Security Robots Are Just Entertainment

By: John Honovich, Published on Jul 21, 2017

Great entertainment, no real security value. 

That is the happy (or sad) state of security robots in 2017.

Knightscope robot's drowning, the global sensation it caused and Knightscope's joking response makes that clear.

The entertainment value, though, is very powerful.

Not *******, ** ******?

* **** ***** *** robot ********,*********** ****** * ***** release. ******* ** ********** what **** ***** *** how **** **** ***** to *** **, **** continued ****** ***** **, describing the ******** **:

******** “************ *** *********** submarine ******” 


“*** ******* ** ** death *** ******* ***********. I ***’* ******** ****** a “** ********” ****. Thank *** ** *** the ***** **** ****** that ****** ** ***,” said ***** **** ******.

********** *** ********* *** announcement ** **** ******* up * ******* ******* for *** ******* ***** named @**************, ***** ***** ***** is:

*** **** ******** ****** (intrusion, ******, *****, ***.) that ****** ** **** and ****** ******* **** and ********** ** *** user ***** ** ********* to seriously ***** ***** ******* have **** ******** *****.

Selling *************, *** ********

**** *********** *** ********** is **** *** ******** benefit ** ***** ***** is ********* ** ****. What **** *** ******* is ** *********. 

*** ****** ** *** office ******** **** *** up * '********', ******* they **** ** *** mocking *** ***** ** really ******* *** ***** because ** ******* ********** ****:

*** ***** *** ******** YouTube ****** ** ****** people *********** **** *** robot **** **** ******* evidently ********** ** ** Tom ****** ** *** video *****:

** ******** **** *** Boston ***** ** ****** taking ******** *** ******* at *** *****:

*********** ****** ** ***** credit *** ************* **** entertainment ***** **** *** beginning, ********* *** ***** to **** *** ***** like *** ******:

*** ****** ****** ** a **** ****** *** entertainment ******** ******* **** buying '******' ** ***** customers ** * **** consideration.

UPDATE: ******* ***** *** **** ****** **** *****

*** *** **** *** the ******* ***** *** gotten * ***********. **** are******* ** ** ****** media, ** ***** *** maid **** *** *******. **** is * ******* *** understands ************* *****!

*******, **** ** ***** overdosing *** ***** ******:

Fading *******?

*** *** *** *** long ***** ****** *** go ** ** ********* in ******* *** ***** remains ** ** ****. Maybe *********** *** ******* real *********** ***** **** the ******* ****** ** fade.

Security ****** ***** *********

*************, ***** ** ** actually ** *** ******** business *** ***** ** increasingly **** * ****** and **** *** *** peers *** ***** ** security ****** ***** *** foremost ** * ******* rather **** * ****** that *** ********* **** people ***** ** ****** crime.

Comments (39)

You nailed it. Security initiatives are supposed to reduce risk.

I was going to say something like: "Do you want Daleks? Because that is how you get Daleks..."

buuuut you beat me to it. Well played, IPVM, well played.

Knightscope continues to entertain:

...who think of security robots first and foremost as a gimmick rather than a device that can genuinely make people safer or reduce crime.

People that think of security robots as a gimmick don't think of drones as security robots.

But they should.

And, IMHO, they are 'a device that can genuinely make people safer or reduce crime'.


How can this type of security theater robot "genuinely make people safer or reduce crime"? Maybe it can to a very small degree but the ROI isn't there.

The only logic I can get to work in my head is something like this:

TSA vs Air Marshals. >>> Knightscope vs CCTV System.

The first is meant to help you feel more secure. The second actually helps you be secure. 


The first [Knightscope robot] is meant to help you feel more secure. The second [CCTV System] actually helps you be secure.

Most CCTV systems are passive, are not monitored live, and therefore those don't help anyone be more secure at the time of an incident.  In fact, it's often argued that seeing cameras can give one a 'false sense of security'.

On the other hand I've never seen a DVR run headlong into a pool of water ;)



Most CCTV systems are passive, are not monitored live, and therefore those don't help anyone be more secure at the time of an incident.

If the Washington Harbour's video surveillance recorder(s) spontaneously burst in flames, they would get it fixed immediately.

The Washington Harbor is a Class A, ~1/2 million square foot facility, not a 'passive' mom n pop pizzeria.

The Washington Harbor is a Class A, ~1/2 million square foot facility, not a 'passive' mom n pop pizzeria.

