Posts Tagged robotics

A Tale of Two Break-ins

It was the best of heists, it was the worst of heists.

The victim is E-Cigarettes Wholesale, and they supply ‘e-cigarettes’ to almost 1200 retailers nation-wide. As a result, they warehouse  hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of easily sellable, high demand products.

The best of heists!

The thief broke in through the wall from the adjoining tenant space.

The thief broke in through the wall from the adjoining tenant space.

This is what actually happened on the evening of Sunday, June 15th in Dania Beach, Florida, USA. At around 6pm, a thief breaks into an auto repair business in a multi-tenant building on Tigertail Boulevard. The auto shop doesn’t have much in the way of security, but the e-cig warehouse next door does.  They do everything right – cameras, door sensors, passive IR motion detectors covering the access points, covering the windows, covering the doors.

The thief knows this, the theory is that he had checked the place out on an earlier visit. So, he doesn’t come in through the doors, or the windows. He breaks in through the common wall from the auto repair shop next door. He cuts a hole through the two layers of dry-wall and goes to work. He stayes away from the PIR motion detectors around the front of the warehouse, and as a result no alarms are sent to the monitoring center.

The cameras catch almost every move he makes, they dutifully record the thief for almost six hours as he loads over $300,000 worth of product into his truck, parked in the auto shop. The video record will be great, after the fact, but tonight they just silently record.

The thief makes around fifty thousand dollars an hour for tonight’s work.

The first thing anyone knows of the break-in is Monday morning, long after the thief is gone, long after the merchandise is stolen.  It was the best of heists.

The Worst of Heists

Let’s roll the cameras back to the Sunday afternoon, and make one change. The thief still shows up at six pm, and breaks into the auto repair shop next door. He still pulls in his truck and gets to work tearing down the dry-wall between the two businesses. He knows where the motion detectors are, since they are mounted to the walls. What he doesn’t know is where the security robot¹ is on its nightly patrol.

Because this time, the manager has added a mobile security robot to his security system. It goes to work when the manager closes up shop and sets the alarm. It patrols the warehouse area, looking for motion, looking for intruders all night long, all weekend² long. And when it detects a problem, it doesn’t just record the video – it sends the alarm into the monitoring center. It also checks for smoke, fire, high humidity, but tonight that doesn’t matter.

Robot patrolling a receiving dock, looking for intruders and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling a receiving dock, looking for intruders and monitoring changing temperatures.

So, when the thief breaks through the last layer of dry-wall and looks into the darkened warehouse, he sees the flickering blue light of the robot on patrol, he sees the red glow of its sensors as it moves across the warehouse floor, and he knows that this break-in is not going to go well. The robot detects the intruder and immediately sends an alert to the monitoring center. It activated its high intensity LED headlights, and transmits close-up, well lit, high definition video of the thief as he pulls his head back through the hole in the wall, and scrambles for his truck, empty handed. The police have already been dispatched to the warehouse, but the robot has done its job, the business owner’s livelihood, his inventory, is safe.

So at worst, the business owner needs to repair the wall, rather than try to replace nearly half a million dollars worth of stock. She doesn’t have to call up her best customers and tell them they are out of luck, they are not going to be able to restock their shelves for a while.

Actually, it is even simpler than that. When the thief was checking out the warehouse last week – he saw the sign in the front window “Protected by Security Robots” and he decided to take his business somewhere else, someplace less well protected.

It was the best of heists,
it was the worst of heists,
it was the age of static security,
it was the age of mobile security robots…..


Where is your Robot?™  Ours are helping businesses stay in business.

Learn more about the Gamma 2 Robotics line of Security Robots, and see if one is right for your critical security needs. If you want to discuss how easy it is put put a security robot to work, give us a call at 303-778-7400

  1. The robot is described with several option packages installed
  2. Requires the optional self-charging docking station, available in September of 2014


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The robotics revolution is already started

WLMA robot in a home setting

WLMA robot in a home setting serving tea

Check out this great article from Bax & Williams:

It reads, in part, “we argued that whilst Bill Gates’ famous prediction hadn’t quite been realized thus far, we were fast approaching a tipping point for an age of robotics.”

One critical aspect of the Robotics Revolution is making sure that robots can work alongside people.  Industrial robots completely changed manufacturing, lowering Cost of goods Sold (COGS) and increasing quality.  But these robots are not safe around people; hundreds of workers are injured every year in industrial robot accidents.  Our security robots are designed ‘from the ground up’ to be safe around people – we even use them to serve food at parties!

Just this week, Dyson added itself to the list of global companies investing in robotics!  Check this article.

We are currently doing additional tests in a office building in Denver, CO. With robots running up and down the hallways along side the people working in the offices. To find out more about our testing give us a call +1 303-778-7400, or check out our website.

More to follow,

Where is your robot? Find out more info at Gamma 2 Robotics

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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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“The Call” – security robots and staffing shortages

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.

Tired security guard getting the call.

