Posts Tagged colorado robotics
“Okay, Bob,” Shelley said ” I think I get the idea of what this security robot can do. I’ll want to learn more about how it does it, but that can wait. What I want to know first is what is involved in putting one of these robo-officers to work?”
“I know, Shelley – you are worried that it will be really disruptive, or that you will have to change your current operations to get the benefits, right?”
“Exactly! Like many businesses we are running lean and mean, that means changes are risky – they could result in lost opportunities or cause the team to get out of sync. I can’t afford that,” Shelley replied.
“Well, let me tell you what is involved. It is a pretty simple process, and you are in a perfect position to move forward!
“How is that?” Shelley asked.
“Putting a security robot to work is usually a six step process, but since we just did a recent security review most of the hard work is already done. I told you that putting a security robot to work is a lot like putting a security officer to work, you have already got a head start.”
“Do you have a few minutes for another video?” Bob asked?
Shelley said “Sure, but we really should have made popcorn!”
Bob ran a short video about putting a robot to work:
“So you see Shelley, it is a six step process:
- Learn the Facility,
- Learn the Tasks,
- Verify Knowledge,
- Go To Work,
- Confirm Value
but, we have already done most of the first step.”
“Bob, I really like the focus on the value to my company. I sometimes feel that is the last thing many of my other vendors are thinking about. Let me see if I understand. The security robot is designed to do routine patrols overnight, when the building is locked up. On these patrols it is constantly scanning for possible problems – intruders, fire, smoke, leaking water…”
“Yes, but you do have to add option packages for some of those sensors,” Bob interjected.
“Right, but that is good because I can tailor the sensors to match my needs,” Shelley continued, “And if we get an alarm from the security system, we can dispatch the robot so that we know what is going on, before we have to call the cavalry. And we do this by giving the robot the layout of the building, and teaching it the various patrol patterns, as well as what conditions should cause it to generate an alarm. There is no tape on the floor, I don’t have to install beacons or barcodes or RFID tags all over the place.”
Bob smiled, “Exactly! The robot is designed to work like a human security officer – they learn what you want them to do and then they do it, over and over again.”
“And no vacations, no sick time, no coffee breaks! I like this idea. So, lets talk about the next steps….”
Shelley and Bob began Step 1 – planning how to get the maximum value from the new security robot.
Where is your Robot? – Contact Gamma 2 Robotics and put your new American made Vigilant security robot to work today!
It was a smallish show, as trade shows go. Only around 50,000 square feet of exhibits. It was kind of a cool show though – the Denver Mini Maker Faire. There were around 150 exhibitors, showing off bleeding-edge new technology alongside seriously retro-tech. A perfect environment for the use of autonomous mobile security robots.
The Vigilant robot wasn’t the only ‘bot there – not by a long shot. The difference was that the other robots were shut down, and would remain so until the show opened again at 9 am the next day. The Vigilant security robot was working. It was about half way through a 12 hour shift as part of the overnight security team. The facility is part of Denver’s National Western Complex, and this is the third event in the last 18 months for which Gamma 2 Robotics‘ robots have provided security. It is almost like coming home for the robots. Of course the exhibit layout was different – every show has its own layout. But it took less time to configure the robot for the new layout than it took the exhibitors to move in, so the robot was ready to roll long before the doors were locked for the night.
This morning (it’s around 2am) the robot is rolling past 3-D printers, air cannons, massive lasers, computer controlled sewing machines, CNC routers, and of course dozens of other robots; but as I said, they are here as displays, while the security robot is doing its job – mile after mile of dull patrolling. As it patrols, it scans for unexpected motion, high temperatures, boxes blocking aisles: the kinds of things that might indicate a potential problem, a potential intruder.
Last night was quiet, just like tonight will probably be. That’s one of the hardest things about the night security job. 99.9% of the time – nothing ever happens, and that is the core problem. It is really hard for people to stay focused, to stay vigilant, when there is nothing to focus on. That’s something computers and robots are good at. The Vigilant robot doesn’t care that it has been up and down this aisle every 10 minutes for the last 7 hours, or for the 12 hours last night. It still does its job of patrolling, observing, and reporting, because that is what is needed to protect lives and property.
For those of you who are numbers people, the robot patrols a 25,000 square foot area, and has four patrols configured. These range from covering the full exhibit area, down to a 5 minute detail scan of the ‘high value’ section. This area is only 8000 square feet but loaded with high tech. The robot is on duty for a 12 hour shift without needing any ‘down time’ for recharging. During its shift the Vigilant robot will travel around 8 miles. It doesn’t move fast – but it just keeps patrolling all night long: keeping its electronic sensors on all the high tech machines on display.
