Dropping unemployment rate opens doors for Security Robots

As the US unemployment rate drops, it becomes harder to find people willing to do the dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs. With fewer people chasing more jobs, potential employees have more options in what jobs they take.  This has a strong impact on the physical security industry, since many of those jobs are seen as ‘less desirable,’ and typically wages for these jobs are driven by the customer’s perception of low value.  “After all,”  they think, “my security officer is just sitting around the warehouse at night. How hard can that be?”

Of course the reality is that you want someone doing more that ‘just sitting around’ if they are protecting hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory. You need someone who is focused, disciplined, and alert.  They need to be reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. But those people are now looking at day jobs, not the night shift; they are looking at jobs in an office with co-workers, not working alone in a cold, empty warehouse. With the September 2013 unemployment rate dropping into the 7% range, and showing a significant downward trend over the last three years, security managers are getting worried.

latest M09 unemployment data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

September 2013 unemployment data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where are they going to find the people they need on those night shifts; how are they going to keep trained, reliable security officers as the job market continues to get tighter? How are they going to bid on new contracts when they are having trouble filling the positions on their current contracts?

We are seeing a growing interest in using mobile, autonomous security robots to perform the really dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks in the physical security portfolio. The middle of the night shift, the vacant building patrols, the (extremely) boring fire watch shifts.  These are shifts where you really need disciplined, focused, alert eyes, ears, and noses on patrol. Constantly moving around, checking things out, and calling for help if there is a problem.  These tasks are ideal for a computer driven robot, because they require almost machine-like diligence and attention to detail; two areas where people often do not perform well..

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.

The tightening labor market will lead to a greater presence of robots in the workplace; not just the industrial settings, where they have been utilized for 50 years, but working alongside people in office buildings, data centers, event centers, distribution centers,  cultural centers, warehouses and other locations that have traditionally been staffed by people.

The key is making sure that these robots are both safe and effective when working with people.  You can’t require employers to change the business to fit the robots, you need to have robots that can change to fit the jobs.  This will require a whole new generation of robots, ones that are designed from the ground up to work with people.

But, as the available labor pool continues to tighten we will see more and more ‘job descriptions’ that can be met by robots, and we will see more and more robots in everyday life. Today we see many jobs that are viewed as ‘low end’ becoming strong candidates for robot workers, and the ‘midnight shift’ security job is one where the demand is high, and the requirements are almost designed for a robot. Security officers are trained to produce routine, structured, predictable responses to events and incidents: almost a definition of ‘robotic’ behavior.  So, rather than trying to force people to become more like robots – why not use robots that can do these ‘mechanized’ jobs?

Where is your robot?® Ours are busy protecting lives and property: Vigilant Robots

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  1. #1 by Sasha Cash on November 21, 2013 - 6:39 pm

    While most robots today are installed in factories or homes, performing labour or life saving jobs, many new types of robot are being developed in laboratories around the world. Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks, but on investigations into new types of robot, alternative ways to think about or design robots, and new ways to manufacture them. It is expected that these new types of robot will be able to solve real world problems when they are finally realized.

  2. #2 by gammatworobotics on December 5, 2013 - 8:31 am

    As a follow up – a month later the US unemployment rate drops further to around 7.1% opening more doors for robots!

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