Can you monitor your dogs’ sleeping habits with Zabbix? Of course, you can! By day, I am a monitoring technical lead in a global cyber security company. By night, I monitor my home with Zabbix & Grafana and do some weird experiments with them. Welcome to my weekly blog about this project.

Meet Lily, our soon-eleven-years old French bulldog. As she’s getting old, a year or two ago we got her a very nice bed from a Finnish company PAIKKA. The bed is more advanced than the one we humans in this house have; it has a memory foam mattress and some kind of thermal system to keep our furry buddy warm.

Anyway, even though Lily has three or four additional beds all around our house so she can be with us, no matter in what room we are spending our time, Lily really loves this bed and seemingly spends very long periods of time in it without coming out of it meanwhile.

Or, that’s our impression. But what’s the actual usage pattern? Zabbix to the rescue!

Oh hi, RuuviTag, would you like to do some temperature monitoring?

How to monitor Lily’s bed usage? A surveillance camera and something like ZoneMinder would be weird; a motion sensor would not give any meaningful results … but wait, there’s RuuviTag, a nice little environmental monitoring gadget from another Finnish company Ruuvi. It’s just a Bluetooth Low Energy device… a Bluetooth Beacon… I don’t know how to officially call it, but it has reprogrammable firmware, and by default RuuviTag acts as an environmental monitoring device, measuring temperature, humidity, and movement.

Here’s what Ruuvi’s mobile app looks like. For most people, that would be enough. For me, I skip that altogether after I have tried out with it that a RuuviTag works.

“Installing” RuuviTag to Lily’s bed

So, this part is not too hard. Here, let’s put the RuuviTag under Lily’s mattress.

Now that it’s there, it’s time to harvest data from RuuviTag and insert it into Zabbix.

Bridging RuuviTag and Zabbix

For easy reading of data from RuuviTag, there’s Bluewalker with built-in support for parsing Ruuvi’s data. It can format the output in various formats. I used just the traditional text format, made Zabbix read the log file, and made it parse the log file using item preprocessing.

Here’s the log:

Here’s Zabbix master item for the data:

.. and then I just have a bunch of dependent items parsing individual items from the master item.

… with some preprocessing applied.

Does it work?

Yes, it does. It seems that quite soon after Lily enters her bed the mattress temperature will raise a couple of degrees, so from that data we can guess that Lily is in her bed. And, as we can see, she really stays in her bed for several hours without leaving it, especially during the nighttime.

As you can see from the graph, I already did set up some alert thresholds to guess when Lily is in her bed and when she is not. The threshold is very careful on purpose not to get false alerts.
Anyway, I now also see data like this on my ZBX Viewer app and of course on my Zabbix/Grafana dashboard.

Of course, all this is just me being silly with our dog. But imagine the benefits of deploying this kind of “smart mattress” for the elderly or whoever we might need to monitor for their safety. “Hey, grandma Martha usually wakes up early, she’s still in bed even though it’s 11am, is she OK?”, or vice versa, “Hey, grandma Martha did not ever go to her bed last night, what’s up?”.

I recently just heard that a close relative of one of our friends had found their mother from her home after she had been there for one week in bad shape — luckily just ended up in hospital in the end, but imagine what kind of terror that week must have been. A 30 EUR gadget like RuuviTag or a smartwatch might have helped to detect the situation and alert people to help much, much earlier.

Hey watchdog, I am monitoring you too.

I have been working at Forcepoint since 2014 and even our dog must now think I am a monitoring addict. — Janne Pikkarainen

This post was originally published on the author’s LinkedIn account.

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