The RoboGuard: New Product

By Ethan Ace, Published Oct 15, 2014, 12:00am EDT

ASIS loves robots (apparently).

First, the Vigilus patrol robot won an award in 2012, and now, Senstar's RoboGuard [link no longer available], an automated fence patrol system, has won in 2014. But the question remains: can these robots practically and cost effectively replace human guards? In this note, we look at RoboGuard, its features and functions, cost of implementation, and how it compares to manned patrols.

[Note: As of early 2017, Senstar has no information on RoboGuard available on their site.]]

RoboGuard Overview

Senstar's RoboGuard [link no longer available] is a fence mounted "robot" which rides along a steel pipe mounted inside the fence line. A single robot may cover up to 1 mile (1.6km) of fence line, typically with a base station (used to change batteries and receive signal via wi-fi) mounted in the center of the area. A single base station may handle two robots.

Here is a quick highlight of it in operation at ASIS 2014:

Under normal operation, the robot moves along the fence at up to 4 miles per hour, scanning for anomalies in the fence and immediate area, transmitting video from fixed and PTZ camera to the central monitoring system. When an unusual object is detected, staff is alerted, and the robot and PTZ camera may be manually controlled, and subject(s) talked down via built-in speakers. The robot may also respond to alarms from Senstar's perimeter detection products, such as fence or buried sensors, moving at higher speed (up to 20 MPH) to the intrusion location, where staff may take over in manual mode.

This vendor video shows an overview of the robot's operation:

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Each robot carries the following:

  • Short range LIDAR laser scanner used to detect anomalies in or around the fence
  • One fixed megapixel IR bullet camera
  • One standard definition PTZ camera with built in IR
  • Built in microphone and speaker for two-way audio
  • Wifi for command and control as well as video streaming
  • Rechargeable lithium batteries with up to 3 hours runtime

RoboGuard rides on a galvanized steel pipe mounted about 2-4' from the inside of the fence. Top speed depends on inclines in the fence line, with steeper angles requiring slower gearing. At maximum, the robot may travel up 25° inclines, though this reduces maximum speed to 5 MPH.

Cost

Senstar says pricing on RoboGuard is not readily available, and varies, because each system requires custom integration. Base station layout, sensor configuration, gearing, and other factors all vary depending on user site and project requirements.

Additionally, the monorail must be installed along the entire fenceline, drastically increasing cost. 2.5" galvanized pipe sells for about $8/per foot, making the material cost for pipe alone ~$40,000 per mile, not including the cost of supports or installation labor. This assumes that the existing fence is able to support the added weight of the RoboGuard and rail (550 lbs. plus ~6 pounds per foot of pipe). Reinforcing or replacing the fence further drives cost.

Finally, power and network connectivity are required at each base station to power battery chargers and connect the base station's wifi to the central monitoring system. Though only a single connection per mile is required, for those with very large fencelines (the most likely candidates for RoboGuard), adding this infrastructure may easily cost tens of thousands of dollars per mile.

Adding these three factors together, likely cost is upwards of a hundred thousand dollars per mile of coverage using RoboGuard.

Compared to Human Guards

RoboGuard is unlikely to be cost effective compared to human guards for these key reasons:

  • Cost: At over $100,000 per mile, a RoboGuard system easily costs more than two guards' salaries per year, making the years-long ROI difficult to justify when other factors (below) are considered.
  • Coverage: The RoboGuard is confined to only one mile of fenceline, limited to only what its LIDAR and cameras may see, and may not be used in areas with steep inclines without greatly reducing range and speed, if it may be used at all. By contrast, human guards may patrol many miles of fence in a shift and investigate areas not near the fence, inside or outside a perimeter.
  • Deterrence/response: Subjects attempting to scale or penetrate the fence may simply be undeterred by the presence of RoboGuard. While human guards may use it to attempt to talk down intruders, they may simply continue on, entering the perimeter and doing damage before manned guard staff may respond. A human guard may provide a more effective deterrent and may detain or use force against intruders in critical facilities.

All things considered, these factors make adoption of RoboGuard unlikely as a guard replacement. Instead, it will likely see some limited use in very high security installations with large budgets as a supplement to human patrols and remote monitoring.

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