Posts Tagged security

G4S and Security Robots: thumbs up, thumbs down

G4S, the world’s largest provider of security officers, announced that they have a security robot patrolling their offices. Way to go!

Thumbs Up: University of Birmingham

The students at the University of Birmingham should be justly proud of their accomplishment. We know how hard it is to develop a security robot to patrol complex spaces like offices and warehouses – after all we’ve been doing that for almost five years.

Also Kudos to G4S – they are thought leaders in the security field, and they are moving forward by participating in a $12.5 million 5 year project to develop security robots.

The security robot is on patrol in a high tech exhibit area. Protecting hundreds of thousands of dollars of exhibits overnight.

The security robot is on patrol in a high tech exhibit area. Protecting hundreds of thousands of dollars of exhibits overnight

Thumbs Up: G4S

The industry knows that the world needs 21st century security, and G4S is stepping forward. This pro-active step by G4S to address the increasing challenges of the physical security industry is a praiseworthy one. In February of 2014, Mark McCourt – publisher of Security Magazine, said in an editorial: “Look out Securitas, G4S, AlliedBarton… get on board with robots functioning as security officers.”  G4S is moving into the future.

As the costs of training,  ACA, and minimum wages continue to grow; and as the demands for increased physical security push the limits of the available workforce – something will have to change. G4S_UK is in the leadership position of defining the future of security by taking active steps today.

Thumbs Down: Gamma 2 Robotics

At Gamma 2 Robotics, we clearly deserve a thumbs down for not doing a better job educating the market about the value of using security robots as the newest tool to augment your existing security programs.

As a small hi-tech start-up robotics company, G2R hasn’t shouted loud enough to catch the attention of the major security providers with its commercially viable security robots ready for action.

With a $4.00/hr. cost to operate, Gamma 2 Robotics provides a new alternative to the traditional security officer.  These robots are tested, reliable and ready to operate completely ‘hands free’ in your customers’ warehouses, data centers and commercial buildings.

They say the best day in the security business is when nothing happens – our robots are wide awake and focused while they keep patrolling night after night in the dark during all those dull and boring assignments. But rest assured if something does happen they will be ready to respond with timely accurate incident notifications.

So, give me a call and put a robot to work on your security team.

Where’s your Robot?™  – Ours are ready, willing, and able to got to work for you tonight!

Contact Gamma 2 Robotics, or call +1.303.778.7400 today.



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Data Center Security and Robots

I ran across a nice article in Data Center Solutions about “Getting physical with data centre security

It is a good summary on the benefits of using a Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) system to provide integrated detection and response capabilities to improve the security of data centers.  It also pointed out one of the limitations of the current approach.  The reliance on layered perimeter security is spot on, but frequently the internal security is less rigorous.  Once a person has been vetted by the perimeter security, they are often allow free access to the interior – after all they have ‘passed’ security.

Vigilus MCP security robot on Duty in Lobby

Vigilus MCP security robot on night patrol duty in Lobby

It is much like the security at most airports, once you are through the security lines, you are free to move about the space.  In an earlier post on “guarding the cloud” I suggested several ways in which the use of autonomous mobile security robots can be used to increase the level of security inside the data center.  After all every bit of information in ‘the cloud’ has to reside on hardware somewhere – and that information needs to be protected.

Where is your robot?®  Ours are manufactured here in the USA to protect lives and property.

For more information, contact Vigilant Robots, or subscribe to our monthly 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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Vigilus Security Robot in the News

Vigilus MCP security robots were on display at the World Trade Day 2013 event in Denver, CO yesterday.

Here is a quick link to the news coverage: For more information about our products check out our website, or use this form:

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My co-worker is a robot!

At Vigilant Robots we make security robots. When I talk to people about putting robots to work, one of the first comments I hear is something like: “Won’t these robots put people out of work?” In part that is driven by the impact of industrial robotics on assembly line workers, in part it is driven by a vision of robot’s capabilities that maybe exaggerated (see my earlier post on the Mythical Robot).  My answer is that robots are far more likely to become co-workers than competitors for most jobs.

Robots as assistants

It is going to be a while before you call for a plumber and a robot shows up at your door to fix the pipes, or your robotic housekeeper keeps your house de-cluttered, swept and vacuumed, and puts your laundry is put away.

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.

However, what you might see in the near future is the plumber arriving with a robot that precisely cuts and aligns the pipes, or a cleaning service that puts an autonomous vacuum cleaning robot to work in the living room, while the human dusts and straightens up the bedroom.  In both cases the jobs will be done more quickly, and potentially better, but the robots will be co-workers not competition. Or, in our own business – you might see a security robot patrolling the parking garage keeping the employees safe, while the human security officer is helping someone in the lobby, or by the loading dock.

