While robots already play a prominent role in logistics and manufacturing, industry leaders are just beginning to realize the potential of this technology in security measures.

Readers Choice 2020:  Smarter Robotics Are Changing Security
Readers Choice 2020: Smarter Robotics Are Changing Security

Scott Huntington | Off The Throttle

Businesses across the globe are using robotics technology to pick and pack orders, weld metal parts, apply paints and sealants, complete accurate inspections and much more. In 2018 alone, a record 381,000 industrial robotics units were shipped — an increase of 30% compared to the year before.

The electronics, automotive and metal sectors rely on this technology to automate production and drive growth. With it, manufacturers can boost performance and productivity while maintaining better quality and consistency. Previously, robots were limited in their abilities, rooted in one location and separated from their human counterparts. Today, however, these machines can assess their surroundings and work in tandem with employees. 

While robots already play a prominent role in logistics and manufacturing, industry leaders are just beginning to realize the potential of this technology in security measures. 


A Fully-Autonomous Robotic Solution 

Knightscope, a Silicon Valley company founded in 2003, recently unveiled its K5 robot, a device designed to predict and prevent crime. Coined a fully-autonomous security machine, this bot uses five sets of sensors to orient itself and record incidents.

K5, which comes in at five feet tall and approximately 300 pounds, has a LiDAR sensor, 16 lasers in the halo and five more in the body. A GPS sensor also uses information from satellites, along with complex wheel odometry, to calculate distance and directions. These devices allow the bot to make 3D maps of the physical environment every 20 milliseconds. 

Experts designed these robots to work alongside human guards, not replace them. In fact, shopping centers, sports stadiums, museums, office buildings, data centers and parking lots have already deployed this technology. With a price tag of $62,000 — and a 24/7 workload — these bots work out to a mere $7 per hour for organizations. 

Stacy Dean Stephens, former law enforcement officer and executive vice president and chief client officer of Knightscope, claims they encourage security workers to name their new robot coworkers. Similar to a pet, providing a name allows workers to feel more attached to the device.  

The bot has already delivered many success stories, according to Stephens. It's aided arrests in property damage cases, hit and runs and fraudulent insurance claims. It's also apprehended felons and stopped several robberies. In warehouses and manufacturing plants, the machine can operate security gates and control access. 

Unfortunately, the technology still has a few kinks to work out. Back in 2019, when a fight broke out in a California parking lot, a woman ran over to push the robot's emergency alert button. Instead of calling authorities, however, the woman claims the bot continued on its pre-programmed route, humming an intergalactic tune. It would pause every so often to remind visitors to please keep the area clean.

Cosme Lozano, chief of police of Huntington Park, the area where the fight broke out, claims the robot's alert button does not connect to the police department. Instead, calls get redirected to Knightscope. Due to technical issues, Lozano claims the robot is on a trial basis for the city. 


A Personalized and Innovative Approach 

The concept of autonomous security robotics is still in its infancy. However, Knightscope isn't the only company making a splash with the new technology. Cobalt, a business that focuses on indoor solutions, has also begun engineering and leasing out robots. 

These five-foot-tall machines, which rove around and monitor security-sensitive locations, house 60 sensors, including infrared, thermal, ultrasonic, LiDAR, video and red-green-blue (RGB). 

The bots assist human security personnel by taking over some manual, monotonous labor, such as 24/7 patrols. According to Dr. Travel Deyle, the CEO of Cobalt, the intention of the technology is to combine the best parts of machines, such as super-human sensing and attention, with the best aspects of people, like adaptability. 

The company plans to eliminate the prohibitive installment costs that prevent many organizations from adopting the technology. Typical emerging innovations require massive capital investments. Cobalt, however, expects to amortize the cost of hardware and relevant services with manageable monthly service fees and shorter terms. 

Unlike Knightscope, which is attempting to offer enterprise-wide security solutions, Cobalt claims their product is appropriate for start-ups. It currently provides management services for Fortune 50 companies, as well as clients in the technology, defense, finance and manufacturing industries. 


The Future of Robotics in Security

Today's smart security robotics can track people and assets, patrol physical areas, record data and much more. They have the power to pinpoint problems that may be undetectable to humans — plus, they never sleep. 

One of the most significant benefits of modern technology is the ability to amplify current security procedures with additional coverage. How will robots take over the field in the next five to 10 years, however?

Drones, which made their consumer debut in the 2000s, already aid operations in manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and much more. In the security sector, the flying devices help with site surveys, remotely monitor perimeters, locate ideal camera placement and much more. 

The benefit of drones is their small size and maneuverability. They can act autonomously while sending back real-time information and analysis to human professionals. While the commercial drone market hit a value of $5.8 billion in 2018, with more than 274,000 units sold, it's expected to grow by 56.5% annually until 2025. 

Security robots, including drones, will increase in use and scale within the next decade. As a result, the cost will decrease, and new capabilities will come to light. This technology offers security professionals the unique ability to enhance procedures without replacing human workers. 

In the meantime, adopters must gain a deeper understanding of these machines' potential. Companies like Knightscope and Cobalt already work closely with adopting organizations to integrate the technology into established teams. Further advancements will require a willingness to try new products and demands, despite worry over displaced employment.

This technology will become invaluable in the future as businesses began to realize the benefits. In the meantime, more organizations will join the innovative industry, offering more options for products and services to interested parties.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow

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