This show is loaded with cutting edge equipment. Between the 3-D scanners, 3-D printers, Laser engravers and loads of artwork, there is at least $250,000 worth of displays and technology here tonight. Next week it will be a different event with a different theme, but the same key problems – keeping the exhibitors and their property safe. But that is no problem for the security robot. It ‘knows’ what its job is and it just keeps patrolling, keeping things safe, Always Vigilant.
Where is your robot? Ours were at work protecting the exhibits at a major show in Denver.
Want More information about the Vigilant Security Robots? Here is our website.
I just looked at the thermometer, and it is reading -13 F. There are only a few inches of snow on the ground, but they cover a layer of ice. Back when I was working security, this would be the kind of night I would dread. While it is cold and snowy, that is not what I would be worried about. I would be worried about ‘the call’
Anyone who has done a stint as a security officer knows about ‘the call.’ Either you are on duty, thinking about going home to grab some shut-eye, or you are relaxing and enjoying your time off, or maybe you are at home, sneezing and coughing when the phone rings. It’s Bob, or Melanie, or Tracy; and their car won’t start, or the snow is too deep, or their kids are sick.
The list goes on, and on. The cause doesn’t matter, the result is the same. You are going to pull a double, or you are going to work an extra day – and you are not really ready, or happy.
But you have a job to do and you do it. You won’t be at your best, there is no way to do 16 hours without losing your edge, the cold meds will keep you going, but your judgement and stamina will be shot. However, it is better to have an officer on duty at 80% that to have no-one on duty at all. So you sigh, and pick up the phone, and say “Yeah, no problem – I got it covered.” And you really, really hope that it is an incident free night.
That is where the security robots come in. They don’t get sick, they don’t go home, they don’t get tired. As a security manager you know that they are always there, ready to go to work. They are not going to replace your well trained, highly motivated people – but they can decrease the load by taking on the really dull, boring tasks. And, in the case where you are faced with not enough warm bodies to cover all the positions. you can rely on cold steel ‘bodies’. If you run the risk of failing to meet a contract, you can drop off a robot, and put it to work in a few minutes, just tell the ‘bot where it is, and what to do, and it is on the job.
The security robot doesn’t care if it is in a cold and dusty warehouse for 12 or 16 hours. It doesn’t care if it has to do the same boring patrol over and over again. It stays focused, it stays alert, and it stays on duty – detecting problems like intrusions or motion, the fact that the furnace as gone out and the temperature is dropping, or that there are high levels of carbon monoxide or a hint of smoke. Reporting these problems via cell phone or wi-fi – so that the supervisors know about the problem in seconds and can respond. Because that is what the security task is all about – detecting problems, reporting conditions, and responding appropriately. Keeping people and property safe and secure.
So, before you get that feeling of dread, waiting for ‘the call’, look into a back-up plan and check out the possibility of putting security robots to work. After all, that’s your job – being prepared.
Where is your robot?® Contact Vigilant Robots today to schedule a demo, or learn more about the Vigilus-MCP Security Robot.
We undertook a tricky task – create a security robot that can do its job, on its own, for a full eight hour shift. Of course, the vast majority of those security shifts are boring and routine – in fact deadly dull. That is what makes them hard for a person to do well, and ideal for a machine. But security is really needed when things aren’t routine, when things stop being boring, when things go wrong. That is when you have to have intelligent, correct responses to the incident, and you have to have them now. Unfortunately, that kind of intelligent, situationally-aware response is exactly what machines are not good at.
Unless they have been designed from the ground up to provide that kind of response. To respond appropriately to an incident there are four key capabilities(1):
- The ability to detect a potential problem – Observe,
- The ability to recognize what is going on – Orient,
- The ability to determine the ‘appropriate’ response, and – Decide
- The ability to execute the response -Act.
These four capabilities must be resident in the robot, it can’t rely on having a human doing all the work, otherwise it doesn’t provide the force multiplier effect that is needed. After all, if you have to keep a person around the ‘drive’ the robot, you haven’t gained, you’ve actually lost. Instead of having a security officer doing his or her rounds, you now need a highly trained (and highly paid) robot technician on staff 24/7 just in case the robot has to deal with a security incident.
Let’s set the scene. A shopping mall in the middle of the night. Things have been quiet, as they usually are. About four hours ago, the security officer told the robot to run the normal night patrols for its entire eight hour shift. After that the officer was free to attend to other duties.
Now, if we were running an assembly robot in an industrial setting, that would be it. In that kind of tightly controlled environment all that is needed is a simple, fixed program because nothing is allowed to ‘disrupt’ the robots. But in a human environment, you can’t have that level of control. Unlike a robot, people never do the same thing twice in the same way.
So early in the evening the robot detected that a mop bucket had been left in a service corridor, and four things happened: The robot detected an obstacle, determined that it was a typical item, figured out how to get around the obstacle, and then executed the appropriate behavior. All in a nights work. Later, things get more complicated – and that is why the robot needs to be intelligent.
