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The Robots are Coming (albeit rather slowly)!

Updated: Mar 13, 2023


Warehouse robotics
Warehouse Robotics

Will security robots replace security personnel? In theory, yes. Automation will eventually replace a large number of personnel in many different industries and sectors – including security. Examples of automation are already evident in daily life, with robots now being used in manufacturing and transport.


Increasingly, we are witnessing the emergence of security robot prototypes that can patrol and monitor sites, especially in the US where autonomous ground drones (Robots) are gaining increasing exposure in the media.


According to forecasts, Autonomous Security Robots are here to stay, with the market in these products expected to reach £2 Billion in 2023.


So what exactly do Autonomous Security Robots do?


Security Robots are autonomous machines that are used as a force multiplier to enhance the effectiveness of human actors. They are used increasingly to patrol and monitor areas that were previously the exclusive domain of traditional manned guarding. They utilise cutting edge technology to monitor, collect and analyse vast amounts of data which is then used to develop a risk profile of a particular site. As the technology develops the variety of applications increases exponentially, from data centres to retail parks.


The benefits of deploying security robots in replacement of human guards are numerous and include:

  • Reduced costs - As robots are self-sufficient, they require less manpower to operate than traditional guarding. This translates into substantial savings over the long term, especially when you factor in rising labour costs.

  • Enhanced safety - Robots are autonomous which in theory means they do not make mistakes, fall asleep, walk off site or engage in destructive potentially damaging behaviours.

  • Greater accuracy and precision - Robots record what they see and are not therefore open to erroneous interpretation of events (the result of inherent bias)

  • Improved situational awareness - By monitoring an area continuously, robots are able to provide a real-time view of any changes that occur in the surrounding environment.

  • More responsive and alert - Robots do not experience fatigue and boredom, they are more likely to be alert at all times and respond quickly to potential threats.

Robots are here to stay and will become an every increasing feature of the security landscape, but before you call it a day and hand in your SIA licence, let's take a look at the current technology and the companies bringing these innovations to market.


Knightscope:


Knightscope, Inc., based in Mountain View California, is perhaps one of the better known security and robotics firms. They have been around for some time and are regularly featured in the media, not always for good reasons.


Many of you may remember the YouTube videos and BBC news story featuring one of their robots taking a dip in a fountain in 2017. They do say that all publicity is good publicity, although in this case I'm not convinced!


A robot security guard rolled its way to a fountain in 2017
A Robot Security Guard Rolled its way to a fountain in 2017. Credit: BBC

Knightscope manufacture a range of devices for different applications from shopping malls to casinos. Their K5 model was recently credited for aiding in the reduction of crime at Liberty Village, a sprawling 1,000-unit apartment complex on the north-eastern edge of Las Vegas.


The company as of last year has a fleet of 52 robots deployed across 23 US states, with 27 more robots in the queue for delivery, according to Knightscope's most recent annual report.


SMP Robotics:


SMP Robotics was founded in 2010 with the aim of introducing robots as a replacement for human actors operating in environments hazard to health, including security personnel working night shifts.


According to their website they hold a leading position in this sector, supplying some of the top global organisations, from Microsoft to Gucci and operate in 12 countries, including Italy and Eastern Europe. They manufacture a range of autonomous units designed to patrol in concert with one another using propriety mapping technology.


Outdoor security & inspection robots for patrolling
Outdoor Security & Inspection Robots. Credit: SMP Robotics

I was introduced to SMP several years ago when I was researching the feasibility of bringing robotic technology to the UK.


During a late night video conference call with one of their senior executives, a Russian gentlemen whose name now escapes me, I was briefed on the uniqueness of their offering, or at least I think I was, the combination of poor connection and strong Russian accent creating the potential for considerable misunderstanding.


I expressed my wish to see the technology in action in the UK, however I wasn't entirely convinced if this was the message received at the other end.


I came off the call with the sinking feeling that I may have just committed to the purchase of multiple units.


Two months later the COVID pandemic hit and any plans to introduce robots to the UK were placed permanently on hold!


Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD):


Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD) is described by Globe newswire as a high-tech start-up that delivers robotics and artificial intelligence-based solutions that empower organisations to gain new insight, solve complex security challenges, and fuel new business ideas at reduced costs.


RAD manufacture a range of innovative products, from the Security Control Observations Tower (SCOT), to my all time favourite ROAMEO (Rugged Observation Assistance Mobile Electronic Officer).


ROAMEO is an outdoor security robot unlike any deployed to date. ROAMEO takes all of RAD's industry-leading AI analytics, video surveillance capabilities, and interactive communications and put them on the move
ROAMEO (Rugged Observation Assistance Mobile Electronic Officer. Credit: Radsecurity

RAD seems to be at the forefront in the delivery of systems that offer real world application whilst simultaneously enhancing the capabilities of security manpower. As an organisation they seem to be going places, literally, with their innovative products in demand across the US and beyond.


Conclusion


While it is likely that security robots will replace human beings in some roles in the future, this process will take time – and there may be a few cases where humans are still needed to oversee certain aspects of security operations.


For one thing, security robots may not be able to do certain tasks as effectively as human security personnel can, for example, detecting and responding quickly to specific threats and interacting in confrontational situations that require diplomacy and advanced communication skills to de-escalate volatile situations. So, while security robots may one day replace human beings in certain roles, it’s important not to get too carried away – there are still many challenges ahead before this becomes a reality.


 

About the Author: Justin Quigley, is a recognised security expert in the protection of property through the introduction and deployment of technical and non-technical security measures, including CCTV towers, video verification systems, fencing, perimeter protection technology, hostile vehicle barriers, alarms and analytical camera systems. He is a prolific writer on the subject of crime prevention, security technology and void property security.


Justin currently works for one the UK's largest security companies (Ward Security) as well as providing consultancy services to both the property and construction sectors.


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