Robots are here and it’s not a gimmick. As in many industries, the introduction of machine learning, computer vision and robotics is changing the paradigm of security and facility teams. Robots are more than a compilation of sensors and computation. They offer both innovation and adaptability and they are (quite literally) computers that can reach out and touch the world. Due to this, they are being designed to move around human spaces safely and in a friendly manner, in a way that avoids being intimidating or scary, and thus easing cultural acceptance. As the scale and use of security robots increases, costs will decrease and capabilities will improve.

Thanks to new integrations, robots have evolved considerably in a few short years. Robots can detect open doors, unauthorized people, water leaks, and investigate suspicious events or sounds. These features offer a host of benefits: they easily integrate with existing security measures such as access control; they enable security or facilities executives to easily add remote coverage; and they can augment existing manned guard operations. With continuing advances in technology and integrations with other legacy systems, it’s predicted that within the next 5 to 10 years, security robots will be a common tool in the security professional’s tool belt.

Already, corporate security directors have found that robots are addressing several pain points. For example, security robots are enabling one guard to oversee multiple floors and buildings at once. Instead of stationing guards overnight to occupy every floor within a corporate facility, robots with telepresence features, as in remote two-way audio and video chatting capabilities, can allow one person to monitor and respond to events in real-time, in multiple locations at once.

In addition, security professionals are using robots to identify safety risks or liabilities, including unauthorized guests or environmental hazards. Robots can easily detect people who are breaking and entering into a building. The robot and remote Specialist can monitor the event and escort the intruder out of the building, without putting anyone in harm’s way. Similarly, robots can also interact with visitors and employees, and can be a useful tool for emergency response situations, such as instructing building occupants to vacate during a fire alarm and then ensuring that the floor is clear.

Security robots are quickly becoming an extension of smart buildings & smart organizations. Robotic systems can build models of what is normal, flag anomalies, and then react in real-time to prevent, detect, and respond to events in real-time. Through complex machine learning algorithms, security robots will continue to learn and improve over time.  For example, robots can leverage historical data about events and sensor capabilities to improve their patrol coverage and eliminate false positives.  Systems can regularly and rapidly perform many of these learning tasks as a part of customer onboarding, including: Modifying patrols based on past encounters and the time of day; learning to differentiate between real people compared to posters on a wall; and building maps of thermal signatures to look for thermal anomalies.

Robots speak to the changing nature of physical security in the modern enterprise. Historically, physical security was relegated to the world of “guns, gates, and guards.” In recent times, security leveled-up, focusing heavily on “people and assets.” But there is another change afoot at a strategic level, where security practitioners increasingly concern themselves with matters such as “risk, compliance, business continuity, and accountability.” In short, physical security is increasingly resembling a cyber system due to the adoption of technology. This is a paradigm shift and one where physical security policy can become more rigorous, consistent, accountable, and tuned on-demand across an entire organization. As a byproduct of this change, physical security will be increasingly elevated within the modern organization, where it can further enable business operations to function at maximum capacity, reduce risk to downtime for shared services, augment human services, and improve overall employee health and happiness.

The introduction of robots in the security space is another key evolution within the security market, one that melds humans and machines to leverage the best qualities and capabilities of both to provide enhanced services. As with most new enterprise technologies, it will take some time for people to realize the full potential of security robots, including the problems they solve, and the value they provide. The industry needs to remain honest and realistic about the capabilities and limitations of technology, while maintaining a level of technical expertise to deliver immediate value and long-term vision.

For security practitioners, security robots present a unique opportunity to enhance security programs by leveraging new machine learning technology which will continue to improve and grow in over time.