The Robocop Reality: What’s The Future Of Business Security?
Brace yourselves: the robocops are coming.
We live in a time where science fiction is fast becoming science reality. It wasn’t long ago that the idea of robot cops existed only in 80s movies, but today law enforcement around the world already use autonomous technology to do what humans can’t, or won’t.
The debate surrounding the ethics of machine-based security is a hot topic. More than a thousand robotics authorities, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, have signed a statement warning against machines that can target without human control. Most experts agree that recent advances in security tech will soon make the face of warfare look very different, but how will these same advances affect our day-to-day security?
From your local shopping centre to office buildings and warehouses, what’s the future of business security?
You might not have encountered them, but there’s already a form of robocop patrolling the streets. The Knightscope K5 is a 400-pound, 6-foot tall security robot that’s roaming parking lots, office campuses, sports stadiums and shopping malls. These Dalek-like machines use light detection radars and cameras to gather data and determine whether a passer-by is harmless or a potential criminal.
The former police officer who co-founded the company says that rather than using robots to replace humans as law enforcers, the K5s are designed to fill in the gaps. The most significant perk of using these autonomous machines for security is that they can act as a shield for people, patrolling areas that pose a risk for humans. The Knightscope security robots have already guarded San Francisco crime hotspots and treacherous parking lots – the very same areas humans were reluctant to go.
That’s a perk indeed – but what are the cons? Well, the K5 might be free from human error, but it’s not free from machine mistakes. This month at a Washington mall, a K5 security robot “drowned itself” by driving straight into a fountain. Photos from the scene show the K5 floating face down as baffled bystanders looked on. Not exactly the best example of autonomous AI – although people who fear a robot army uprising will be reassured to know these machines can be thwarted by stairs.
This isn’t the first time that a K5’s sensors didn’t register an obstacle. Last year, a robot knocked down a child and ran over his foot, causing minor injury. According to the report, the robot veered away to avoid the child, but he ran into the machine and fell to the floor. Instead of halting as the child lay on the ground, the K5 moved forward and ran over his foot. Mishaps aside, there’s no escaping the fact that robot security guards are becoming increasingly present in our society – but this isn’t the only way that security evolving.
A Drone Revolution
Apart from robots, the other futuristic machine that’s seen an astonishing rise in popularity is the drone. Hobby drones are everywhere these days, but drones are also being used as part of innovative security methods. Aptonomy Inc. has developed drone technology that could make prison breaks, robberies or any type of invasion a thing of the past. Branded “flying security guards”, they can record dubious activity, shine a light on trespassers, communicate via loudspeakers, and generally frighten away intruders.
These drones combine power cameras, bright lights and loudspeakers with artificial intelligence and navigational systems that allow them to fly low and fast, avoiding obstacles and detecting human activity. All this is done autonomously, and these super-smart, self-flying drones can also fly themselves back to power stations when their batteries are running low. They are expected to become very popular in protecting businesses which have large warehouse.
We’ve seen autonomous robot security guards and autonomous drone security guards… so what’s next? Autonomous drone-launching police robots, of course. A Singapore start-up has merged the best of both these machines to create the O-R3 autonomous robot, and police in Dubai – the self-described ‘Future City’ – will soon be rolling these revolutionary robots out citywide, with active patrols slated to start this year.
The O-R3 robot can detect and avoid obstacles, identify intruders and suspicious objects, and it uses machine learning – so the more it learns the more accurate it becomes. If it identifies a problem, it sends an alarm and human security is activated. Unlike robot security guards like the K3, the O-R3 won’t be foiled by stairs or obstacles on the ground; when the robot has reached its limits, it can extend its reach by launching its own personal drone into the sky. Essentially, intruders have no chance.
A Cost-Effective Solution?
Though these types of security robots are costly, they’re becoming increasingly popular in countries where it’s expensive to hire security guards. In Singapore (where the O-R3 was created), companies spend around £4,500 a month for two security guards covering 12-hour shifts. The O-R3 company plans to rent the robots out for around £8,300 a month – a cost that will quickly drop as the robots become more prevalent.
Now that we are faced with affordable security robots that can perform actions people can’t, will humans ultimately be phased out? Ling Ting Ming, CEO of the OR-3 company, says no: “I definitely feel like humans cannot be replaced. The robots are just here to complement the humans, but humans should do something more … of a higher skill-set.”
Technology is evolving faster than many of us can keep up with, but thankfully it doesn’t look like humans are becoming obsolete just yet. We’ve got a little way to go before these types of robot security guards hit our homes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself and your property with the latest in innovative security. They might not come with self-launching drones, but they’re super smart and effective nonetheless: check out our range of products here.