Archive for March, 2014

Security Robots and The WTC Climber

The teenager was good, there is no question about his skills. He used both his physical dexterity and his social engineering skills to the max, and ended up standing on the top of the 1,776 foot tall, iconic, World Trade Center in the New York City night.

Justin Cosquejo atop one building while contemplating his next conquest - the World Trade Center in NYC. screen grab from twitter

Justin Cosquejo atop one building while contemplating his next conquest – the World Trade Center in NYC. screen grab from twitter

Given the extensive symbolic value of this building, and the likelihood of it becoming a major terrorism target, we need to ask “What happened to the security?”  And, perhaps more importantly, what can we do to prevent a repeat by someone less interested in accomplishment and more interested in destruction?

Unfortunately, for many aspects of the security officer’s job, people are not really suited to the tasks. Let’s look at this incident, and see what a difference a robot might make. As we know from the news reports, Justin allegedly first gained access to the site by climbing through a hole in the fence protecting the perimeter of the building site.

Failure #1: Focus

There were security officers responsible for perimeter intrusion detection, but on a complex and extensive building site things are constantly changing, and for a person that change can be overwhelming. So, slowly over time, the humans become numb to the changes, and numb to the problems.  Robots, with advanced artificial intelligence, never lose focus, and are designed to track details. An outdoor security robot tasked with perimeter patrol will continuously scan 24/7 and any potential breaches are reported immediately. They will continue to be reported on every shift, until they are fixed. Robots don’t care about the weather, or how many times they have looked at that part of the fence, they Patrol, Observe, and Report every time.

In this incident, From a CNN report:

Authorities said Justin Casquejo early Sunday allegedly climbed through a 1-foot opening in a fence surrounding the still-under-construction skyscraper, past “do not enter” and “no trespassing” signs and, apparently undetected, got to the scaffolding around the building and started climbing.

Failure #2: Social Engineering

Once he climbed the scaffolding, he gained access on the 6th floor.  Much of the security for operational building is focused on the ground floor and underground entrances, not a window 60 feet up the side of the building, but what happened next is a classic intrusion scheme, and it depends on people behaving like people.  Then Justin allegedly put on a hard hat and walked calmly to the tower elevator and pressed the up button. When the doors opened, and he saw that the elevator was occupied, he simply stepped in, like he was supposed to be there, and pressed the button for the 88th floor.

He rode the tower lift and, according to the New York Post, donned a hardhat to appear as one of the construction workers working on site. Casquejo was reportedly allowed on the elevator up to the 88th floor by a “clueless union elevator operator” despite not having proper identification. (from International Business Times)

People see what they expect to see, we can’t help it – our brains are hard-wired to make quick judgments on little data. Perhaps, the operator of the elevator saw a young person, self assured, looking like they were on a task for their boss, and thought no more about it.

Vigilant Security Robot exiting elevator

Vigilant Security Robot exiting elevator

Had there been a security robot in the elevator (yes, they ride elevators just like anyone else, at least ours can) it would have detected that a person got on the elevator and immediately scanned for an ID badge.  When it got no response from the RFID chip in the badge, it would have immediately sent in an alert.  Robots do not make assumptions, robots always verify.

But in this case, the operator saw what they expected to see, a young worker doing his job. If they didn’t see an ID it was just because it wasn’t in sight – not that the intruder didn’t have one.  So the intruder got off on 88 and climbed the stairs to the 104th floor, with just one more hurdle to jump.

Failure #3: Attention

I spent years as a security officer, and one of the biggest problems is staying attentive. Most days nothing ever happens: it is an amazingly, massively boring task to sit, 1000 feet up in a building waiting for something to happen.  It is so boring that one’s attention flags, one’s thoughts wander, and that is what an intruder counts on.

The stories vary, in some reports the security guard was asleep, in other reports the guard was described as “inattentive”. In either case that guard was suffering from attention fatigue, and his guard dropped long enough for the intruder to get through.

