Roaming Robots in Public? Knightscope Moves with Precision and Purpose!

April 14, 2023

When we think about robots, most of us imagine robots working like humans - in stationary occupations such as those at factories, hospitals, and warehouses.  But what about robots walking or moving alongside of us on sidewalks, in parks, through parking garages, or in other places outdoors?  What about indoor spaces like school campuses, shopping malls or offices moving along hallways and corridors?  Yes, there is such a thing as a mobile robot, but are they roaming aimlessly or with precision and purpose?

“Autonomous” robots, in fact, can move and work purposefully for extended periods without human intervention.  With the aid of newer technologies including sensors, lasers, cameras, sonar artificial intelligence (AI), and computer vision to understand their physical environments, Knightscope’s Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) move freely about a defined area (both indoors and outdoors), carrying out precise assignments without being guided by humans.  The Company’s robots seamlessly blend four of the world's top innovations together into one extremely smart and effective crime fighting package: self-driving technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and electric powered operation.

Robots in motion used to clean floors or even deliver food generally enjoy a high rating on the “cool” factor scale, but what about ASRs – how do we feel about security robots moving on their own?  Like most new things, it is important to look at the upsides and downsides and see how they stack up.  In motion 24/7 today, with over 2 million operational hours logged, Knightscope ASRs prove the benefits stack up very well!

Benefits of Mobile Robots

So, what are the benefits of mobile security robots, and can they deliver significantly more value than other security technologies?  It is first important to recognize that ASRs do not replace law enforcement officers or security guards.  They do not carry weapons or physically touch or apprehend citizens, but they are another tool in their proverbial toolbox.  So, what can an ASR actually do to keep our communities safe and secure?  They operate non-stop, can move in any direction, utilize their cameras to generate 360-degree constant surveillance (at eye level!) and deter criminal behavior before it happens.

After all, who wants to spend the night in jail because a robot “told on you”?  ASRs provide 24/7 monitoring, identify suspicious activities like trespassing, and enable citizens to utilize their emergency call buttons to alert authorities.  Outdoors, moving robots can climb hills, withstand inclement weather, and navigate around typical outdoor objects such as trees, cars and yes, even humans.  ASRs operate themselves, but they do not work alone!  They are deployed as part of a security or law enforcement team and play a significant role by using their technologically advanced audio, video, sensors, and cameras to perform “superhuman” surveillance with perfect memory recall.  ASR features, in combination with their mobility, enable them to carry out routine functions that are integral to an end-to-end security and safety solution for any environment.  They perform routine tasks autonomously while enabling security and law enforcement personnel to focus on priority areas that require human attention and involvement.

Westland Real Estate Group, which operates over 65 residential communities on the west coast, uses a Knightscope ASR to patrol one of its Las Vegas residential communities in an area known to have high crime rates.  The mobile security robot performs routine patrol activities and constantly communicates with the residential community’s staff.  The Executive Director of the Nevada State Apartments Association, Susy Vazquez was quoted as saying, “WOW!  Westland, again, is stepping outside the box and addressing issues with innovation!  I'm fascinated by the capabilities of this bot and its effectiveness.”

Are ASRs Truly Better than Fixed Cameras?

Can ASRs deliver more results than what stationary security cameras and video surveillance systems provide?  The short answer is “yes” and that question alone is the subject of its own blog here.  Smart criminals know the boundaries of closed-circuit television (CCTV) and video surveillance systems and plan their crimes accordingly.  Others commit crimes without considering long-term consequences and are not deterred by stationary cameras.  An ASR’s physical presence, combined with its ability to move is a major deterrent.  Anyone with criminal intent who comes across a mobile bot is unsure what they can or will do and will reconsider performing criminal activity.

In California, the Knightscope K5 ASR patrols PG&E, a large utility company property, acting as a physical deterrent helping to keep vandals away.  The possibility of capturing incriminating details via video, camera, or other sensors that can be used as evidence in a criminal trial not only gives would-be criminals a second thought, but if a crime is actually committed on an ASR’s watch, there is a strong possibility the robot collected some form of prosecutable evidence as reported here.

In the City of Huntington Park in Los Angeles County, California, arrests increased by 27% while overall crime reports decreased by 46% as a direct result of Knightscope’s robot.  In the current era of resource shortages, the fact that ASRs can spot trouble and alert security or law enforcement is extremely valuable, allowing more optimal deployment of limited resources.

Human Collaboration

Even though ASRs are self-directed, human collaboration plays an essential role.  For instance, mobile robots can inform security or law enforcement teams about unusual activity within their environment, but actual humans must then take the next step in terms of conducting investigative steps.  Robots help prioritize or focus human activity on the highest risk areas, in terms of immediate response required and more in-depth investigative analysis.  The 90 terabytes of video surveillance and data collected in public environments by each robot every year is significantly more useful than that of stationary cameras in terms of supporting criminal or incident investigations.  Mobile robots and security and law enforcement personnel, working together, form a highly effective and efficient team to protect and secure our communities.

Examining the Downsides

Safety is always a concern when introducing both mobile and stationary items into our environment.  Consequently, when reflecting on the downsides or negatives of introducing mobile robots, the first question raised is, “Is it safe for us to co-exist with robots in motion?”  Knightscope ASRs can sense and see humans and are programmed to maintain a safe distance from them and travel at safe speeds.  The probability that a sensor or laser might fail is extremely low and, if one did, the robot self-reports the issue to a technician for action.  Preventive maintenance of ASRs by humans is undoubtedly essential to assuring everyday reliability and safety, which is why Knightscope provides its clients with a Machine-as-a-Service (MaaS) subscription service to ensure its mobile security robots receive ongoing and timely preventative maintenance, service, software/firmware updates, and other improvements to maximize safety and reliability.  Beyond safety concerns, we consider the proactive and preventive measures in place to keep us safe from roaming robots, there is still the “creepy” factor to address.  Being around anything in motion that is not human or what we consider safe can initially be a daunting experience, leaving most of us wondering, “Will I be ok “or “Am I being watched?” Getting past the initial strange and different emotion takes time.

Ready for Robots in Motion!

Despite our initial reactions to ASRs, we soon become comfortable when we consider their purpose in keeping us safe.  They become an object of intrigue and interest, with so many people seeking out robot selfies.  The greater our understanding of their capabilities and how they perform their roles, the more we become comfortable around them.  For example, now at ease with the Knightscope ASR’s value and physical presence, a major Casino client has discovered that the ASR can also engage visitors in a fun and futuristic way – great for business!  Knightscope ASRs can point to several compelling “upside” success stories regarding exactly why and how security robots in motion support security and law enforcement personnel in completing their missions.  Its deployment teams and clients have found that proactive communication, education, and opportunities to interact with ASRs often lead to synergies between humans and their mobile robot partners.

So, as we examine the upsides and downsides of introducing mobile security robots into our environment, we quickly learn that they can assume several important roles in strengthening security and law enforcement throughout our communities.  Recognizing that in 2023, we live in a country where various crimes are still committed at an alarming rate, we cannot afford not to introduce innovations and new technologies to fight crime.  As state by Mr. Eric Adams, the Mayor of New York City, during a press conference announcing their contract with Knightscope, “Technology is here, and we cannot be afraid of it!”  That’s right, Knightscope’s K5 will soon be on high alert watching over the 8.5 million citizens of the Big Apple.

As Knightscope ASRs continue to create more success stories around the country and progress towards reaching 3 million operational hours, these ASRs demonstrate that we are ready for robots in motion!  Discover more today with one of Knightscope’s experts here.

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