While the robot was on patrol, the security officer got a door alarm from near the loading dock. This could be nothing, or it could be trouble. She dispatched a command to the robot – “Stop the patrol and get to the East Loading Dock.” The robot now has to figure out the best way to get from where it is right now to the loading dock, and factor in the information learned during the shift. The most direct route would use the service corridor that is blocked by the mop bucket, so come up with the best clear path, and get moving!
At every moment the robot is in the loop: planning the best action, predicting the outcome, executing the action, comparing the results with the prediction, and then planning again. This allows the system to respond appropriately to the situation at all times. If it encounters another obstacle on the way to the loading dock, it has to know more than the fact that there is an obstacle. If this a box int the way, the robot just goes around it. But if this obstacle is an intruder the robot needs to behave completely differently, turning on strobes and sirens and sending an alert to the command center. There is no ‘one size fits all’ response – the correct action must be determined from the circumstances – just like a well trained human would do.
If a robot is going to work with people, and if people with critical jobs are going to rely on that robot, the robot needs to be intelligent and autonomous to hold up its part of the bargain.
Where is your robot?® Ours are made in the USA and are distributed by Vigilant 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.
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..
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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Here is a quick video of the Vigilus Mobile Camera Platform (MCP) robot on patrol.
“An early morning fire in a vacant North Tulsa store is a reminder cold weather is approaching. Around 4:30 Thursday morning fire crews responded to a small fire inside a vacant Piggly Wiggly store near Admiral and Harvard. On the scene crews say they had trouble getting inside the boarded up building, but once inside they found thick, black smoke and a homeless man. Firefighters interviewed him about his involvement and determined he started the fire to keep warm. They say he got into the building from a hole in the roof. He was also found with stolen copper, and tried to run away from police officers.”(1)
Fire officials around the country are gearing up for the expected increase in vacant building fires. Every year as the colder weather creeps south, the number of fires in vacant building increases. frequently caused by people breaking into the buildings for shelter, and starting fires for warmth – fires that all too often get out of control and cause significant property damage, injuries, and deaths.
This is so common, that many insurance companies automatically reduce the property damage coverage by as much as 15% if a building is considered vacant. According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association(2), in 2003-2006, U.S. Fire departments responded to an estimated average of 31,000 structure fires in vacant buildings per year. These fires resulted in $642 million in direct property damage per year(3) And more significantly, fires in vacant buildings are a leading cause of firefighter injuries.
In part, this is due to the fact that since the building is vacant, there is no-one around to detect the fire when it is still small and easier to control. In many vacant building fire reports there are the words “When the fire department arrived, the building was totally involved.”
In most cities, you can find security officers on duty in vacant buildings pulling ‘Fire Watch” shifts. Possibly the most boring and at the same time dangerous, shift imaginable. On patrol in a large, boarded up building checking for break-ins and watching for fire. Talk about a task that is dirty, dull, and dangerous – it is perfect for a security robot.
To increase the ability of our security robots to address this need, we have added our FireWatcher™ option package to the robots. This module adds dual channel smoke/gas detectors to our award winning robots, and integrates with the on-board thermal sensors. Cutting edge artificial intelligence software enables the robot to quickly and accurately assess the likelihood of a fire during its normal patrols. The key to saving the building is often getting there when the fire is still small, and by delivering the smoke/fire sensors to the fire, rather than waiting for the fire to grow large enough to be noticed by passers-by on the street.
Given the state of repair of vacant buildings, and late detection of fires, vacant building fires are a major cause of injuries for the fire fighters:
- Only 6% of all reported structure fires were at vacant buildings, but they accounted for 13% of the firefighter injuries incurred at structure fires.
- From 1998 to 2007, 15 firefighters were fatally injured at vacant building fires(3).
With a security robot on duty, break-ins can be detected sooner, the fires can be spotted earlier, the fire departments can arrive sooner, and they can have much better information about the fire before they go in, since the robot can relay video of the fire – without putting people at risk.
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Where is your robot?® Ours are on duty protecting lives and property, proudly made by Vigilant Robots, in the USA
(1) From Fox23.com October25, 2013 Tulsa, OK, USA http://www.fox23.com/news/local/story/Fires-in-vacant-buildings-other-hazards-will/RGuYQhCvAES_M8tQHWJ0jg.cspx
(3) Vacant Building Fires, National Fire Protection Association, April 2009
Robert looked at the client presentation deck, and thought: “This is good!” Then he looked at the time and thought: “11pm, this is not good.” He saved the files, shut down the computer, and carried his coffee cup into the small kitchen, and prepared to go home. He shut off the lights, turned on the security system, and locked up the building.
