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Meet Spot – Your new Security ‘person’?

May 20, 2024 by Alistair Enser

The BSIA suggests that 62,000 security guards are needed over the next 12 months to meet the needs of the industry. Faced with this impossible task, we at Reliance High-Tech, think things could be done differently. Click the links below to see some really interesting videos about the art of the possible.

Yes, we have all seen Robocop. And clearly the type of policing and guarding associated with Murphy, and the robots in that film (“You have 20 seconds to comply”), which no-one would recommend. But say hello to Spot, the dare I say it, cute robot in the picture at the top of this piece. It shares none of the original Murphy’s traits, but all of its efficiencies. And can do this (click link), unlike most cops or security guards.

As an innovator and leader in the security integration world, we are continually reviewing and discussing early technologies and are in discussions with many innovative technologies such as Boston Dynamics, creator of ‘Spot’, as they name it, the four-legged robot in the picture.

Imagine. Spot doesn’t get sick, can work 24/7, and can go places that a human cannot, like the hazardous places typically found across many of the CNI sites our customers operate. It can be deployed with a basic or PTZ camera, LiDAR, load carrying equipment or indeed, any amount of sensors or test equipment. Spot has limitations of course, but also many advantages over humans – not least health and safety.

Perhaps Spot provides the perfect way to supplement manned guards – because in a tight labour market where every industry is struggling to find enough workers – there’s simply no way the BSIA is going to find its extra 62,000 workers any time soon.

Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics suggests there are three potential levels of use of Spot. The first is where “where you take a person out of this dangerous, dull job, and put a robot in. That’s the entry point.” In our industry, that means using a robot not a guard at those sites where it is not practical, applicable or cost effective to have a guard roam a perimeter, or where it is impossible to place video cameras at every point across an estate.

Stage two, according to Perry, is to consider using the robot where “we increase the production of that task.” For example, if Spot is circling the perimeter of a water treatment facility as part of a routine security task, why can’t it also use thermal imaging and other diagnostic equipment to ensure infrastructure remains safe and free of corrosion, leaks, overheating etc?

The final stage is where “we completely redesign this space now that we know that this type of automation is available.” Knowing Spot’s capabilities, do we redesign the estate around what the robot makes possible – and what a manned guard cannot – to gain efficiencies, save cost and improve the service provided? It could wander a fence line looking for breaches, while also checking the integrity of power supplies and other critical infrastructure. And, as Spot can potentially go places guards cannot, or should not (think ‘Protect duty’). The estate is not going to need specialised access roads, lit walkways or paths. The entire facility can be designed around its core function, not the need for a man or woman with a torch to access it.

Spot can even operate in areas of great danger to humans, given its potential immunity to radioactivity, extreme cold or heat, or chemicals. It could enter hostile or hostage situations without presenting an unacceptable risk to emergency services personnel. The potential is endless. I’m not suggesting Spot will ever replace a manned guard at an event, or any number of scenarios where human contact is vital. But as a means of augmenting their work, is it such a stretch? Perhaps one day, and not as far away as you think! After all we are all beginning to get used to ‘bots’ answering phone calls and automated online help desks.

Importantly, Boston Dynamics insist on the ethical use of its robot range, which is essential if they are to be trusted. And for those who question whether a robot can ever be trusted, consider that the SIA’s own licensing scheme for manned guards is hardly a guarantor of adherence to the rules: official figures reveal that in 2021 there were 820 suspensions and 940 revocations of SIA licences.

And if the idea of security robots still seems far-fetched, consider this. A story in this week’s FT described how Dulux has recognised the need for robots to replace the dwindling number of painters and decorators who use their products. It is investing in a painting robot company to mitigate the threat, yet the technology is not yet reliable enough at the moment to do the job. Or perhaps – if you are old enough to remember, cast your mind back to the 70’s and early 80’s when British Leyland Cars fell into decline due to lack of productivity and innovation, when at the same time Japanese car manufacturers embraced robot technology in production lines.

If you would like to find out more, contact us for more details!