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Why Chamberlain built a $3,000 automatic garage door for your dog

My garage door opener is one of the most boring technologies in my family. It is produced by a company that has been around for 67 years. The one I bought last year looks almost the same as the one released ten years ago. But in the past 16 months, a small part of Chamberlain’s developers have been quietly developing other products on the market.

They have established a fully automatic, networked pet door for your dog, so you can go out freely anytime and anywhere, or let you activate it remotely. When you monitor the camera’s camera through an app, your pet can walk to the door and ask for your permission-the app will also automatically track your pet̵

7;s movements in the diary.

It is called myQ Pet Portal and is equipped with multiple technologies, including dual 1080p cameras, which can transmit encrypted video to your mobile phones around the world through Amazon S3 server, infrared and touch security sensors to avoid pinching your tail , Microphone and speaker for talking to pets, plus an encrypted Bluetooth low energy beacon on the dog’s neck. The door will not open until your pet is still for a few seconds to make sure that they really want to go out, and will automatically close behind them.

The pre-order price of myQ Pet Portal starts today at 3,000 USD and above, which makes it look like an exaggerated, outdated product concept at first glance at the CES in Las Vegas every year Shining on the sky-a terrific idea to stare at, but not something anyone really needs. After all, can you buy a simple pet flap for less than $100?

However, the world’s largest garage door opener company seems to be very serious about building the best dog door ever.During the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately twelve staff members worked in their own homes—under the guidance of extensive investigations, focus groups, and proof of what pet owners might actually need Believe A product that allows their furry companions to get in and out of the house.

Product owner Beril Altiner said that today, pet gates do not necessarily have this kind of trust. According to a national survey conducted by the company, only 34% of pet owners who allow their pets to go out have a pet door. This means that 68% of people do not do this-forcing pets to wait for humans to put them outside, forcing themselves to arrange life around pets, or both. “Pet parents feel conscious of the need to take care of their pets in a timely manner,” Altina said. He showed me the results of the survey and personal pet owners’ video recommendations.

The team believes this is partly because most pet doors today involve opening a visible hole in your house. Some make you actually open a hole in the door. Others slide into the track of the glass sliding door, usually requiring you to add a weatherproof seal to prevent the entry of breeze. Except for a few, all other items have flap lights that are sufficient for your dog to push it away, which may allow cold or stray animals to enter.Many pet owners do Altina said that buying a pet door soon gave up. (I have some personal experience there.)

So instead of building another door, the garage door opener company set out to build a complete door-with a dog door that would be completely sealed and locked when closed. It’s best if you don’t even know where it is.

One of the four panels in a wooden door slides up to reveal the dog's hidden opening.

An early concept of how myQ Pet Portal might work.
Video by Chamberlain

Early concept videos showed possible appearances, and Chamberlain actually produced a rough working version of the prototype in January last year.

A working prototype of a hidden, vertically sliding dog door.

Video by Chamberlain

At this point, they knew they could build a mobile, strong, weather-resistant barrier that complied with building codes and UL requirements… but they found that in order to create a large enough opening for large dogs, they found that invisible vertical closing doors would not There is not enough space for windows.By June, another survey of more than 500 homeowners revealed that the team was unwise to walk without windows: 29% of the hinged doors used by pets were All glass, And 76% of doors will be dedicated to windows at least a quarter of their height.

Beril Altiner, Product Owner and Chamberlain Marketing Director, cut box
Chamberlain Photos

Some interviewees said that they would abandon glass, but enough people believed that the concept of vertical sliding must be put aside. In an internal presentation, one of Altiner’s comments said: “They are so big that we can’t ignore it as a goal.”

The next stage is low-tech: the team made holes in the cardboard box and attracted some dogs. Chamberlain still had five different mechanical openings on the table to make room for the windows, but since the interviewees did not seem to have a preference, they used cardboard cutouts to test on actual dogs. It turns out that a mechanically-lifted flap was reserved for a 125-pound dog, but it was more complicated and less secure than the final alternative: a pair of elevator doors could use the same infrared safety sensor invented by Chamberlain in the 1980s, And used in all garage door openers today. This design means they have to adapt to dogs up to 90 pounds, but now they are ready.

