Growth. Scaling. Rinse and repeat. Pretty easy. What could possibly go wrong? If you only knew!
Building the technology stack for Knightscope’s fully autonomous security robots was a massive undertaking. We started with nothing and developed a functioning robot, a navigation system suitable for outdoors and indoors plus a communication protocol, then on top of that added all of the security capabilities, an intuitive user interface, and a 24/7/365 support system to maintain it all. So it should be no surprise that operating them across 4 time zones nationwide has been just as challenging and, in some cases, even more so!
Piece of cake, right? Well, for the founders out there working on self-driving autonomous technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence – or just deploying some new bleeding edge innovation – here are some minefields we hope you can avoid. Spoiler alert: WE DID NOT!
Now that we’ve operated more than 700,000 hours in the real world in a variety of conditions – we’ve experienced a thing or two. Here were our top ten “gotchas”:
1. Delivery Times – you promise your client a specific deployment date. All is looking great, but the supplier decides to ship your critical part a few weeks late and fails to tell you about it.
2. Where’s My Stuff? – you ship a service part overnight for an important client, have the technician ready to go and on-site, but where is the part? No one can find until a day or two later. Tracking is apparently still an imperfect art… and don’t get us started on the weather.
3. Design Flaw – you thought the architecture for hardware design would be fool proof, would never fail and, therefore, wouldn’t need to be made accessible for easy service. Then you find out your assumption could not possibly have been more wrong. Ugh.
4. Can You Hear Me Now? – a major telecom provider decides to shut down in one of the top cities in America for say 3 hours and you hadn’t thought through how to handle that beforehand.
5. I Swear I Didn’t Change It! – you suspect a supplier made an engineering change but didn’t tell you and it is now causing major faults in the system, which requires you to stop production. After weeks of endless meetings, audits, heated calls and exchanges, the supplier finally confesses that they did indeed make a change to the firmware without notice.
6. Client Coordination – sometimes you can do everything right, down to the last detail. But in the eleventh hour the client isn’t ready, didn’t get buy-in, forgot to communicate important facts, placed the contract in the wrong budget, assumed we could do things we can’t, or was just not organized with unclear communication channels and / or authority. Hurry up and wait.
7. Where is the Drawing? – when you are rushing to get things done at a startup, not everything gets documented from prototype to production. Then when you start scaling up and the supplier sends the ‘wrong part’ it really hits the fan.
8. Who is on First? – teammates at startups wear many hats. At times – even when you think you have all the hats covered – something will undoubtedly fall through the cracks. Sometimes clear lines of authority can be helpful (but in some cases not).
9. Connectors – seriously?! After all that effort, the thing that failed in the field was an electrical connector that was specified incorrectly.
10. Social Media – all is quiet, normal day. Then someone decides to post something on social media and all of a sudden you are trending nationwide or globally. At times that can be great news and other times maybe not so much!
At Knightscope we design, engineer, build, deploy and support our fully autonomous security robots ourselves. It is a tall order, but the technology is so complicated that having eyes and ears on everything is extremely important. We’ve made mistakes and we’ll make more. How we handle those missteps is very, very important.
We’ve continued with some great crime-fighting wins and there is a bright future ahead for us – no matter how difficult it may be to achieve. As we are on a mission to make the United States of America the safest country in the world – nothing is going to stop us from pushing forward. Relentlessly.
Join Us and Be a Force for Good.