Future Headline: Security Robot Foils Heist

Yes, it is a future headline, but not that far in the future. Security robots are ready to deploy into art galleries, office buildings, and warehouses like the one operated by Cargo Air Services at JFK airport in New York. This was a warehouse just like thousands of other airport warehouses around the country, and these warehouses are storing literally billions of dollars worth of material.

Site of the November 12, 2012 iPad theft

Site of the November 12, 2012 iPad theft

The theft took place shortly before midnight on Monday, 12 November, 2012.  The warehouse was entered, and two pallets of new iPad Mini Tablets were loaded by forklift onto a waiting tractor-trailer rig. The theft appears to have been organized by an airport worker, who also acted as the ‘look-out’. The thieves got away with 3600 iPads, valued at 1.9 million dollars.  It could have been a bigger heist, the plan was to load three additional pallets of tablets, which would have brought the total value of the haul up to $4.7 million.

The heist was interrupted by some airport workers who, returning from their dinner break, encountered the robbers and challenged them. At this point the robbers fled with the loot that already had been loaded onto the truck.

The alleged heist organizer  was brought to police attention because he had apparently been asking his co-workers about the delivery schedule and about access to a forklift.

So, what does this have to do with robots?

If this warehouse had been protected by security robots, the heist would have come out very differently.  The thieves took advantage of the dinner break, picking a time when the warehouse would be empty, but robots do not take dinner breaks – so the warehouse would not have been unprotected. While the robot is on duty every moment of it’s shift is recorded. Detailed records of what the security robot ‘sees’ are logged off site. There would have been video images of the alleged perpetrators to review, and the robot would have raised an alarm as soon as it detected the movement of the thieves, as well as the forklift. (Not to mention it would have detected the heat of the forklift engine, and possibly the exhaust gasses.)  All of these activities would have generated alarms in the monitoring center, and airport security would have been dispatched to catch the gang in the act.

Mobile robot patrolling garage

The Vigilus Mobile Camera Platform Robot on patrol in a warehouse in Denver, CO. The security robot is manufactured by Vigilant Robots.

Of course, the thieves might have been sophisticated enough to attempt to disable the robot, either electronically, or by physical violence. In the case of violence, the robot would have gone down, but all the way to the floor it would have generated alarms, and made reports, so, again, airport security would have been dispatched. In the case of electronic disabling, the robot would have logged exactly when and by whom it was disabled, requiring the gang to have compromised a security officer in the command center to make the theft possible.

So, all in all, had the robot been at work we would have seen a very different outcome:

  1. The theft might not have even been planned, since the inside man would know that the security robot would be on duty.
  2. The attempt to disable the security robot before the robbery would have raised alarms before the theft could even begin.
  3. The security robot might have generated alarms at the start of the robbery, not after two pallets had already been loaded on to the get-away vehicle.
  4. The security robot would have provided high definition video of the thieves, so that today, almost a week after the robbery, we would know where the iPads were, and who was responsible.
  5. There would have been headlines across the country proclaiming:  “Security Robot Foils Heist!”

And, of course, it is not just warehouses that would be safer. Recall the Rotterdam art gallery theft a few weeks back. Hundreds of millions of dollars in artwork stolen, with nary a security guard in sight. They also should have had a security robot.

Where is your robot? Ours are being made right here in Colorado, by Vigilant Robots.

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  1. #1 by A.Birk on November 20, 2012 - 4:14 am

    A (possibly interesting) pointer to previous work on a security robot:

    Andreas Birk and Holger Kenn, RoboGuard, a Teleoperated Mobile Security Robot, Control Engineering Practice, 10 (11), pp. 1259 – 1264, Elsevier Science, 2002

  1. Future Headline: Security Robot Foils Heist « San Tan Heights Community Watch

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