Archive for June, 2013

Mobile Security Robot as Sensor Platform

One of the questions we get asked a lot is a version of “What can your robot do that my cameras can’t?” Of course there are a number of reasons why a security robot can provide better physical security than a fixed camera system (See: What’s a security robot got…)  In this post I want to talk about things beyond simple intrusion detection.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Vigilus(tm) security robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

If you have a security officer in your warehouse or data center at night you expect them to do more that just go through the motions of hourly patrols.  O.K., let’s be honest, for some of you it would be great if the security officer would do those hourly patrols reliably – how much do you spend on sophisticated “guard tour” reporting equipment?  But when your night patrols are underway, you expect your officer to pay attention.

Since the mobile security robot is patrolling the space, we can add a selection of environmental sensors to its payload. It always carries a thermal sensor and both records and responds to temperature as it travels.  That means that every morning the facilities manager can get a report on their desk with second by second records of the temperature in an area. More importantly, if the temperature varies by more than a pre-set amount, the robot will generate an alarm in real-time.  This enables the team to respond the problem before it becomes severe.  Typical uses include sensing and alerting on overheating servers in a data center, or a motor left running on a loading dock, or possibly even a coffee pot left on in the break room.

Graph showing recorded temperature with a trend line indicating an upward trend

Sample temperature report, prepared from room data collected by a Vigilus-MCP security robot

In addition to the second by second logging, the security robot/sensor platform can also detect trends before they become problems.  Over the course of an evening, it can provide data that indicates the temperature is increasing a few degrees every hour, and that if the trend continues it will overheat by 6 am.  This could go out in a text message long before midnight to the facilities manager, rather than as an emergency just before the stock market opens.

Another key capability is that the robot knows where it is when it is recording environmental data. So that temperature report could be formatted as a map showing areas where the temps run hot,  versus areas where it is running cold. If someone leaves a floor panel open in a data center when they go home at 5 pm, it can spell serious trouble for the servers that are no longer getting clean cooling air.  In an office setting, something as simple as an employee putting a box on that top shelf and blocking the air vent can disrupt a carefully balanced HVAC distribution system.  But not with the robot on duty.

And everything that can be done with temperature can be repeated for dozens of other environmental sensors – carbon monoxide, natural gas, smoke, explosives, in short – if they make a suitable sensor for it, your Vigilus security robot can be carrying it on every patrol, every night.  Try to get your security camera to do that!

Where is your security robot?  Ours are made here in the USA by Vigilant Robots:  Always Vigilant!

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It’s one a.m., do you know where your Security Robot is?

As I write this I am sitting in the lobby of the headquarters of an large international technology company.  It is one o’clock in the morning, and we are about half way through a pilot project for the Vigilus™ Mobile Camera Platform, an autonomous security robot.

Vigilus MCP security robot on Duty in Lobby

Vigilus MCP security robot on night patrol duty in the lobby

I just sent the robot off on its twenty-third patrol of the night, and I am listening to the silence. I am reminded of countless other night shifts, when I was working as a security officer. After six or seven hours on duty the dullness tries to take over.  It doesn’t matter how vigilant you are, the long boring hours can become mind numbing.  When I was a guard I tried to stay focused, looking for potential problems. Of course, since I was a student at the time, I also slipped in a lot of homework. But there is no denying that the boredom can easily lead to attention fatigue, and a loss of diligence.  That is the nice thing about security robots – they never get bored, they never lose focus, and they never decide not to patrol that long hallway to the storage room where nothing ever happens.  If they have a patrol to do, they do it every time. They are Always Vigilant.

Tonight the robot is simply patrolling the main floor of the building. The tasks of the night-shift security officer have been the same since the earliest human tried to stay awake and on guard against wild animals and other threats.  Then we watched the fire and patrolled the forest-edge; today we watch video monitors and patrol the building, but the job is pretty much the same.

Tonight is different however; I’ve put a robot on patrol, and told it to keep patrolling for an hour. I could have just as easily told it to spend the entire eight hour shift on this patrol, but I like to mix it up a little. So when it finishes this set of patrols, I will select another prepared patrol and send it off again.

The robot goes on its way, looking for problems like unexpected movement or things like obstacles that shouldn’t be there. It checks for people where people shouldn’t be, and scans for hot spots that might be a coffee pot left on. The security robot can check for carbon monoxide, leaking propane, or other hazardous gases.  It sends back video so I can get the robot’s eye view of the world. And one of the best things is that it just keeps quietly doing its job, unless if finds a problem.

Screenshot of Command Console with "intruder detected alarm"

Screenshot of Command Console with “intruder detected alarm”

If the security robot detects a problem it issues alarms and alert messages flash on my command console quickly grabbing my attention.  I can take control of the camera, or direct the robot to move to get me a better view, or, if other security systems alert me to a problem, I can tell the robot to stop the current patrol and get over to the trouble spot ASAP.  I don’t need to drive it, the robot will get itself there – allowing me to stay focused on responding to the incident.

Best of all, I can do this from anywhere. True, tonight I am physically on site, but I could be located half way around the planet, and still be ‘on site’ using the eyes and ears (and the more sophisticated sensors) of the robot. The Vigilus MCP security robot can work on its own, sending alarms to a monitoring station (or even directly to a cell phone) or it can be integrated into a traditional guard force – extending the reach, increasing the surveillance, and allowing security officers to be in two places at the same time.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes comes from the fact that the security robot never leaves the building.  So it is always available.  It never calls in sick, never has a daughter’s birthday party to arrange, never gets stuck at home in a blizzard or hurricane.  It is there when it is needed, and can come on line anytime to respond to an emergency or incident – whether it was scheduled to be on or not.  No more waiting for man-power to respond, just fire up the robot and the security manager instantly increases the assets available for the critical, timely response. Best of all, waking the robot up for an incident response doesn’t increase the cost of security – the robot gets no overtime, no holiday pay, it simply provides a higher level of security when you need it, where you need it.

So, it is one a.m. – do you know where your security robot is?

Where is your security robot?  Ours are made here in Colorado by Vigilant Robots

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