More security customers are open to the idea of a robot securing their premises now, especially after COVID-19 restricted the movement of people.
More security customers are open to the idea of a robot securing their premises now, especially after COVID-19 restricted the movement of people. Robotic solution providers, on their part, have continued to improve their offerings, adding more features and making smarter machines.
One of the key developments in this regard has been the increased integration of robots with building automation systems and things like elevators. Speaking to asmag.com recently, Travis Deyle, Founder & CEO of Cobalt Robotics, explained what his company has been up to.
"Since we operate indoors, the value proposition really requires the robot to be able to cover multiple floors," Deyle said. "Traditional way of thinking about this is to tie into the elevator call dispatch and send an API request. The robot then wirelessly tries to control the elevator. However, most elevators, in the US at least, don't have this capability, and it's expensive and time-consuming to retrofit a building to modernize their elevators."
Cobalt offers a very simple mechanism that literally just reaches out to poke the elevator buttons. With it, the machine can move across floors and provide its service.
"This is a very simple concept but making this capability practical was a bit of a challenge," Deyle continued. "For us, this has been a major achievement because now a robot can cover an entire building. This is a key technical development not just for security robots, but for every kind of robot that operates in indoor spaces, whether it's safety and security, janitorial, delivery robots, etc."
A bigger role to play with existing systems
Another development from Cobalt has been deeper integrations into existing building automation systems, including security solutions like the traditional video surveillance and access control. This serves two purposes.
"One is that we can take the data that the robot is collecting and dispatch it to the system that people are used to working with," Deyle said. "Two, it can also subscribe to events. So if a camera detects something, or if a door alarm goes off, it can automatically dispatch the robot to go over to that location and address that alert, whether that's eliminating it or engaging with whatever is causing that alert in real-time."
Increased demand after COVID-19
The demand for robots has been on the rise, with COVID-19 supporting it. Speaking of Cobalt, Deyle explained that the general acceptance of remote work had also influenced security management.
"COVID-19 has normalized a bunch of things like remotely managing your entire workforce, being on video calls, and processing the data that's coming in across your global footprint," Deyle said. "As you think about those, robots fit very well into these new ways of operating because now you basically get the awareness of what's happening everywhere."
Is there a robot vs. drone debate?
Security robots are popular among customers now. Knightscope, one of the earliest companies in this segment, recently went public. The popularity of robots in other sectors like delivery and safety is also on the rise.
Along with this growth, there are debates about how drones may offer competition to robots. However, experts point out that these two solutions complement each other more than compete. There are certain things drones can do that robots cannot, and vice versa.
"They have different use cases and different purposes," Deyle said. "They both come with their own independent challenges. Some of them are related. Drones in the sky provide good area coverage, they don't have to worry about navigating uneven terrain, and they can get sort of that bird's eye view. But they're not particularly effective in interacting with people."
In short, both serve different purposes. If you take the total number of drones that will someday be deployed for security, it could be much larger than the number of ground vehicles. But such differences are because of their varied function.
Going forward, we may see more integration between robots, drones, and other security and automation systems. The current increase in demand could sustain as technology, and the market evolves. Even after the pandemic, customers who become aware of the benefits that robots bring could continue to use them, paving the way for market growth.