The Call

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.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

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.

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The Loop in the 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 OODA loop pioneered by John Boyd

The OODA loop pioneered by John Boyd

  • 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.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

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.

For more information, check out our monthly newsletter, or contact us.

(1) Based on the OODA Loop. pioneered by fighter pilot John Boyd in the 1950’s

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Robot Should Love the Senate’s New Minimum Wage Bill

The new minimum wage bill in the senate is very pro-robot!  At the same time that it raises the minimum wage to $10.00/hr – it gives tax credits to businesses that add technology.  The result – fewer (expensive) human workers and more (free) robotic workers.  I touched on this in a previous post, but here is the link to the recent Atlantic article.

Today, it costs between $40,000 and $60,000 to cover an eight hour night security shift, 365 days a year.  This is the industry estimated, fully loaded (taxes, FICA, vacations, etc.) cost, depending on area. With a $10.00/hr minimum wage, that changes to $55,000 to $85,000 per year.

Today, you can buy a fully loaded mobile security robot for under $50,000, and put it to work ten to twelve hours a night, 365 nights a year.  Given the tax credits in the new bill, you would get the robot for free!

Robots should love the senate’s new minimum wage bill – if they were programmed for love.

Where’s your robot?® Ours are ready to go to work, made in the USA by Vigilant Robots.

Check out our monthly newsletter to stay on top of new developments in security robots.

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Brick-laying robot on the job site in Victor NY

As we develop robots with more capabilities we find more and more jobs outside the factory floor that can be handled (in part) by robots.

Construction Robotics' brick-laying robot SAM, or the Semi-Automatic Mason, places bricks on wall of new construction in Victor. / KATE MELTON

Construction Robotics’ brick-laying robot SAM, or the Semi-Automatic Mason, places bricks on wall of new construction in Victor. / KATE MELTON

Check out this video of the Semi-Autonomous Mason (SAM) brick-laying robot at work!  3000 bricks a day!

It only does part of the job, and requires supervision as well as the human touch to follow up.  But it means that a mason can produce more and better work by working with the robot as a tool, than working alone.

As I discussed in an earlier post Robots need to ‘earn their pay’ to be effective. This often means taking over the dull, dirty, or dangerous parts of a job, to enable the people to focus on what people do best.

Where is your robot?® Ours are proudly made in the USA by Vigilant Robots

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Brother, can you spare a dime – for a robot?

In many ways, the state of robotics in the first part of the 21st century is a lot like the state of automobiles in the first part of the 20th century:

'97 Winton, loaded down with six occupants

This car set a record for carrying 6 occupants around a 1 mile track at 33 MPH

  • There weren’t a lot of cars,
  • Cars didn’t do very much,
  • Cars were mostly a status symbol, and
  • Cars required a full time technician to keep them running.

But cars had the promise of being useful, the promise of changing the very fabric of our lives. And, little by little they were adopted. It is hard to imagine now living without cars and trucks.  We depend on them to move us about, deliver our food, move raw materials to the factories and the finished products to our stores. Our cities literally would collapse if cars and trucks were to vanish in the blink of an eye.  Will it be the same for domestic robots?

Since the 1950’s we have been enthralled with the idea of domestic robots. Whether it was in outer space or here on earth, robots have featured prominently in science fiction, popular movies, and television shows. In many cases these robots worked around the house, making lives better.

In a recent survey, 41% of respondents said that they would be willing to get a loan to pay for a domestic robot. Provided that it was useful. What defined useful?  Well there was quite a laundry list (speaking of which, laundry was on the list).  Topping the list was carrying heavy things around the house, and providing home security. These are key benefits that Gamma Two Robotics also identifies, especially for the age-in-place and home assistance markets.

a living room with a robot entering, carrying a tea pot.

Gamma Two BSL series robot, delivers tea.

In addition were requirements  like:

  • house cleaning
  • acting as a reminder system
  • baby sitters, and assistance for the elderly

Over all, 68% of the respondents indicated that they thought a domestic robot could be useful, and only 29% said that they would not consider buying a robot, even if it provided service.  This is absolutely in line with a number of studies that have been released lately. In one, kids were asked to describe the world they would inhabit when they were adults. Across the board, this world was populated by friendly, companionable robots. In another study, school kids describe the robots acting as teachers, helping them with math, and homework, as well as being a companion.

Our vision is to create a world in which people live better lives, assisted by affordable. reliable, helpful robots. This will only work if people actually want robots in there lives, so all of these surveys are reassuring. But the robots have to be useful.  If they are not making lives better, they are great as status symbols, they might be excellent conversation topics, but they won’t really be helping.

So I applaud those people who say “Yeah, I’d consider getting a loan to pay for a service robot.”  But I really applaud those people who say “But, it can’t be a toy; it has to be useful.”

Where’s your robot? Ours are being built by Gamma Two Robotics, here in Colorado

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Sure it’s a robot, but can it do a day’s work?

