As much as we promote the importance of the human element in security, how critical our cognitive abilities are in identifying and assessing threat … there is something just plain cool about robots. Robots have moved off the pages of novels and movie screens into our daily lives in a way many would not have imagined possible. I do not yet have an autonomous car, but my vacuum cleaner is a robot. It is built with technology that navigates the device from room to room, sensors that measure dirt and alert it to obstacles in its path, and more. It fulfills a straightforward mission that does not require the kind of analysis that so far, only we humans can manage. And it doesn’t get tired.
Indeed, the fact that a robot does not get bored and can work 24/7 (stopping only to recharge) is a big factor in its deployment. For a human security officer to do a really good job being alert and attentive to all possible indicators, especially in certain protected environments is mentally exhausting. Also, patrols often need to be conducted in miserable weather conditions whether it’s sweltering heat, torrential rain or freezing cold. Weather poses no problem for a robot, it slogs on.
Companies that build robots to conduct security have been around at least a decade but are on the rise. Two examples are Knightscope K5 and Patrol Bot. These robots can takes video and pictures, record audio with directional microphones, one has license plate recognition software onboard, can monitor environmental indicators like C02, the presence of smoke, and integrates with social media. Here’s the Knightscope ad:
Although promoted as able to predict and prevent crime, they are really like CCTV systems on wheels. These robots are clearly better at data collection than a human being would be. But the key is what is done with that data. The Knightscope 5K is offered as a service costing about $6.25/hour. Relative to typical security officer hourly rates, that sounds on its face like a good deal, right? Well, if a robot can supply additional data to human security personnel as an extension of operations, that’s great. But there is no way it can replace the cognitive ability, agility, discernment, intuition, skill and tool sets that we depend upon from well trained, professional – human – security officers. If my purse is being snatched in a parking lot, I want a human guard to come running, not R2D2.