So far, the Chamberlain team has become popular and must send its firmware and application developers a test suite manipulated by the jury, which consists of a circuit board containing only the original sensors, motors, and switches they need to manipulate. The real door is rarely seen. In fact, it wasn’t until July that the company found its door-making partner Kolbe; it wasn’t until September that they found an actual slab. “We have worked with our partners for the longest time, but we haven’t seen them personally.” Altina recalled that one day, she had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and drove four hours from Chicago to Wausau, Wisconsin. Factory. .. Then return again at 10:30 in the evening because COVID restrictions mean she cannot stay overnight.

The team also has some other face-to-face social meetings for large-scale testing, but mainly Slack, Microsoft Teams, and a large number of video calls and emails combine them.

Things are not always going well. In September, the first real door failed air, water, and pressure tests, allowing liquid to leak into the wood. A very nice girl ran into an excessively high step and tried to pass. The differential drive gear of the door agitates like an agitator. The team had to change the entire way of sealing the module to prevent water accumulation and shut down the noisy gearbox to make the sequel quieter.

The second set of doors (Alpha 2) was the first set of doors hung in the homes of actual testers. They were not appropriate when they arrived in October, because obviously, the distant team was inconsistent in measurement. They are also dangling power cords because they have not been routed on the door hinges. But in December, the third set passed all the tests, and Chamberlain was going to show me how it actually works in the field through a live video chat last week.

This is the part I told you. I haven’t seen the door in person, so I can’t really tell, but I don’t feel anything hidden. There are still a lot of seams, and you can clearly see there is a dog door-RIP, vertical sliding panel-but it looks like a real door with a large window, the elevator door sliding to the right, it looks very quiet. Chamberlain product manager Greg Martel (Greg Martel) had to point directly at the phone before he could hear the electric motor meshing and the door sliding along the track. Fenway is a 9-year-old, 45-pound Lab Collie Spaniel mix, and it seems that it’s fine to open it yourself.

However, the application is currently not implemented much. Like Chamberlain’s myQ garage door opener, the app can show you how long the door has been open and the video and audio streams are working properly, but can track pet outings, video recordings, and even notifications, letting you know when the dog is I still have to come if I want to go out. This is what the company hopes the application will look like after completion:

As you have described from Chamberlain’s CES sprint so far, as you might expect, this is not the only thing the team needs to accomplish. It will not start to be delivered to the first buyers around April. Finally, I checked and they are still figuring out whether it is going to be promoted nationwide or regionally, because it wants to hire a team of trusted installers to put this door in your home. Project leader David Schuda told me: “This is only a professional installation, partly because the Pet Portal needs to be powered by hinges, but also because you can choose the pre-suspended door that comes with the door frame. By the way, Installation is not included in the price.

Speaking of pricing, the company has not determined what you will pay until recently—at first, Chamberlain told me that the starting price would be close to $1,800, and then it would be increased by 66% to the current $3,000. This is because at first, the entry-level doorkeeper was an unpainted windowless model, and when they remembered that very few homeowners have a solid door to the yard, the team changed their mind.

Currently, fiberglass doors will start with 36 x 21 inch glass panels, which are slightly larger in the more expensive wooden models. Although the $3,000 price is more expensive than any other product on the market, there is nothing better than this. The company argued that this is half the price paid by certain dog walkers each year, which is 252 working days per year. Assuming that the dog walks once a day for US$20 each time, this seems right.

I have a very simple reason not to buy myQ Pet Portal. Although I like smart home products and have a dog, the timetable often does not meet our requirements: among 16% of dog house owners, I own sliding glass doors instead of revolving glass doors, and a group of Altiner and him agree that they will not be available now. But I firmly believe this is a good idea, Do not A steamer, for a thousand-dollar CES product launch, this is very remarkable.

However, just to cover up the basics, I asked Chamberlain President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Meredith to keep the record. He told me: “I want the reputation of the product, but I also need the revenue from the product.” “It will ship.”

If this is resolved, I am curious what Chamberlain will do next. The garage door opener company may not be the most exciting technology company in the world, but it has its history. For example, about ten years ago, it launched the first store that you can open anywhere in the world. Cooperate with Amazon to deliver the package to your garage.

It may be a verbal service, but Serta told me that in the more than 20 years of working in the company, he has never seen Chamberlain spend too much time studying what people actually want and need when developing new products. Previously, “We have characteristic diseases, and we only add features that we come up with,” Altiner said.They praised Meredith for advancing the research-driven approach, which may sound familiar if you have been engaged in this work edge Readers-We wrote about his similar initiatives at Lenovo in 2016, although this idea may not necessarily work.

Meredith said: “This is a technology designed to solve real-life problems.” For $3,000, how many real human problems can you solve? Just wait and see.

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