Job Displacement

This does mean that there will be displacements and jobs lost to robots. If a plumber working with a robot assistant can do twice as many repairs in a day as a plumber working alone, there will be a need for fewer plumbers. If a cleaning service can do twice as many houses a day, there will be cleaners who are put out of work. This is an inevitable result of the introduction of new technology. In the late 1800’s if you wanted a clean house, you probably had a full time housekeeper. Then along came the electric sweeper, then the vacuum cleaner, the automatic dish washer, the clothes dryer, and so forth.  Now, if you want to hire it out, you might have someone come in for a half a day each week. Over the last hundred years, tens of thousands of maids, house-cleaners, and ‘daily help’ have been put out of work. But it was not as wholesale lay-offs, in spite of futurists predicting two billion people out of work.

Social Acceptance

The drivers of acceptance will not be the new technology, as always the drivers will be social. For an example, look at automobiles. The automatic transmission was one of the first technological upgrades to the automobile. Introduced in the early 1940’s, it was met with skepticism, uncertainty, and reluctance.  How could a machine do a better job than a trained human, can I trust it to put the car in the right gear?  It took over a decade for automatics to outsell manuals, and as late as 2006, it was reported that up to 15% of buyers still want manual transmissions.  If it takes decades for a simple upgrade like an automatic to become accepted, how much longer to build trust and acceptance for a disruptive change like robots.

Trust is key

When it comes to security robots, trust is key. If you have the responsibility of providing security for your customers, you cannot take any chances. So why do we focus on security? The security job is a tricky one that requires a complex mix of judgement, attention to detail, boring repetition, and constant vigilance. To become a good security officer requires meeting stringent requirements, undergoing significant training, and applying a complex skills base.  You have to be willing to work long hours doing routine tasks, punctuated by short, stressful incidents. It was one of the 20 most dangerous jobs in the US in 2010, and the pay is not great.  So it is challenging for security companies to hire, train, and retain good employees – but they need those employees today.  As they gain trust in security robots, they will put them to work. The robots will not do the parts of the job that require human intelligence, judgement and empathy; no, the robots will do the dirty, dull, and dangerous parts of the job. This will free up the human security officers to do what they are best at: providing top notch security, backed up by top notch technology.

Where is your robot? Our award winning security robots are being made right here in Colorado, by Vigilant Robots.

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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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Robots Guard the Cloud

“The cloud” calls up images of ethereal, nebulous data that is just out there, somewhere; but every byte in the cloud exists on a hard drive, in a data center, and physical objects require physical security, twenty-first century security.

Inside a data center

Up to 28% of data center breaches involve physical access. Does this person belong here?

You can drive past a data center and not even know it is there. It might be a warehouse-looking building set back from a two lane highway, or an old factory in an industrial part of town still showing a faded sign for “hand crafted furniture”. But inside that building is a part of the cloud. Gigabytes of data flowing in and out every second, petabytes of data on servers in secured computer rooms behind layers of access controlled doors. And part of that layered defense system inside that building may be security robots.

By some estimates there are upwards of 45,000 large to medium size data centers scattered around the US, providing the core of the cloud. And every week we hear about another compromised data system. In the last month, the State of South Carolina, Twitter, and Facebook have been breached. While these attacks involved electronic access, it is reported that 14% to 28% of the data breaches result from physical access to the data center. That is why the cloud needs twenty-first century robotic security.

A robot on patrol

Security robots cannot be ‘socially engineered’

The security job is often a  lonely job, with boring “make work” tasks included to fill the time. People are not at their best doing lonely, deadly dull tasks. We get bored, we get inattentive, and we can be exploited. Of the physical access breaches, about 25% involve some form of social engineering attack, preying on that very human boredom. That is why your cloud data, your critical business information, your modern life needs to be protected by security robots. Security robots never get bored. Security robots cannot be blackmailed, extorted, or tricked into giving unauthorized people access to the computer room. The robots will check every location, every time, time after time – no matter how dull the task is. They also patrol the space and check for over-heating equipment, excess humidity, and other environmental problems – and report these to the humans on duty accurately and consistently.

The cloud operates 24/7 with high reliability and must meet the highest standards of access control and security. It must handle routine transactions as diligently as the life critical transactions. It needs physical security that meets those same high standards. The cloud needs security that is always focused, always alert, always vigilant.