No doubt you're correct about that, though I understood the subthread as axiomatically referring to the general case...

I'm not sure I would have continued with the joke, but I understand the desire for Knightscope to laugh it off and hope it goes away. I don't think security robots are any different than getting a normal bare bones security contract that pays officers minimum wage. Both accomplish the same thing, it checks the "security" box from a liability perspective without actually reducing risk to any respectable extent. Hopefully that changes, but that will require capital for R&D, which will be hard to come by from serious minded security folks.

Horseless carriages, microwaves and the Internet were all considered oddities before they hit mainstream use. Public area robot "security" patrollers will eventually become common and more effective, but right now they are still too limited cognitively to be used effectively in such a role. They are still limited to binary use- is something present, or not present? Does that loud sound match a known pattern, like a gunshot or distress yell, or does it not? 

Right now, they can start fulfilling an ancillary role. Concierge services, like using voice recognition to answer simple questions like where is the nearest coffee shop. Or reporting a spilled drink on the floor. Or providing a direct voice link to an person in an office.

Eventually as robot cognitive abilities further develop, they can start doing more "security work" during public times. They can do security work now, like challenging or alerting to the presence of people off hours when people are not supposed to be present. But that's their only real "security" use... for now.

Knightscope is busy this weekend telling jokes on twitter:

This may run a little bit off topic but hopefully close enough for consideration.

In security, one cannot have tunnel vision. Intrusion detection is not a "security system." Video surveillance and recording are not "security systems." Robots (regardless of intelligence) are not "security systems." Radar detection technologies are not "security systems." Etc.

Borrowing from Sandia Nat Labs 30 years (or so) ago, a security system has a few fundamental components; detect, delay, verify, assess and respond. There are 100s if not 1000s of different scenarios that vary the importance of necessity and costs for each of these components associated with risk management.

if robots are to be accepted, they must either detect, delay, verify, assess or respond (or some combination) with greater accuracy and lower cost compared to current technologies. Otherwise it's a bad business model.

Borrowing from Sandia Nat Labs 30 years (or so) ago, a security system

Sandia Labs is writing from the perspective of nuclear power plants and other super critical infrastructure. I am certainly not saying it is wrong but their approach is generally not used commercially because it is overkill. In the Sandia Labs approach (Mary Lynn Garcia, etc.), things like deterrence and investigation benefits are not factors since the risks / losses they deal with are so severe that the focus is to stop determined adversaries.

detect, delay, verify, assess or respond

Btw, I do agree that robots need to show some benefits there but for most scenarios where there are already plentiful video surveillance cameras deployed, there is little benefit of a robot since it's unlikely to deter anyone and can't really 'respond', the robot becomes effectively an intercom on wheels.

This is not the first time that security has been over-hyped. VMD, analytics, integration .... all terms that were used well before they played out in practice. And it won't be the last time that security (or any industry) over promises to attract share holders.

Robots WILL play a big part in the future of security in the future.

I am a big believer in Deter, Detect, Delay, Respond, Recover as a variance to the Sandia folks (who I worship!) and I am able to use it on securing everything from a Nuclear reactor to a chocolate bar at a corner store.  Every part of security has to fit into one of these roles. 

Great conversation ! I am betting there is not a single reader out there who isn't dreaming about the Robot opportunities and challenges for our industry.


Agreed. I didn't cite background of their work to keep things short. 

Nonetheless, I do believe "detect, verify, assess and respond" is an excellent starting point and system design premise for commercial, industrial, institutional, et al security system design. 

There are 100's if not 1000's of detection technologies/devices to let someone know something is out of order. The trick is to pick the right technology, at the right price, to detect an event with the appropriate accuracy and appropriate vulnerability to defeat by the anticipated threat.  A $5 door contact can notify an access control system of a propped door. The sophistication of the threat determines whether it needs to be a $100 or $1000 technology to detect the propped door (just as example).

Verification takes many forms but a camera is usually one of the easiest. Whether during or after the fact, video lets one verify the condition at hand. If live, real time verification and consequently, assessment, is available and/or needed you have it (assuming one has the resources). If post event  investigation is the norm, you have it with recorded video. 

Assessment and response are largely an institution's policies and procedures issue. 

All said, I believe this train of thought in systems design is very helpful in choosing the right technology and solutions for many security systems applications outside the nuke and critical infrastructure industries. 