As he walked through the light snow towards his car, his phone buzzed with a text message. The security robot was reporting a high temperature in the kitchen area. The attached image showed the source: Robert had forgotten to turn off the coffee maker, and it was overheating. As he turned to go back to the office, he thought to himself how badly the client meeting would have gone, if there had been a fire over night.
Across town, in an older industrial area, a Vigilus(tm)-MCP robot is patrolling a vacant warehouse. It is one of two security robots that alternate twelve hour shifts in the building. The other robot had ended its shift 4 hours ago, and was docked in the recharge station(1)
The robots are tied into a wireless network that connects them to the Security Command Center 5 miles away. Scanning the door by the south loading dock with its sonars, the robot detects that the door is partially open, and sends an alarm to the SCC. The officer on duty looks at the video feed, and realizes that someone has pried the door open, probably to get in out of the cold. The officer instructs the robot to execute a ‘heat and motion’ patrol, and turns on the robot’s LED headlights to improve the video quality.
A few minutes later, the robot comes across a transient, apparently asleep in a corner. The security officer activates the flashers and pulses the siren to wake the intruder up. He uses the camera’s 2-way audio to tell the intruder to leave the building immediately, or the police will be called. In the meantime, the officer ‘wakes up’ the second robot, and dispatches it to the compromised door – the second robot will wait there scanning the door for any motion, until it is told to go off duty. It doesn’t matter that the company called to re-secure the door won’t get there until morning, the door is now protected. The other robot continues its regular patrols looking for problems.
Are these stories science fiction? No – they are stories illustrating how security robots earn their pay. even when that pay is little more than the electrical energy needed to power them. To stay up to date with the progress at Vigilant Robots, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
To learn more about other ways security robots earn their ‘pay’ check out our applications page.
Where’s your robot? Ours are made in the USA by Vigilant Robots
(1) The auto-dock station will be available in July of 2014
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.
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.
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!
For a security team the critical question is how to provide high quality security without breaking the bank. With an unlimited budget, the security manager would still face challenges, but the job of meeting the client’s needs would be easier. Unfortunately, an unlimited budget is not in the picture, and many clients see security as an expense that needs to be reduced. That means the security manager needs to provide high levels of protection on a diminishing budget. In short, do more with less.
How can a security robot help? The key is the nature of an autonomous security robot. It is capable of acting as a force multiplier. Unlike a robot that must be driven by a highly trained (and expensive) technician, an autonomous security robot can operate on its own. It can take care of routine security tasks, such as midnight shift patrols, freeing up the security officers to focus on the tasks for which human intelligence and judgement are needed.
At Vigilant Robots, we envision security robots as teammates, extending the capabilities of the existing security team. We see three major contributions:
- extending the range of the security team,
- extending the capabilities of the team, and
- extending the density of the security coverage.
Extending the range of the security team
Providing around the clock security is an expensive proposition. It can be challenging to hire, train, and retain qualified security officers. This is especially true when covering the midnight shift is concerned. While many clients would like to have constant patrols in their facility at night, they may not have the budget. Adding security robots to this shift is a powerful tool. The robots do not care if it is 3am or 3pm, they will do the same work. They do not get bored, nor are the reluctant to do the same patrol over and over. They are ideal for the “dead of night” tasks that must be done. This has the added benefit of freeing up trained security officers to be assigned to other shifts, where their skills and capabilities are more valuable.
Extending the capabilities of the security team
Since a security robot is an intelligent electromechanical system, adding additional sensors can extend the capabilities of the security team. A robot thinks nothing of being asked to take constant readings on its rounds. Where a human officer would have to be loaded down with devices to measure temperature, humidity, carbon-monoxide, explosive gas, etc., these options can easily be added to the security robot, and it will take and log these detailed measurements every few inches, if that is what the client needs. It will also generate immediate alarms if any readings indicate a problem.
Extending the density of the security coverage
What do you do when a security officer needs to be in two places at once? When she needs to be covering the lobby at the same time that there is a door alarm by the loading dock? Send the robot, of course! Since an autonomous security robot does not need to be driven around, it can be as easy as “Robot, go to the loading dock, notify me when you get there, and scan the east door.” That will cause the robot to put its current task on hold, figure out the best way to get to the loading dock, get itself there, and start relaying high definition video of the situation. Your security officer is virtually in two places at once. Or the robot could be told to cover the lobby and alert on any motion, while the security officer heads down to the loading dock to deal with the incident. Either way the effective security coverage is doubled.
Security Force Multipliers
We see a valuable role in the security industry for autonomous security robots. The technology is available, and the need is significant. Putting these robots to work can have multiple benefits including
- increased quality and coverage provided by the security team,
- increased responsiveness of the team, and
- more effective use of the available assets
And this can be accomplished in a cost effective, reliable way. We have a short white paper discussing this in more detail, for a free copy submit the form below.
Where is your robot? Ours are manufactured by Vigilant Robots, here in Colorado.