters Alert Mode.
    • When Sensory Input = footsteps recede to the doorway of another apartment, Response = System returns to Default Mode.
    • When Sensory Input = footsteps stop in front of Home Territory, Response = System remains in Alert Mode and waits for further information.
    • When Sensory Input = knock on door of Home Territory, Response = System barks loudly and waits for information from Owner.
      • When Sensory Input = Owner opens door, Response = System returns to Default Mode.
      • When Sensory Input = Owner does not respond to bark, Response = System barks again and repeats until Sensory Input = Owner opens door.
    • When Sensory Input = sound of keys entering lock on door of Home Territory, Response = System enters Greet Mode.
  • When Sensory Input = Owner’s boyfriend touches Owner, Response = System inserts self between Owner and Owner’s boyfriend.
  • When Sensory Input = Owner leaves Home Territory, Response = System enters Sulking Mode
  • When Sensory Input = Owner picks up leash, Response = System enters Excitement Mode.
  • When Sensory Input = System leaves Home Territory, Response = no rules apply!

So there you have the rules that govern my dog’s behavior. (Hope you all don’t mind a little humor!) There is very little anyone can do to change these rules. He cannot be hacked and he is not susceptible to software viruses.

I can’t help wondering whether viruses and hackers could pose problems for buildings that function on a Sensor/Actuator system. Much of the Distributed Being reading focused on buildings that are “fluid” or “flexible” or constantly changing in response to environmental input. Isn’t this an enormous opportunity for computer glitches to occur? Having your computer crash is one thing, but having entire sections of your house develop “communication problems” with each other is another thing altogether! I’m picturing the system doing a scan of itself and suddenly recognizing the living room as a piece of malicious software that needs to be removed. Before you know it, walls go flying and your couch ends up on the front lawn! I’m sure this is an exaggeration, but you see where I’m going with this! Aren’t we setting ourselves up for some problems when we make our buildings “intelligent”?

September 28, 2008 - Posted by | culture | , , , , ,


  1. OK, that was very funny. And while that may work for your dog, my cat could never be classified as an sensor/ actuator system. She’s too unpredictable.

    Second the concern about a computer crash/glitch ejecting your living room (or at least quarantining it) until it can be fixed it not as frightening as the e-motive house. Imagine tripping over a piece of furniture in the middle of the night because your passive aggressive house is upset that you haven’t washed the dishes or cleaned the bathroom. All joking aside, this is a big concern for me. Where do we/should we draw the line? At what point does the technology stop serving us and we begin serving the technology. I don’t want to seem alarmist about it but it seems to me that we’re entering science fiction territory here and we have the technology to make it a reality. The question for me is…Just because we CAN do it, does the mean we SHOULD do it?

    Comment by Stacey | October 1, 2008 | Reply

  2. That was an interesting analogy. And I love dogs so I can truly see the humour in your post!


    Comment by ayvak | October 1, 2008 | Reply

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