The presence of robots in public spaces has steadily been rising since 2015. Primarily used in surveillance and security, many already make their way across manufacturing plants, hospitals, residential communities, shopping malls, college campuses, corporate campuses and parking lots/structures. And a variety of factors have only been making these security robots even more enticing.
Advanced sensors and developments in self-driving technology are making these robots smarter, more autonomous. This then allows them to step in as access control and cameras have been, once again allowing the industry to reduce security officer costs and maximize security budgets
What Does it Cost to Invest in a Security Robot?
Cost is a large factor when it comes to determining a robot’s viability as a security strategy. In comparison to security officers, robots today typically range between $4 and $15 per hour as far as cost is concerned.
Often times, this is because the manufacturer is providing them on a subscription-based model. Think of it as more of a software subscription, such as with a Office365 or Adobe subscription. In most cases, the custom setup, programming and software configuration is performed by the manufacturer.
What is exceptionally appealing, however, is the fact that all the maintenance, parts and service come as part of the subscription. This means that, for integrators and end users, the learning curve is short, usually only requiring basic training on the software user interface, cutting the cost of training significantly.
The idea is to allow robots to perform boring, more monotonous duties, allowing other security personnel to handle more important duties. With many robots being able to operate autonomously, even charging themselves when needed, they can be used for patrolling, deterring and detecting suspicious activity as a human alternative.
It’s an exceptionally advantageous feature in the wake of COVID-19. While budget cuts have swept across many organizations, many facilities have had to double or even triple their security officer spend while also enhancing their security systems.
So, while robots were once considered “nice to have” as an option, more organizations are now seeing the need for them, especially with how they improve security and public safety.
What Are the Benefits of a Security Robot?
Think of all the features and capabilities currently in use throughout the industry. Often mounted on walls and gates (immovable objects), the robot combines them all into a roving object.
Facial recognition, automatic license plate recognition (ALPR), thermal cameras for heat anomalies and elevated body temperature, gunshot detection, liquid spills, intercom, public address broadcasts, mobile device detection and human detection are all features that are available within most robots on the market right now. Combine that with the self-driving, self-charging, fully autonomous capabilities of most robots, and organizations can see a variety of benefits, including:
- Enhanced remote video monitoring capabilities. Onsite or remote monitoring can be made far more comprehensive when organizations have a camera that can investigate areas out of reach of most surveillance systems. They also deliver real-time, eye-level video and two way audio for extra added clarity when trying to ascertain situations.
- Supporting facility management. If a facility is shut down or has reduced operations and personnel, robots can perform a facility tour at ground level, with 360° live video, to inspect landscaping, fencing, lighting, safety conditions and much more.
- Promote COVID-19 prevention and policy enforcement. Robots that can autonomously broadcast custom messages provide a unique visitor and employee experience. They may also be used to screen for elevated body temperatures at points of ingress.
- Keep personnel safe. Many facilities do not have security officers, leaving employees to handle security situations. The intercom feature built into many robots, coupled with a live view of the 360° video, allows employees to safely address a potential threat from a safe distance.
How Do These Robots Work?
Take this as an example from the perspective of a general manager (GM) at a facility
Upon her arrival at work, the GM parks her car in the employee parking lot. Six months ago, she would arrive to see people sleeping in cars or on stairwells. She would walk away from her car, worried that her or any one of her employee’s cars would be broken into.
Since the arrival of her security robot, however, that is no longer the case. Her employees are voicing their appreciation for the robot instead of their concern for a lack of security. As someone else parks their car, the robot patrols by and greets them, reminding them to lock their car and to wear a face mask. This just so happened to remind him to put on a safety vest as well.
When the GM takes her seat in her office, she opens up the robot’s interface and takes a virtual tour around the facility. Since the robot’s introduction, there have been less verbal and written warnings issued from supervisors regarding safety policies.
In the manufacturing area, she links into a separate robot to see her team is wearing their safety gear and maintaining a safe distance from one another. She also sees there’s a delivery driver in a prohibited area, so she contacts the onsite supervisor to address it.
As the robot reaches the distant fence line at the back of the property, it stops for three minutes to observe, report and make its presence known, announcing, “This area is under surveillance. Trespassers will be prosecuted.” The GM then logs out of the software, confident knowing the robot will alert her or her team should the need arise.
Where in the World Are Being Used?
Aside from the fictional scenario displayed above, there are plenty of real-world examples of robots deterring crime across a wide range of industries:
- A major hospital network was experiencing, on average, two crimes per week in the parking lots of one of their main hospitals. After deploying a security robot, the crimes were eliminated, recording zero crimes in the following 12 months.
- After using a robot in the city’s largest public park, the Huntington Park Police Department in Los Angeles County recorded a 46% reduction in crimes and 68% reduction in citations in the first seven months.
- A commercial property in downtown San Francisco was averaging 20 crimes per month in its parking structure, including trespassing, vandalism and thefts. After incorporating a robot into its security program, just one crime in 12 months was recorded.
- A multifamily residential community in northeast Las Vegas was ranked among the top three complexes for 911 calls before deploying a robot. According to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, the community is now below the top 10 list.
These are simple cases of hardening the target with an entirely new method that highly motivates criminals to search for an easier victim elsewhere.
As IoT, edge-computing, 5G, machine learning and other advanced technologies continue to be developed and incorporated into their platforms, autonomous security robots will continue to advance in their capabilities. As their integration with access control systems, video managements systems, elevator controls and PSIMs expands, it is logical to expect the demand for them to continue to increase, perhaps even exponentially.
Another version of this article originally appeared on Campus Safety.