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Can robots do security?

30 October 2019

The INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation is based in Singapore and it does what the title says, looks at innovation from across the globe and see how it can help security and policing in a variety of different ways.

One innovation at their bi-annual congress this year was a robot, designed and built by the Singapore based company OneBerry.  This robot was designed to take over the duties of a Security Guard, so I had to have a chat with it to see what it was really capable of.  Little did I realise we had something in common, we are both partial to a drop of alcohol! So, I am (PI) and Kenobi the robot, unsurprisingly is (K), enjoy our chat!

(PI) Hello Kenobi, thank you very much indeed for agreeing to chat- can you tell us a little bit about what your role is within the security industry?

(K) Hello Philip, you are most welcome. This is my first time here at INTERPOL World, in my role as security robot, I provide surveillance, am a great deterrent and can perform tasks that are impossible for my human colleagues. Such as standing guard on 24-hour shift and remembering absolutely everything that happens while on duty, spotting anomalies even at a distance. I never miss my reports, work great as part of a team, together with whom we can perform our duties with superior duty and effectiveness. I also provide relative information and act as a reliable bridge for people to get help in the event of an emergency situation on ground.

(PI) Can you tell us a little bit about your sensor suites?

(K) I’m glad you asked Philip. I’m comprised as a myriad of advanced sensors to assist in me in performing my various tasks safely, autonomously and reliably. I won’t bump into people, especially children or pets, even though they may be harder to see for some of my competitors, I avoid obstacles and can find my way. I am safe and reliable, even when my teammates wish to operate me remotely from afar, be it from a security control room, or the other side of the world. I can move to places on a scheduled basis to be where I am most needed at any time. I can perform autonomous patrols on pre-defined routes or simply amble about interacting with staff, greeting visitors or providing assistance to any and all peoples. Even though I am bombarded with information from my many sensors, I never miss a beat, always remain calm, cool-headed and professional. I have optical sensors that allow me to see 360 degrees, detect flames or heat, perform advanced analytics or zoom in to capture details, should I need to investigate something. I am trained to alert my colleagues if I detect incidents such as loitering, recognising persons of interests, reading vehicle license plates and detecting intruders even in absolute darkness. I can even be equipped to read identification from many different countries, and I am much better at spotting fakes than my human colleagues, particularly in time sensitive applications. There are many things that I can be equipped for, I am up for any job.

(PI) Now I understand that you run on fuel-cell technology? How can you keep going on one charge?

(K) Yes, I am equipped with a safe, yet very advanced, fuel-cell, a world first. This means I can run 24/7, 365 days a year off grid.  In fact, I am charging right now as we speak. I can charge whilst I perform my daily tasks and can signal my human colleagues to hot swap my fuel cartridge in a field should I run low on fuel. That said, I can be topped up with enough fuel to last weeks or even months without a refill, should the application require.

(PI) Now, I’m an Irishman and alcohol is a very important fuel for me, I understand that you run on alcohol as well.

(K) I only consume methanol, but I don’t suggest you try it. It is not for humans; it gives me the energy and power to perform all my duties and all without getting a hangover.

(PI) How do you communicate? Electronics are very difficult, are you hackable?

(K) I can communicate WIFI, cellular data networks, specialised radio or other communication systems. I can connect via secure VPN, or end-to-end encrypted networking systems. Like humans, I am also vulnerable to threats and attacks. There is no such thing as un-hackable, thankfully my creators have made sure I have a very strong immune systems, I am defended by a bespoke software suite which helps defend me against some of the more sophisticated cyber-attacks. This is truly a ground-breaking cyber security solution and provides me with a kind of digital invisibility cloak to help foil potential hackers, malware and provide protection against other threat vectors in the unique challenges faced by myself and my IOT cousins.

(PI) So, I have to ask, you’ve talked about your IOT cousins, but what of your human cousins, whose more efficient, a human security operative or you as a robot?

(K) Of course, I would say that I am more efficient when compared with my human colleagues, I guess that is why they want to hire me. I don’t need sleep, so I can work very long hours, I am always vigilant and alert, even when working dynamic and sometimes protracted situations. I have amazing vision capabilities and even have eyes in the back of my head. Like an elephant, I never forget, I remember everything and can process complex situations very quickly. For example, I can recognise faces in less than a 1/5th second whilst remembering millions of faces at a time. That said, I work together with my human colleagues, I really am a team player and always follow orders. I provide data alerts with insights and assist my human partners in their making informed decisions, acting upon all the information at hand. I deal with the big data picture, but I leave the decision making to my human colleagues. Our partnership seems to be working quite well so far and I do enjoy working with them on most days.

(PI) On most days I quite enjoy working with my human colleagues as well, Kenobi, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you.

A final comment from Ken P the CEO of OnBerry who manufacture Kenobi,

But your solution you’ve made, you bought a number of robots here- is that not going to concern the civilian security guards?

Not really because if you look at today’s world in security itself, especially in events where a large number of people gather. You need to enhance the security, so instead of enhancing it with more manpower, which is already scarce in Singapore, we put in automation, including, turnstiles, automated kiosks and robots.  The good thing is that the security has a good overall feel and can be seen all over the show floor. I think this is important as a visual security presence is a must today.

We won’t see Kenobi at this years International Security Expo, but the debate on technology enhancing or taking over from Humans will continue.