Robots never fall asleep, security robots never become inattentive.  At the first instant that the intruder’s motion was detected, the robot would have raised the alarm, and bells would have been ringing, beepers would have been beeping, and the entire security team would know that something was wrong up on the 104th floor.  The robot would have provided real-time video of exactly who was there, and what they were up to. And while the human members of the security team responded to the incident, the robotic member of the team would keep feeding information to the Security Operations Center.

And we would not be reading headlines about the Teenager who outwitted the security at the New York World Trade Center, and climbed to the stars.

Vigilus MCP security robot on Duty in Lobby

Vigilus MCP security robot on night patrol duty in Lobby

There are good, solid economic reasons that everyone is talking about robots taking away jobs. And there are good, solid reasons that the job of a Security Officer is near the top of everyone’s list. At Gamma 2 Robotics, we see security robots as part of the security team, the part that you can depend on to do the ‘dull, dirty, and dangerous’ tasks; and do those tasks consistently, reliably, and well.  In this case, it was only a teenager proving something to himself and the world. But what if it had been someone with a far more destructive agenda?


Where is your robot? Ours are out protecting property and lives.

For more information about Vigilant security robots contact Gamma 2 Robotics.


(1) Under development at Gamma 2 Robotics

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Robots invade ISC/West

Vigilant Security Robot exiting elevator

Vigilant Security Robot exiting elevator

Gamma 2 Robotics is packing up robots for the upcoming ISC/W security show in Las Vegas.  This is the home of what is new in security – and security robots are the future!

We will be running demonstrations of our security robots and showing off the newest modules, like our FireWatcher package for smoke and fire detection. Come by Booth 2122 and see the future of security!

 

 

If you would like a free exhibits access pass, send us a request using this form.


Where is your robot?® Ours are getting shipped to the ISC/west security show

For more information please visit Gamma 2 Robotics


 

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Robotics: Culture, Cost, and Capability

Over the last six months, robots have been everywhere.

Security robots and janitorial workers sharing the corridor on the night shift.

Security robots and janitorial workers sharing the corridor on the night shift.

Well, not literal robots, but the news, the web, the economic journals all have been talking about robots:

Robots have caught our attention.  But why, and why now?

I think we find ourselves at the corner (forgive the alliteration) of Cost, Capability, and Culture and all three of these combine to make robotics the enabler for the foreseeable future. In academic terms, they are both necessary and sufficient.

Cost

Cost is a big factor. When industrial automation was first available the cost of an arm ran as high as the equivalent of 10 years salary for an unskilled laborer. This made the payback/ROI a hard sell. Only when the cost dropped into the 2-3 year equivalent did industrial automation take off. To be fair for some specialized applications, the precision and safety were drivers, but for mainstream applications the cost was the driver.

Today, we are seeing robots being adopted outside the factory floor, and they don’t cost $250K, or even $100K – service robots are in the $20K to $75K range, due to the availability of low cost components and, interestingly, the cost savings from robotic manufacturing. So the ROI drops to 1 to 2 years for many jobs that can be automated.

Capability

That brings us to the second ‘C” Capability. Over the last 10 years there have be major strides forward in the ability of the software to control an autonomous robot alongside people. As you probably know, in industrial automation the robots are kept behind cages and wire walls – because it is not safe for people to be around them. It was in 1979 that the first human worker was killed by an industrial robot. Since then OSHA and other regulatory agencies have tightened the restriction on allowing people near industrial robots.

Today, the software and control theories have made it possible to safely interact with these robots, and the robots have enough brain power to reason about the world and complete complex tasks, such as security, bar-tending, and so on. Without the capability to do these tasks well, we, as a culture, will simply not accept them. As I have said in an earlier post “Robots must earn their pay

Culture

So here is the final ‘C’: Culture. Over the last 20 years or so we have seen a growing acceptance of robots in the culture. More and more movies (what better indicator of cultural memes?) feature friendly robots (Wall-E, Johnny-5, R2D2, the good Transformers) instead of evil robots bent on world domination. People are starting to look at robots as helpers, assistants, and useful tools.  At Gamma 2 Robotics we ask people Where is your robot?® and they are not frightened, they are excited by the prospects.

