Skip to main content

DIY backyard security system turns on the sprinklers when it sees a trespassing cat

el gato android ransomware cat
Flickr/Jarjav CC
What’s the best way to stop cats from pooping in your garden? Depending on who you ask, answers might include ultrasonic cat repellents, chicken wire, or the use of certain plants to protect your lawn from feline defecation.

For Nvidia Systems Software Engineer Robert Bond, however, there was only ever one possible solution: training a deep learning neural network to turn on his garden sprinklers whenever it recognized a cat in his front yard.

Related Videos

“I mounted a camera on the garage that looks out over the garden,” Bond tells Digital Trends. “The camera is set to send images to an [Nvidia Jetson TX1] whenever something changes. The [TX1] then uses deep learning to decide whether the thing that moved is a cat or something else. If it’s a cat then it activates the sprinkler system.”


Bond says that he started training his neural network with a data set of around 1.2 million pictures gathered from the internet. These included plenty of pictures of cats, but most of them turned out to be cutesy close-ups portraits, rather than the kind of pictures he was looking for. “It was almost worthless for what I needed to do, because I was hunting for pictures of cats slinking around in my bushes,” he explains.

Bond notes that at this point his neural network was only successfully classifying around 30 percent of the cats that came into his garden. He decided to modify the neural network’s training examples by adding pictures he had taken himself. Recognition scores immediately jumped to around 90 percent.


The system hasn’t been perfect, however. For one thing, during the training process shadows were regularly classified as cats because they represented dark shapes moving across Bond’s lawn. Even Bond wasn’t immune from being classified as a feline. “I went to mow my lawn and the system somehow decided that the combination of me and my lawnmower counted as a cat,” he says. “I wound up getting pretty thoroughly sprayed.”

But for the most part the deep learning network has been a resounding success — and Robert Bond’s garden is now virtually cat free.

It’s simple when you know how, right?

Editors' Recommendations

The Arlo Security System brings all-in-one functionality thanks to its multisensor
The Arlo Security System features an NFC reader.

If CES 2022 is a boxing ring, Arlo has thrown one of the first punches with the announcement of the Arlo Security System, an all-in-one DIY solution to home security. It's not only a 2022 CES Innovation Award honoree, but it also features an all-in-one multisensor capable of eight different sensing functions that include motion, when a door or window opens or is tilted, water leaks, light and temperature changes, and the alarm patterns of T3 and T4 smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Perhaps the most impressive part is the size of the sensor. At just 1.1-inches wide, the multisensor is discrete and fits anywhere in the home without hardwiring. A more flexible sensor (with more flexible placement options) means better security overall.

Read more
Ring Alarm Pro serves double duty as a mesh Wi-Fi 6 router and security system
Ring alarm on kitchen counter.

Ring today announced several new products that promise to boost the security of your home and neighborhood during Amazon's Fall September 2021 event. More than just a convenient video doorbell, Ring is venturing deeper into the home security market with a new Wi-Fi-based home security system, a new virtual security subscription service for existing Ring cameras, and customizable alerts that let owners configure to their needs.
Ring Alarm Pro

Ring's no stranger in the DIY home security system space, offering its solutions against competitors like SimpliSafe, Blue by ADT, and Google Nest. Its latest offering is the Ring Alarm Pro, an advanced home security system that monitors your entire home for a variety of emergencies in addition to intruders. The system is powered by a Ring Alarm base station that connects Ring cameras and optional sensors to alert you to smoke, leaks, and more. The Ring Alarm Pro can record and store video from its camera onto a microSD card with a Ring Protect Plan, available for $20 per month, which effectively brings local storage to Ring's cameras -- a feature that's long overdue.

Read more
ADT vs. Vivint: Which home security system is best?
Vivint hub on a stone wall.

Homeowners interested in professionally installed home security systems and monitoring services will find two names mentioned frequently: The long-time security brand ADT, and the smart security company Vivint. There’s a lot to unpack for both these systems, what they cost, and how they’re used: Let’s dive in and explore the most important details to see which adds up to the best choice.
We’ll start with pricing, one of the more important factors when comparing similar home security systems like Vivint and ADT. Both have individual device costs for each unit you add to your system, and both highly encourage homeowners to get a quote for more accurate details. Device-to-device cost comparisons appear to be similar, but both companies are opaque when it comes to all the models they offer and their costs: They really want you to rely on a representative coming to your house and discussing your needs first.

ADT offers three base security packages that homeowners can add on to: Secure Home, Smart Home, and Video & Smart Home. However, ADT doesn’t list any specific prices for these packages, but other packages on their site start at $599 and go up to over $1,400. Vivint doesn’t offer packages, but says the average security system costs around $2,400 -- which can be rolled into monthly payments if desired. That’s extremely high compared to a DIY home security system, but it’s designed to take the work and decisions out of the owner’s hands.

Read more