Where is your robot? Ours are being manufactured in Colorado, and sold by Vigilant Robots

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Discipline is Hard

Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconsistent creatures. we can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.”(1)

These are not my words, of course. I was reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution, and I ran across this quote. The words are from Dr. Atul Gawande, and they started me thinking: thinking about robots and computers, security patrols, and the industrial revolutions. Perhaps I should explain.

The Industrial Revolutions

We tend to think of the Industrial Revolution as a single thing, but in reality in human history we have experienced three or four. There was the one we all learned about in school, when steam and petroleum based power were harnessed to dramatically change the process of manufacturing. This resulted in increased standards of living, greater availability of manufactured goods, the acceleration of populations moving from agricultural to urban dwellings, and all that stuff.  But, there have been other such revolutions. And the quote about discipline sparked a thought.

Perhaps the first revolution was not really industrial, although it set the stage for the rest. In this first revolution, we, as weak, clawless, thin-skinned people harnessed animal power.  We  stopped using people to cut furrows for wheat, and used oxen.  We stopped grinding corn in a human powered metate, and began to rely on animal powered grinding wheels.  The result was a significant increase in food production, the creation of food surpluses, and the beginning of leisure.  But the driver might have been discipline – or the lack of it.  Because it takes discipline to keep working in the hot sun, dragging a blade to cut a furrow, or to keep turning a wheel to grind grain into flour.  And we’re not good at discipline, so we improved our lives by shifting discipline onto an animal.

Several tens of thousands of years later, we did it again, shifting the discipline onto water power – the water wheel never said “I’m too tired to turn,” or “I’ll do it in the morning.”  Then we pushed it onto steam – and we had huge factories turning out products made from ore dug by steam, crushed by steam, smelted and then formed by steam. And no one had to have motivational meeting with the steam to encourage it to work an extra hour.  The assembly workers were a different matter, however. They still required discipline to put in the long, hard hours to produce the goods and services that society demanded.  And we are not good at discipline.

Robots and Computers

So we shifted the needed discipline onto (you knew I was going to get here eventually) robots and computers.  These tireless, disciplined machines began producing goods at an astounding rate – perhaps too quickly and too easily, but that is another blog. We were awash in stuff produced by machines – and we did it by shifting discipline onto the robots.

The robots could work all day and all night, but they were limited to physical actions.  The welding robot on the factory floor did not do the whole job of running a modern business. So, soon we had rooms full of people doing nothing but adding numbers, pushing paper, and compiling statistics.  And this, too, was grueling work that required long hours and, you got it, discipline. So in the most recent industrial revolution we harnessed computers to do this information processing task. Gone were the big rooms full of desks and adding machines, because we had shifted the discipline once again, this time onto the computers.


So, what does this have to do with security officers? Well, a security officer has a job that requires almost everything that Dr. Gawande identified: ‘Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even selflessness.‘ A good security officer must be trustworthy, she must be skilled, and she must be selfless to a degree. After all, part of the job it to put one’s self on the line to protect others.  But above all it requires discipline, and discipline is hard for us. Much of the infrastructure of a guard team is to support discipline.  The training builds habits, and as we all know habits can make being disciplined easier. Guard tours – the devices we use to track the progress of a patrol – are designed to instill the drive that gets us down to the end of that long empty warehouse on every patrol. Post orders establish day-in and day-out routines, especially those that require discipline.  When we know that every other officer on the team is completing these tasks, that helps us to muster the discipline to do the job right. But, discipline is hard, and that is why we like robots.

The security robot is one way to start the next revolution – once again improving lives by shifting discipline. This time onto the robot.  It doesn’t care how dusty the hallway is, it goes down to the end, and reports back, every time. It doesn’t care if ‘nothing ever happens in the basement’, it always does its patrol. It doesn’t care if it is rolling into a dangerous situation, if you tell it to go there, it goes.  And, in the process it keeps us safer, and that makes lives better, because the robot doesn’t need to muster discipline – for a robot discipline is easy.

Where is your robot?(tm) Ours are being built at Gamma Two Robotics, in Colorado, USA

‘Creating a world in which people live better lives assisted by affordable, reliable, helpful robots.’

(1) Gawande, A., The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right  (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009), 183.

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The Mythical Robot

We just finished up an outreach event.  The Colorado Robotics Association sponsored Automate! Denver, and we brought our Gamma Two Vigilus(tm) robot to show off.  The event showcases the growing robotics industry in Colorado, with educational exhibits, new products, robot competitions, all that cool stuff.  One of the local high school FIRST teams provided food as a fund raiser, and a great time was had by all!