Tomorrow’s Robots Today

So all three C’s are coming together: The robots now have the capabilities to do the tasks we want them to do; the robots are becoming available at a cost point that makes it economically feasible to put them to work; and as a culture we are now looking for them to do the jobs.

We are on the cusp of major changes in how we work and how we work with robots. Google, Amazon, and Apple are all leading the way, but it is the small companies that are producing the robots that are going to change our world.  Will there be hiccups along the way, yes there will. But the world of tomorrow is going to be built by robots doing the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs.


Where is your robot?® Ours are hard at work making the world a better place.

For more information check out Gamma 2 Robotics or call +1-303-778-7400


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You Lying Weasel

What do you trust more, what you are told or what you actually see?

The 4ft tall security robot points its top-mounted camera at the surface of a workstation.

The Vigilant security robot responds to a secure remote request to relay an image of the desktop.

For most people the answer is simple: you trust your senses. If you look out the window and it is raining, you believe that it is raining regardless of what your spouse, your best friend, or some guy at the weather station tells you.  This is a capability we develop as we mature. As kids we believed what we were told, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, “This won’t hurt.”  We trusted what we were told until we gained more experience, until we learned better.

This ability to trust our senses is critical in the complex, ever-changing, and uncertain environments that we think of as normal.  We have to guess what is around the corner, then react quickly when we see that our guess was wrong. We make plans based our our predictions about the future and have to re-plan when we see what the situation is really like.  This is how we get through the day, get through our lives.

At Gamma 2 Robotics, we build robots. Unlike an industrial robot working away tirelessly in a controlled space in a factory, our robots work alongside people in human environments. To do so they need to trust their senses.  Most robots simply do what they are told to do, they don’t think, they don’t reason, they just follow orders.  And they trust.

Auto assembly line with robots

Auto assembly line with robots

This leads to potential problems. The case of robot welder that ‘trusted’ that the space around it was clear, so it swung it’s heavy arm in an arc, killing Robert Williams in 1979; the first recorded death by robot.

At Gamma 2 value safety, and that means that our robots trust, but in the words of the late president Reagan, our robots “trust, but verify”  So, if you tell one of our robots that the path in front of it is clear, and it can move forward, it will trust, but verify that there are no obstacles in the way, and verify the path dozens of times a second as it moves.

This month we added a significant capability to our robot’s skill set.  It used to be that, if we were in a hurry, we could lie to our robots.  We might be at a location like a conference or a trade show.  And to speed things up, to make it easier for us to demonstrate a capability, we would tell the robot that it was really back in the lab. The robot would trust, and follow our instructions perfectly, even though we were not in the lab at all.  That all changed this month, as we upgraded the artificial intelligence of the robots.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Now the robots look around, they compare their sensory information with the expectations of what they should see, if they were really back at the lab.  And, if it is clear that we did not tell the robot the truth – the robot will not believe us, it will do its best to figure out where it really is, to prevent any unsafe behavior.

The robot will trust, but if it cannot verify – it might say “You told me we were in the lab, but we are not! You lying weasel!”


Where is your robot? Ours are keeping people and property safe!

Learn more at Gamma 2 Robotics or call +1 303 778 7400 for information.


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Robot attends Entrepreneur Conference as Guest

14Mar The Silicon Flatirons group from the University of Colorado, Boulder will host

Vigilus MCP security robot on Duty in Lobby

Vigilus MCP security robot on night patrol duty in Lobby

“SciFi and Entrepreneurship – Is Resistance Futile?” One of the attendees will be a robot from Gamma 2 Robotics. The focus of the event is the close relationship between science fiction ‘predicting’ the future, and the entrepreneurs that ‘create’ the future.

As an avid reader of Science Fiction, a technologist, and an entrepreneur – I am looking forward to the discussion about how these all play together. I am especially happy that one of our advance mobile robots will be attending the conference.  But not as a display or a demonstration, the robot will be an attendee.

Part of the discussion will include the role of artificial intelligence and robotics. Learn more about the Conference and the robot

It is not clear if the robot will be allowed to ask questions of the panelists!


Where is your robot?®  Ours are expanding boundaries and protecting property and lives.

To learn more visit Gamma 2 Robotics


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