Trends in Security Robotics
- 05 July, 2017
- Jos de Lange
By Jos de Lange LLM, MGA, EMFC, security innovation manager & coordinator security related research at TU Delft Safety and Security Institute (DSyS), Delft, the Netherlands
Extending the eyes and ears of the security manager
Security “management” in the modern sense started somewhere in the late 1900’s, when uniformed and sometimes armed guards started to ride “shotgun” on postal coaches carrying valuables and gold. Later, when warehouse chains like Selfridges (that since 2011 also includes the Amsterdam Bijenkorf) became commonplace, uniformed and sometimes armed guards became an everyday view in the shopping streets of nearly every city in the world.
Guards, armed or not, are expensive, and since early times we see developments that were aimed to reduce the number of watchers, or to device tools that helped watchmen to extend their range of supervision. A simple device was, and is, the use of half spherical mirrors in shopping isles in order to prevent shop lifting. A modern variety is of course video surveillance over the internet. Distance is no longer an obstacle when it comes to keeping an eye on people, goods and (dangerous) places.
Security management and robotics
Security management is the knowledge of identifying and mitigating security risks in an organization. Security risk, contrary to safety risk, has everything to do with the deliberate intent of perpetrators to steal, damage or destroy the assets of the organization. The best way to prevent perpetrators from stealing, damaging or destroying is to recognize their intentions in an early phase, and to prevent or block their actions in time. For most offices and industrial facilities it suffices to put a lock on the entrance door, or place a fence around the organizations perimeter and control who is entering through the gate(s).
When it comes to public supervision in inner cities, effective security solutions are much more difficult to implement. Camera surveillance is a trend in public security applications. But since it is very difficult to supervise the 420.000 or more cameras in for instance London, the cameras themselves tend to get more intelligent with algorithms that “help” cameras (and supervisors) to identify suspicious behavior. And since most cameras are static objects, we now see the trend to extend their range by placing them in drones that can freely observe a much wider area from different angles.
Automation versus robotization
There is a significant difference between automation and robotization. Automation has to do with making devices work automatically, that means: specific tasks or a limited set of actions are automated. Think about a gateway in a fence where people have to offer their magnetic pass to be able to pass through.
Robotization is about machines designed to do many automation tasks, increasingly of a different nature. Robotization started as an automation process of most common and repetitive tasks, like welding robots in car manufacture. Robots replace humans and machines by fully automated installations. The newest trend is that robots become self-learning. An example are “patrolling devices” that “know” how to patrol an area, “learn” where things are placed and trigger an alarm when they find that some are missing. Another self-learning characteristic is that they can identify people, analyze their behavior and again trigger an alarm when people behave out-of-place or cannot identify themselves.
Security robots and ethics
Most drones are no robots like we defined in this article. They are more automatons, that need to be controlled by an operator. But this is rapidly changing. Modern drones can stay in the air longer, and can be app controlled to supervise an area. These are home and small business devices, but there is a trend in military applications where drones act as independent border or area patrollers. In case of movement they trigger an alarm, where they can make a difference between people of cars. If need be, they can than follow the person or car. It will not be long before this kind of robotics are ported to home and small business drones.
3 DroneDeploy Fieldscanner
The ethical question is: how far can and are we willing to go to implement “intelligent” features in security devices such as area patrolling, self-moving buggies or drones. It is just a matter of time before “home-made” buggies and drones will be equipped with all sorts of weapons and spying devices.
The Delft Safety & Security Institute (DSyS), together with the Robotics Institute and RoboValley, has comprehensive knowledge of the use of security robotics. For more information contact Jos de Lange, DSyS security innovation manager (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Delft Safety & Security Institute (DSyS) is partner of Amsterdam Security, 31 October – 2 November in RAI Amsterdam.