Vigilus Security robot at Automate! DenverWe got to talk about two of my favorite subjects, robots and the business of robotics, to a wide range of people from different backgrounds and with differing perspectives. And we got to hear stories. Stories of robot competitions won and lost, stories of situations where they could have really used a robot, and stories of the Mythical Robot.

The Mythical Robot shows up frequently. It is the robot that no-one has ever seen, but a friend of a friend told them, or there was this video, or web-site once that showed… And it is cool!  It does everything, it does everything really well, it does many things far better than a person could do.  In some ways it is the antithesis of the Killer Robot Overlord, but, in the end, just as mythical.

I think seeing our robots at work inspires people to tell us the stories. You see, unlike the more common tele-operated robots, our robots are autonomous.  They take instructions, move on their own, make choices about what actions to do next, and ask for help when they need it. They also talk, and listen to our commands.  This makes them seem a lot smarter than they really are, and that inspires people to remember stories they have heard about robots, they recall videos showing robots doing really cool stuff.  And, sometimes those stories and images get conflated into one single super-robot: The Mythical Robot.

There has been an amazing amount of progress made in robotics over the last decade or so.  There are robots that, under the right circumstances, can fold laundry, there are robots that  make sushi, there are robot cars driving on the streets in some cities. But the general purpose robot, the one robot that does it all, is still the Mythical Robot. And unfortunately, the ‘right circumstances’ are very, very rare. In many example videos it may take hours to set-up the right circumstances, and even then it may take several ‘takes’ to get the video. But, we see the final videos, and to most people it looks like the Mythical Robot is everywhere.

Of course, the media help the Mythical Robot, the demo videos make great visual equivalents of sound bites, and there is infinite fodder for movies.  If you haven’t seen this movie trailer for Prometheus, take a look at it now: David 8.  It truly sets the stage for the Mythical Robot.

The Mythical robot has many powerful impacts, some good, some less so.  On the positive side the Mythical Robot is what inspires us to build better robots. We look at these visions of the future and it both informs and drives our research and development. Almost every robotics researcher I have ever met in the last 20 years can point to one moment when their drive to be a roboticist started. One blinding flash, when they confronted a Mythical Robot and said “I want to build that!” The Mythical Robot also informs the development. It is far easier to imagine in words or images what the role of the robot would be, than it is to build it. So the Mythical Robot becomes the testing ground for how humans and robots will interact and work together, or against each other as in many robotic dystopias.

However, the Mythical Robot can have a chilling effect on the many people who are interested in supporting the development of robots. There are people at funding agencies that write grants to improve our knowledge and understanding, but they don’t fund it if they think it has already been done. There are people who invest in robotics companies to bring cutting edge technology to commercial products, but not if they think the technology is ‘old hat’ compared to the Mythical Robot.  And there are millions of consumers waiting to buy these commercial robots to improve their lives. But it is easy to get confused about the line that separates reality from myth, the huge chasm between a Roomba(tm) and a Rosie the Robot(tm). We all have in the back of our heads a gestalt impression of robots, whether we are scientists or kids in school, and we all have an image of the ‘state-of-the-art’, drawn from our everyday experiences.  For many people, the perceived state-of-the-art is driven more by the Mythical Robot than by the reality.

It becomes difficult to track exactly where we are on the development path.  It becomes hard to separate the myth from the reality. As new developments are made, we creep closer to the Mythical Robot, so it is a fuzzy line to trace, even for people working in the field.  Over a decade ago we heard about it at a technical conference on using robots to help fight terrorism, one participant described the robot charging across the subway platform to subdue a terrorist picked out from the rush hour crowd.  Just a month ago at an exhibition put on by the NDIA, on cutting edge ground robotics, we heard about this robot that somebody has in Europe that can do everything. Now, they have some really cool robots in Europe, but this one was the Mythical Robot.

The question is what can you do to enhance the inspirational aspect of the mythical robot, and warm up the chilling aspects? We need that drive and exploration that will lead to the Mythical Robot becoming reality, but to get there we have to accept that there is a lot of hard work that needs to be supported. I can tell you that our approach is simple: we celebrate the accomplishments by taking our robots to events like Automate! Denver and the upcoming Colorado TEDx FrontRange event – to give people an example of what is actually possible today.

And, when we are exhibiting our robots, robots that routinely do an important task, one that people don’t really want to do;  real robots doing that dull security patrol hour after hour, day after day, we know that there is another robot lurking in the collective unconscious. The Mythical Robot that does it all,  and we ask people:

Where is your robot? Ours are being built right here in Colorado, at Gamma Two Robotics.

[Note: All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.]

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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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