Cambridge-developed oral smart pill for dogs takes samples as it passes through them

If you’re a pet food manufacturer, what’s the best way to improve your products? By asking an innovative tech company to develop a smart pill that can be eaten by animals and which takes samples as it progresses through their bodies, of course.

And that’s exactly what Mars Petcare asked Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP)* to do!
The smart pill, which is about the size of a grape, is a non-invasive device that automatically takes samples of a dog’s digestive tract as it passes through. Equipped with its own pH sensor, the pill knows when it has passed from the highly acidic stomach into the intestine.

At various stages throughout its journey, the smart pill collects samples using a piston mechanism before closing up to protect the semi-digested food. It is then collected once it comes out the other end so the sample can be taken away for analysis.

By extracting partially-digested samples of food and analysing them, Mars is hoping to improve its pet food offerings. Obviously, the goal was to gather as much insightful information as possible without compromising the dog’s safety – and that’s where the idea of the oral smart pill came from.
In addition, to make the information gleaned even more accurate, CDP also created a special coat for the dog to wear so that the smart pill’s location could be exactly pinpointed using radio signals it emits.

Findings of the smart pill’s initial trials, which were conducted at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Melton Mowbray, are due to be published in a scientific journal.

Now, if you think you’ve seen/heard about the smart pill before, there’s a chance you have. That’s because it featured in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Britain’s Giant Pet Food Factory’, which aired on Thursday 1st August 2019.

If you missed it, you can watch it again now online here**. The part featuring the smart pill starts at 21.36 and lasts just over a minute.


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