AI Robot Security – Making the US a Safer Place
Robocop is here! Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but Robo-guard might be. A company named Knightscope is edging us closer to the age of Autonomous Security Robots (ASR) with their first generation of products. While the CEO and co-founder, William Santana Li, is cautious not to say that they will replace police, he does make a compelling case for how these robots can address security challenges in the community, industry and retail environments.
Knightscope’s stated goal is to “make America the safest country on earth!” Estimates from the company place the negative impact of crime on the economy at over US $1 Trillion annually. They also conservatively estimate that the wide spread roll-out of Knightscope ASR’s could reduce this by 50%. While the company is building on the success of their case studies to date, including their partnership with Huntington Park Police Department, California in 2019, they have also met some criticism over inevitable teething problems with the technology. Despite this criticism there is a strong case in favor of ASRs as a supplement to the unit force of security groups, and in some cases law enforcement.
The major case for these ASRs is to be a smart “eyes and ears” solution of law enforcement and security services, supplementing the country’s current 2.3 million law enforcement and private security staff tasked with keeping 327 million people safe. As the robots can be active and recording constantly in a patrol area, they also provide a visual/physical deterrence to criminals in the patrol area. This is referred to as “Force Multiplying Physical Deterrence” by the company, similar to the ‘halo’ effect observed through the introduction of CCTV. While Li is quick to say the comparison is like “comparing apples and oranges”. Particularly considering the additional capabilities that ASRs bring to the table that are not possible through traditional CCTV.
Looking positively at the correlation between the two technologies, Welsh & Farrington found that analysis of a range of CCTV projects led to a 51% decrease in crime in car parks, which is one of the current use cases for the Knightscope products. Opportunity Theory suggests that a walking(rolling) and talking robot could have a greater impact than its stationary camera predecessor, due to the physical presence of a robot which is easier to spot than a discreet surveillance camera. There is also the 360 degree eye-level value of the footage recorded by these ASRs, a value-add that Mr. Li is quickly to indicate as a significant improvement on current CCTV solutions.
Most importantly for Knightscope, whether they like the comparison or not, the global video surveillance market was valued at US $47.4 Billion in 2019 with projected of growth of up to US $86 Billion by 2025. While the stated goal of saving the economy up to US $500 Billion per annum, they are attempting to create a new market that does not have a reliable comparison. ASRs have been shown to be more effective than cameras in incident reduction in a number of case studies.
The design of models K1, K3 and K5 all include AI enabled technology and allow for 360° video streaming, mobile public address capability, facial recognition, automated number plate recognition (up to 1200 ANPR checks per minute), automation signal detection (ASD) and, the very cool, thermal anomaly detection. Li points out that the devices generate over 90 Terabytes of data per year which is more than most humans are ever capable of digging through. Thankfully they have also developed a very user-friendly Knightscope Security Operations Center platform, KSOC, which allows you round-the-clock supervision of an entire fleet of Knightscope ASRs from the comfort of any connected device. In 2019 they have also developed their first prototype for a Visible Weapon Detection (VWD) System.
This technology provides an increased health and safety capacity in any area where these robots are operating. However, the capacity of the robots to interact with humans has been criticized and does pose a challenge when implementing the products as a supplement to existing security or policing complements. The Huntington Park police results have shown a lot of promise for similar pilots. It was shown that the K5 robot had a demonstrated positive impact on crime, nuisance activity, and police responses, highlighted by:
· 10% reduction in calls for service
· 46% reduction in crime reports
· 27% increase in arrests
· 68% reduction in citations
Internationally the use of robots to supplement rule enforcement is becoming more common, with Singapore piloting the MATAR 3.0 with an attached drone at the Jewel Changi Airport. Knightscope’s CEO points to the company’s relatively long track record of operation and growing number of orders that he has to fill to indicate the success of his company over such project’s that do not appear to be having the same broad appeal. Despite calls for their services in other countries, Knightscope are resolutely focused on their US base as they have a vision for the country as a whole and are proud to be playing their part in making the country the safest on earth.
To date, the use case has been shown in areas such as movie theatres, hospitals, casinos and car parks. As Li summarizes, all major challenges can be dealt with by the combination of “people, time and money”. Through the introduction of Knightscope robots for the purposes of security and offender detection, the demand on people in security and law enforcement can be reduced. This allows human officers to attribute their time more effectively and increase their productivity. One example of K5 patrolling a healthcare facility car park where late night criminal incidents went from 1-3 per week, pre-introduction, to zero in the subsequent 18-month period. There are also estimated price savings where a robot can operate for longer than a standard work shift at a lower total cost than increasing the human work force. For Knightscope their people, time and money challenge has been reversed as they are seeking greater investment at present so that they increase their capacity and meet the demand for their product in the current market.
Whether you are a supporter of our future robot overlords or are skeptical of the value of this next generation technology, the fact that autonomous security robots have arrived is undoubtable. While the capacity of Knightscope’s next generation of ASRs will be dictated in large part by the demands of the market, the potential of their products to supplement security solutions and support law enforcement in the community is exciting for the future of a safer society across the country. At least it is reassuring to know that a patriot like William Santana Li and his co-founder, Stacy Dean Stephens (a former-police officer), are at the helm of the company that is working to build the future of the country’s security industry (est. US$ 29 Billion in value). You can learn more about Knightscope at www.securityrobot.com
Written by Paul Marrinan & Edited by Alexander Fleiss