The future could be upon us sooner than we think. High technology companies are starting to develop autonomous robots to perform jobs we’d only traditionally considered suitable for human capacity.
One such job under threat is that of the security guard, a role targeted by American tech giants Knightscope as replaceable with their ‘K5 autonomous data machine’.
Built in a similar mould to that of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise, the Knightscope K5 can be deployed in such areas as car parks and shopping centres. It travels along a predetermined route within a restricted vicinity, completing patrols and reporting back with what it ‘sees’.
How Security Robots Work
The K5 model is equipped with numerous sensors, navigation equipment and lasers that, when combined with hi-tech software, allows it to identify predetermined warning signs of suspicious behaviour.
For example, it can recognise the sound of breaking glass or someone walking through a building at night. It will then alert a remote security centre of the potential breach and can also send images of what it’s picked up via a Wi-Fi network.
Security workers can access what the K5 is up to by logging into its system remotely, monitoring the 360° high-definition, infrared cameras and built-in microphone. Another nifty features allows two-way communication with passers-by if they need to obtain information from the control centre.
The body of the K5 incorporates the following devices:
- 4 high-definition cameras
- 4 microphones
- A license-plate and facial recognition camera
- A weather sensor measuring carbon dioxide levels, temperature and atmospheric pressure
- An on-board sensor array that can recognise its surroundings.
For and Against
This subject matter will always trigger debate as there’ll usually be opposition to the notion of machines replacing humans, a principle that stretches back to the early 19th century Luddites.
The main argument for bringing in robotic security guards is the cost-effectiveness of replacing full-time human security guards. Savings to company output could be as much as 75% as current rental costs are lower than paying minimum wage and will only get cheaper over time.
There’s also the high productivity such a machine brings, providing non-stop, automatic and efficient security 24-7 without the worry of human error or boredom creeping in.
However, the trials of the K5 model have shown some possible drawbacks. For example, unruly teenagers will sometimes ‘attack’ or misuse the machine, whilst there’s also no way of a robot lifting itself back up if it were to fall over.
In another notable incident, the K5 actually ran over and injured a 16-month old toddler in a Californian shopping centre, seemingly not registering the youngster was in its path and carrying on regardless.
Should Security Guards Be Worried?
With these worries about a robot’s limitations, it is unlikely that security guards will be out of a job just yet. Furthermore, any security robots will still need to rely on manpower to communicate with them.
However, the cheaper cost of running a machine as opposed to a human, especially overnight, could attract firms to utilise their services on a wider scale within the next 10 years or so. Over that time, AI technology will continue to improve, meaning that future security robots could resemble humans, making this future less R2-D2 and more channel 4’s Humans.
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