The ‘security officer’ started work a little early, and did a quick review of the previous day’s log reports. It is important to maintain situational awareness to do a good job.

Autonomous robot on patrol in a parking garage is detouringaround a parked vehicle

Gamma Two's Mobile Camera Platform security robot detours between a parked car and an opened gate, without relying on human assistance.

As expected, the patrols started on time, one doesn’t want to keep anyone waiting.  On the first garage patrol, the ‘security officer’ confirmed that someone had left a large box outside the parking space of Unit 7. This had been reported in the previous log,  and it shouldn’t block any traffic in the garage, so there was no need to report it to the Security Command Center (SCC). Over the course of the eight hour shift the ‘security officer’ covered just over three miles and completed 58 patrols of the parking garage. Over 20 vehicles entered or left the garage, and on two occasions, when cars blocked the traffic flow, they were reported to the SCC; but no additional action was required.  All in all, it was a routine day, except that the ‘security officer’ on this shift was a Gamma Two robot, and instead of going home when its shift ended, the robot was plugged in to recharge.

As simple as it sounds, this is a critical milestone for robots. This is a robot that can actually do a day’s work. It can go on-duty alongside human workers and it can do its job for a complete shift. It doesn’t require pampering or a special environment. And most of all, it doesn’t require an operator. If a robot requires constant attention, what value is it providing?  In some environments (such as dirty or dangerous areas) there is a value in having the robot in the environment rather than the human, even if the robot is being manually controlled.  But to become an effective co-worker, the robot needs to do its job on its own, autonomously.

And just like their human partners, a robot cannot just work for five or ten minutes. It has to work all day, every day. This is where a lot of robots fall down on the job. In an earlier post Projects versus Products, I looked at why lab projects grab the headlines, but never seem to make it out of the lab. Helen Greiner, in a recent “New Scientist” article also wrote about “Time for Robots to get Real”. Again the focus is on getting the job done, day in and day out.

That is hard to do.  It’s not that hard to handle the really routine stuff, the long boring patrols where nothing happens; but to be useful the robot also has to handle the odd things that show up once in a while. Like the car that cuts the robot off. Apparently the driver thought the robot was going to steal the parking place, go figure.  But the robot ‘saw’ the car, did an abrupt stop, reported the incident over the wireless network along with a high resolution image of the event to the SCC.  And then the robot went back to work, because that’s what you do when it is a job.  Sure, there are situations when the incident is ‘above your pay grade’. Then you pass it up the chain of command and let the boss tell you what to do, or take care of it herself.

But, for the routine, day to day stuff, you have to take care of it yourself. After all, that’s what they are paying you for.  Or, in the case of the robots, that’s what they are recharging you for. It’s your job.

Where’s your robot?  Ours are being built at Gamma Two Robotics

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“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”

There is a scene in the film “The Graduate”, in which the protagonist, Benjamin, is getting unsolicited advice about his future from Mr. McGuire:

I have just one word to say to you...

I have just one word to say to you…

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

I was thinking about this last week, when I was attending a meeting of the Colorado Robotics Association. This is a relatively new organization, they will celebrate their one-year mark in April, and it is made up of business people, engineers, and academic researchers who focus on robotics.  What I find most amazing is the number of institutions and individuals involved in robotics in Colorado. At this meeting there were 23 individuals, representing 17 different institutions, including the major universities, companies renging from the very large, to small start-ups.

There was a palpable energy in the discussions that ran around the breakfast table. Yes, all these people got together for breakfast at a local restaurant.  People were generating ideas faster than they could be written down, and when the meeting separated into smaller brainstorming groups, the noise level exploded. The focus of the meeting was a brainstorming session for raising the general awareness of the size and activity level of the robotics industry in Colorado. There was a secondary focus on how to take advantage of the synergy between the various institutions and businesses.   I heard a robotics start-up company meeting a company that specializes in developing production models out of prototypes, a professor teaching robotics discussing ways to help promote the upcoming BEST competitions.

And that is when it hit me.  “Plastics.”

It is hard to remember, and for many people, they never experienced this, but 60 years ago, there were only a few plastics available. And many of these had significant trade-offs in appearance, strength, and durability. However, as Mr. McQuire observed, the plastics industry was going to revolutionize modern industry, and massively expand the range of products. Incidentally, it was also going to make a lot of people a lot of money in the process.  More recently, it was like sitting around when there were a handful of personal computer manufacturers, and the machines really didn’t do very much. But, the energy and excitement fuelled the promises, and look at where we are now. Incidentally, the personal computer market was also going to make a lot of people a lot of money in the process.

The robotics industry, at least here in Colorado, is poised on the runway, ready to take off. The technology is moving out of the labs and into products, the synergy between the numerous companies and the academic labs is high. From the conversations I heard at the Colorado Robotics Association, robotics is also going to make a lot of people a lot of money. So, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.


Where’s your robot?  Ours are being built by Gamma Two Robotics here in Colorado

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