Security robots are moving steadily into the surveillance market to patrol parking lots, shopping malls, college campuses and other public areas.

Industry analysts note advancements in a wide range of sensors and their miniaturization are driving rapid growth in the surveillance robot market. They foresee a compound annual growth rate of more than 12% by 2021 in this global market sector.[1]

On the leading edge is a team of Cornell University researchers who are creating an integrated network of diverse robots for surveillance. Funded by a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the team is linking a system of stationary smart cameras, camera-equipped Segue robots and drones. The network will enable the robots to “speak” directly to each other to share images and information instantaneously, make assumptions about the environment to determine appropriate actions, and follow a suspect in a chase.[2]

Robotics manufacturer Knightscope provides surveillance robots for indoor, outdoor and multi-terrain environments. They are fitted with multiple high-definition cameras for 360-degree vision to gather information, predict crime by spotting abnormal behavior, and identify known criminals using person recognition capabilities. The robots can be equipped with a thermal camera, microphones, a laser rangefinder, weather sensors and a license number recognition system.[3]

Knightscope’s progress hasn’t been without some setbacks and controversy. First, there was a robot’s highly publicized, alleged assault of a toddler in a shopping mall last year.[4] Also, last April, a drunken California man tipped over another robot while it patrolled a parking lot.[5] And in July, a robot dubbed “Steve” was mapping out a Washington, D.C. shopping mall when it fell down steps into a fountain.[6]

Despite these setbacks, the company has doubled down and continues to refine its technology to help its robots better anticipate nearby movements and respond accordingly.

[1] “Global Surveillance Robots Market 2017-2021,” summary description of research report available for purchase, September 2017. Available at: https://www.technavio.com/report/global-surveillance-robots-market?utm_source=discount&utm_medium=bw&utm_campaign=businesswire

[2] “These surveillance robots will work together to chase down suspects,” by April Glaser, Recode blog, April 18, 2017. Available at: https://www.recode.net/2017/4/18/15264908/surveillance-robots-network-cornell-suspects

[3] “Knightscope Security Robots Spotted On Uber Parking Lot and Mall Patrol,” by Curtis Silver, Forbes Tech blog, July 5, 2016. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/curtissilver/2016/07/05/uber-knightscope-security-robots/#1e8bbe96d674 and “Knightscope Announces the K-1,” press release on Business Wire, Aug. 22, 2017. Available at: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170822005333/en/Knightscope-Announces-K1

[4] “300-pound mall robot runs over toddler,” by Matt McFarland, CNN Tech, July 14, 2016. Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/14/technology/robot-stanford-mall/index.html

[5] “Police: Drunk man knocked down 300-pound robot in Mountain View,” by Tiffany Wilson, ABC News – Channel 7, April 25, 2017. Available at: http://abc7news.com/technology/police-drunk-man-knocked-down-300-pound-robot-in-mountain-view/1915713/

[6] “Security robot ‘in critical condition’ after nearly drowning on the job,” by Nancy Coleman, CNN, July 21, 2017. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/us/security-robot-drown-trnd/index.html

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