[IPVM Note: Poster is from Magal]

The only operational security robot: Magal RoboGuard is a revolutionary innovation in perimeter security: a robot that runs on an elevated rail along the perimeter of protected sites or border lines, carrying an assortment of sensors.


Saar, it's not the only operational security robot. There are others.

That said, how many of these Roboguards has Magal deployed? What verticals are seeing the best adoption? Why?

Four Robots are operational

verticals: military bases, airports, prisons, etc...

Saar, contact me via LinkedIn please, I'm interested in hearing some more about this one.

verticals: military bases, airports, prisons, etc...

The robots are still horizontal, right?

I have seen several on-site demos of security robots. I think that, as of today, they are a very, very, niche product - suitable for about 1/10th of one percent of real world applications. If you think of them as a roving PTZ camera and mobile sensor platform, I can maybe see a use in certain large chemical or industrial plants where you want to avoid sending guards into hazardous environments.

One of the value propositions of robots is supposed to be that they can replace security guards. From what I have seen in the demos, you almost need a full-time security guard just to monitor and control the robot. This would be in addition to the security guards that you need to respond to security incidents and perform other duties. I see very little potential for "guard cost savings" here. 

So far, the only robots I have seen in actual service are being used by the "money is no object" clients, primarily as a novelty (in my opinion). These are the same clients that have a half-million dollar RV sitting around waiting for deployment as their "Security Command Center" in the event of a disaster.  

I'm trying to stay open-minded about robots, but so far I think that wide-scale deployment of these devices probably won't occur for years. 

I can maybe see a use in certain large chemical or industrial plants where you want to avoid sending guards into hazardous environments.

Michael, good feedback. I am actually curious to hear more if any of the robot providers are finding success in these niches. I certainly agree with you that the robot providers would do best finding areas where humans have fundamental weaknesses, target them first, gain some success and experience and then expand to more conventional, mainstream areas.

UPDATE: Drowned Robot End User Proves This Point

The end user for the drowned robot has gotten a replacement. They are touting it on social media, as Rosie the maid from the Jetsons. This is a company who understands entertainment value!

Related, video below of Rosie overdosing her owner George:

Now, Knightscope's drowned robot has blocked IPVM on Twitter:

Looks like I might have spoken too soon on that poll.

From the great movie "Chopping Mall" from 1986 seem pretty advanced back then

Chopper Mall Security Robot

Lol, I've never heard of that movie but its description is amazing:

A group of teenagers that work at the mall all get together for a late night party in one of the stores. When the mall goes on lock down before they can get out, The robot security system activates after a malfunction and goes on a killing spree.

And here is the - insane - trailer embedded below:

In fairness, Knightscope security robots have not killed anyone.

Knightscope security robots have not killed anyone.

That could change when Knightscope gets the next OEM shipment from China:

If the water-seeking robot was equipped with this taser, dozens of innocent Koi might have ended up as floaters...

I was going to post the scene from Robocop of the ED209 going crazy and unloading on that corporate executive, but decided it was just way to graphic.

Knightscope is embracing the entertainment angle with a new 30 second $3 per share investor video that emphasizes "seeing some fun robot selfies":

The sad thing is a KnightScope Robot Selfies campaign almost seems like a better business model than the one they currently have...

Knightscope- Issues MIN42 Field Incident Report - Looks like they pulled the logs to see what happened.



Thanks Mike.

Key quote from that report:

Navigation stack improvements have already been implemented with additional research & development underway to further improve both the wheel slip and cliff detection capabilities as well as adding a new wheel skid detection capability.


I'm becoming more annoyed at the weakness of the K5s twitter account comedic material (and I use that term VERY loosely) than I am about Knightscope's questionable business strategy.

Question:  Why are there zero stand up comedians with a background as autonomous robotics engineers?

Answer:  Because they aren't funny.

Now Knightscope has a made a video / commercial making fun of the incident, using the hashtag #WeAreSteve, turning the tables I suppose on humans:

I'll give them credit for persistence and embracing their real market as entertainers...


Maybe My Humans Shouldn't be Autonomous?

What does that even mean?

How does that video tie into the tag line?

For the love of all that is sacred Knightscope - PLEASE get another twitter person to man the K5 account.


New Houston Chronicle article and they are playing up the entertainment angle.

The shopping center named the Knightscope robot ROD2 (they explain "a play on River Oaks District and the famous Star Wars droid"), and kids love it:

Hmmm, kids love puppies too, from a physical security/usability perspective, this robot is just as good at securing the property, albeit much more expensive.

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