A Wearer-Centred Framework to Design for Wearability in Animal Biotelemetry

Paci, Patrizia (2019). A Wearer-Centred Framework to Design for Wearability in Animal Biotelemetry. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00010942


In a technological era, monitoring animals for scientific, husbandry, or caring reasons is often done by using tracking systems attached to the animals’ bodies. Remote data acquisition from animals has enhanced the knowledge about their biology and ecology. However, there is evidence that carrying biotelemetry tags affects the welfare of animal wearers and interferes with the validity of recorded data.

On welfare and scientific grounds, animal scientists have advocated for the re-design of physical and functional aspects of tags, proposing guidelines aimed at minimising device-induced impacts. However, such guidelines are dispersed and difficult to apply systematically. Hence, there is a need for an approach to systematising the design of animal-borne tags in order to minimise their impact on the wearer.

This thesis addresses such a challenge. It draws on the concept of wearability and proposes it as a design goal to develop devices that afford a better wearer experience (WX) for animals. The thesis develops a wearer-centred design framework (WCF) and applies it to demonstrate its usefulness to systematically design for good wearability.

Specifically, after the framework’s elements were derived by analysing relevant information in the biotelemetry and interaction design literature, the framework was administered to teams of workshop participants who implemented it to perform a requirements analysis for a cat-tracking device. Workshop requirements served to produce a feline-centred prototype which was tested with cat wearers to investigate their experience of wearing it and thus evaluate its wearability. Outcomes show improvements of the prototype in relation to off-the-shelf devices which were tested in a parallel study. This study established a baseline for investigating a cat WX and highlighted various wearability issues with the off-the-shelf tags.

Lastly, this research demonstrates that designers can systematically design for wearability using the WCF therefore supporting the thesis that the reduction of device-related impacts is achievable.

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