The age of robotics is fast approaching. To be successful, security systems integrators need to understand how these machines fit in the security of their clients, according to industry experts.
“The integrators did not begin this trend,” says Bill Bozeman, President and CEO of the PSA Security Network, cooperative of security product suppliers and system integration companies. “They did not say, ‘Oh boy I can’t wait to introduce robotics into my portfolio'. This is driven by the end users. This is the norm. Like it or not, the integrator community is somewhat reactionary.”
Robotics in vertical markets
For those security integrators who serve industry verticals such as utilities, oil and gas, healthcare, higher education and even real estate owners with large campuses and buildings such as malls, knowledge of robotic security solutions is essential, he adds.
Those serving large companies
“You go into the meeting with your portfolio, and the security director comes in and says ‘Hey, tell me your thoughts on security robotics. Do you think it’s a fit for my organisation and what do you think?’ If you say ‘I don’t know’, they’re going to think ‘This company is not keeping up.”
For those professionals geared to providing security to small shops and stores or homes, robotics will not be a prime solution for many years to come. Those serving the great mass of large companies and facilities will need to understand the capacities of robotics, the leading-edge manufacturers and the designers.
Educating integrators on robotics
“PSA has a history of introducing the “next big thing” to their integrators before they eventually hardwire the topic to their training curriculum,” echoes Cliff Quiroga, Vice President and Deputy General Manager at Sharp and a leader in the new formed Robolliance.
Bozeman’s organisation has taken the lead in providing a wide variety of educational and networking programmes that bring together integrators with manufacturers and industry experts on the topic of robotics. “For those who choose not to play, well they’ll be forced into the small segment of verticals where robotics doesn’t make a difference,” says Bozeman. “There won’t be many of those. Their pool of potential business will shrink.”
|Advances in technology will reduce the costs of deploying robots into facilities, making them more appealing to companies|
Future with service robots
The deployment of robots into civilian security operations has been limited so far, but the number of product options is growing rapidly. Major companies such as Sharp have created robotic divisions and are readying products for testing and deployment to real-world customers. Guard companies are already looking at robots and how they can be incorporated into their offering to work alongside human officers.
“The latest advancement in robotics, particularly in the area of drones and unmanned ground vehicles, is a game-changer,” observes Brian Higgins, founder and president of Group 77, a security and public safety consulting firm. “The robots of today will provide that catalyst, that direct connection between humans and technology creating the integration we are trying to accomplish.”
Robots won’t replace security officers, but they will take over many of the mundane and boring tasks such as monitoring cameras and sensors that humans simply aren’t very good at doing, notes Higgins.
"Robots will patrol, they will
“Robots will patrol, they will inspect, they will sense and they will perform actions that are pre-programmed by humans,” says Higgins. “The routine patrols performed by the robots will be done with cameras that are better in capturing images than the human eye. They will sense better than the human nose or ears. I think there is very little limitation on what robots can do and will do in the future.”
Making robotics appealing
Advances in technology will reduce the costs of deploying robots into facilities, making them more appealing to companies that are all too well aware of the limits of human attention.
“The security industry is plagued with commoditisation of their traditional technology,” says Quiroga. “Many products, especially video, are being mass-produced with very similar performance capabilities and made available through a variety of online outlets and distributors. The industry is choking on commoditisation and channel conflicts with limited value being added by the integrator.”
With robotics, security integrators will now have a unique technology to gather data for the client, provide the constant security presence, and insulate them from the future increase in minimum wage for their existing services, he adds.
|Being first requires an investment to build and train a staff committed to robotics|
Bumper opportunities for robotics experts
“Being an ‘expert’ in robotics will be a differentiator for the integrator, open more doors for them, and help them win over new clients because of the value they bring to the overall security solution,” says Quiroga.
Experts agree that the integrator community needs to understand that robotics offers an unparalleled growth opportunity for those companies that commit early to the technology. Wall Street is already taking note of the industry and its potential.
Earlier this year, iRobot, which makes robotic vacuum cleaners, spun off its military and police robot division into a separate company. Now known as Endeavor Robotics, the company was purchased for $45 million by Arlington Capital Partners. The company is the largest supplier of robots to the U.S. military.
“Although the technology is still in final development, there is no other market segment related to electronic security that could provide the business opportunity that robotic technology will provide the early adopters,” says Quiroga. “Being first requires an investment to build and train a staff committed to robotics; successful integrators will not be those who only offer robotics as a solution on the occasional project. Robotics is coming; get ready now.”