Posts Tagged Loss Prevention

The Robot and the Shoplifter

Steve arriving at work. Not an employee - a shoplifter.

Steve arriving at work. Not an employee – a shoplifter.

Steve barely glanced upwards as he strode through the doors of the local office retailer. He deliberately didn’t ‘notice’ the greeter at the shopping carts, Steve looked like he was a man on a mission. Not one of those laid-back shoppers, he gave the impression of someone who wanted to get in, get what he was looking for, and get out with the minimum hassle. And that is exactly the image he wanted to convey.

He didn’t look up at the security cameras in the ceiling, he had scoped those out on an earlier visit. So, he went straight back to the electronics section. He stayed away from the really high end products, instead he went to the mid-range stuff, under a hundred dollars, and hit the digital recorders, all sealed up in bulky plastic clam-shells, with RFID tags attached. He checked the locations of the clerks, blocked the view of the overhead camera with his body, and deftly slit the bottom of the clam-shell on his target. He didn’t remove anything yet, he just cut open the bottom of the package.  Then, with his hands clearly empty, he walked down the aisle to look at flash drives.  He sorted through a couple, while he waited to see if anyone was going to respond to his preparations.

At this point the hard work was done, he would just walk back, block the camera again, and with a quick twist, slip the recorder into his hand, and into his waistband; leaving the empty package and the RFID tag on the rack. Easy-peasey.  Then he’d shake his head, look disgusted and walk out – if anyone asked he’d explain that they didn’t have the model he wanted, and he would order it from the online store.

A robot on patrol

Security robots cannot be ‘socially engineered’ and stay focused on their assigned tasks.

Then things went wrong – wrong from Steve’s perspective. The Security Robot came around the corner of the aisle, and stopped – looking at Steve. It was about five feet tall, and moved quietly on rubber wheels. It had a camera on top pointed right at Steve. This camera was not in the ceiling several aisles away, it was within 10 feet and Steve knew that a perfect image of his face was already recorded. He also knew that he didn’t know anything about the other capabilities of this security robot. The fact that he didn’t know made the risks too high.

Was a facial recognition program already scanning through thousands of stored images, looking for him? He had heard that they did this in Vegas, and you would get busted before you made it past the door. Was the robot already radioing a human security officer, who would be waiting up front?  Could the security robot scan his pulse and respiration to detect his stress levels?  Steve just didn’t know, and not knowing was enough to stop his plan in its tracks.

Steve abandoned his plan to rip-off this store, and started walking towards the front. The robot rolled along behind him.  Was it following him even now? Steve simply didn’t know and that convinced him to move faster. As he left the electronics section, the security robot turned and went back on patrol. “That thing is just too damn smart,” thought Steve. And he mentally crossed this store off his ‘hit list’.  “Better safe than arrested,” he said to himself.

Theft from retail stores amounts to 35 million dollars a day according to some studies, and is a leading cause of losses to retail businesses. Hundreds of millions more are spent on theft resistant packaging, RFID tags, and other forms of theft prevention. But it is generally agreed that deterrence is the best solution – keep the thieves out in the first place.  We are working on our “Retail Loss Prevention” option package for our award winning security robots, to aid in the reduction of these types of thefts.


For more information about our advanced security robots, contact Vigilant Robots at 303-778-7400


Where is your robot?® Ours are made in the USA to reduce crime and keep people safe!

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Lose $75,000 in 18 minutes

That is what these property owners did, when a homeless man got cold and started a fire in their vacant building.

$75,000 gone in an 18 minute puff of smoke.

$75,000 gone in an 18 minute puff of smoke.

This is a risk that grows as the weather gets colder, but it also grows over time.  As people looking for shelter ‘scope out’ a vacant property, they become more comfortable with the risks of breaking in. I talked a little about this in a previous post on the risks of vacant buildings and how security robots can be used to mitigate the risk.


Where is your robot?®  Ours are working to keep lives and property safe!  Check out our website to subscribe to our newsletter.


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Security Robots as Force Multipliers

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:

  1. extending the range of the security team,
  2. extending the capabilities of the team, and
  3. 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.

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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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