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Robotic Security Guards On the Rise But Not Ready to Replace Human Personnel

A recent study by Oxford Economics predicts that as many as 20 million jobs will be taken over by robots by 2030, and that’s just in the manufacturing sector. Robots are showing up in an array of other skilled employment areas, such as delivering packages, fast-food functions, janitorial jobs and hundreds of service sector jobs. Transportation is another key area as several entities are racing to develop driverless cars and trucks.

robot human security guardAnother employment sector experiencing the rise of robots is security. It’s not just cameras and burglar alarms, but mobile robots that can patrol hallways, factory floors and outside grounds. A number of high-tech firms are moving aggressively to develop robots that work to patrol and secure public and private physical locations. One example is Knightscope, a firm headquartered in Mountain View, California. It builds what they call ADMs, Autonomous Data Machines. They are designed to monitor crimes in malls, parking lots an even traverse the streets of neighborhoods.

Cobalt Robotics of San Mateo, California, is a firm that boasts machines designed to “cover the gaps existing security tools leave behind.” Cobalt also manufactures robots that are controlled remotely by human operators. Both Knightscope and Cobalt Robotics make “smart, autonomous vehicle robots” which can move about and monitor an area for crimes and to provide an observable presence for safety. An examination of their robot products displayed on their respective websites looks like something out of science fiction film.

The question is, are robots on the cusp of replacing human security guards? Will the job of security guard soon be given over to the realm of smart machines? Industry observers say the answer is a resounding no. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for security guards are likely to remain in robust demand and the number of jobs in this sector will grow by at least 4% through 2028. As of 2018, there were 1,154,300 people employed as security guards in the United States.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics website states: “The overall opportunities for security guard should be excellent.”

There are several reasons why robots will not be replacing people as security guards in the near future. In general, there are still an array of functions a living person can do that robots are a long way from being able to provide. Consider these examples:

Emergency First Aide – Only a human being can perform the Heimlich maneuver, perform CPR or take other hands-on measures to stop bleeding or assist with injuries. Many security guards are trained in such EMT skills and can bring this invaluable function to their jobs.

Judgment — Robots cannot be programmed to make judgment calls in unique situations. They cannot apply reason and act independently in the face of a wide range of unpredictable scenarios. Improvements in AI may one day change that, but it’s still a long way off.

Hacking – Robots are not foolproof considering they can be hacked and rendered useless by criminals. Their data can be stolen or erased. In fact, a clever hacker could even enable a security robot to assist with a crime.

Cost – Robots are still an elite, high-tech item with a hefty price tag. The cost comparison vis-a-vis paying for human security guards is not competitive.

Armed – Robots cannot carry or deploy defensive weapons. That means anything from firearms to electronic tasers, sprays or batons. Society and government regulation are a long way from allowing robots that work in public spaces to carry lethal or disabling forces of any kind that could inflict physical harm upon human beings. Human security guards can carry lethal and defensive force after completing rigorous training.

Teamwork – This is among the most important and valued characteristics of a company’s security guard contingent. Teamwork is essential for a cohesive effort and to provide a highly secure environment based on good communication and coordination of effort.

The most likely trend, for now, is that robotic security systems will be considered an adjutant to enhance the efforts of human security guard teams. Robots, after all, are tools used by people. Real security guards will not be threatened by robotic devices because these devices help them do their jobs and provide an added level of safety.

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