Are security robots ready for prime time?

April 5, 2017
SIW speaks with several companies developing the tech for the market at ISC West 2017

Las Vegas – The thought of using robots as guards may seem like a far-fetched notion to some, but the technology itself is already mature and starting to gain traction in the security industry. For proof, one need look no further than the Unmanned Security Expo taking place at ISC West this year, which features a host of companies showing off the latest in aerial drone and robotic technology.

When Knightscope first introduced its autonomous data machines (ADMs) to the industry in 2013, the thought at the time was that, while a novel concept, robotic technology wouldn’t be taking off in the market anytime soon. Now, just four years later, Knightscope has inked partnership deals with some of the industry’s largest guard services firms, such as Universal Protection Service (now AlliedUniversal) and Securitas, and has seen its ADM units deployed in a wide variety of applications including hospitals, malls, stadiums, and corporate campuses.  

But Knightscope isn’t the only firm working to deliver robotic technology to the security industry. One company making its debut at ISC West this year is Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD), which is demonstrating its autonomous unmanned ground vehicle – the SMP Robotics S5 Security Guard – developed in conjunction with SMP Robotics Systems Corp.

For the S5 Security Guard, RAD provides the hardware and software that enables organizations to choose what video management software they want to use with the robot, according to Steve Reinharz, RAD’s founder and CEO. RAD has also partnered with NVIDIA to provide the software and hardware necessary for the robot to perform human and vehicle identification. Additionally, Reinharz , who has spent more than two decades working in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, says RAD drives the development priority schedule for the robot and does all of the physical assembly. For its part, SMP works on the technology R&D side to bring advanced functionality to the S5 Security Guard.      

Another company offering its own version of a robot security guard at ISC West this year is Gamma 2 Robotics with its RAMSEE unit. The company is spearheaded by CEO Lew Pincus, a former executive at G4S. Having spent years studying the manned guarding industry, Pincus says he realized that it was becoming a commoditized offering with very little differentiation between providers.

“In listening to the voice of the customer, they were always asking for a better way.  I knew robotics presented the biggest new, disruptive technology to come along in decades that could literally transform the industry,” Pincus says. “I thought of it in terms of how robotics could stabilize turnover and reduce things like non-billed overtime and some of the HR headaches people experience, such as slip-and-fall claims and OSHA reporting.”

Go-to-Market Strategy

According to Reinharz, RAD and SMP are working to deliver their robot to the market through three different channels: a dealer network (both security integrators and/or companies with a background in robotics), partnerships with guard companies, and direct to end-users. However, customers cannot purchase the robot outright, but rather will only be able to rent it and there are several reasons for that, according to Reinharz.   

“We need to keep our fingers on it and we need to make sure we control any requests for derivative works,” Reinharz says. “The robots themselves are very complicated machines and we have to have restrictions in place if anyone is going to open up a robot and mess around with it. We also have concerns related to reverse engineering with the unique pieces of technology that we have in there, so all of those reasons add up to why we will continue to own the asset and customer will rent it.”

Pincus says Gamma 2 intends to either sell or lease their RAMSEE units through various channel partners, such as guard firms and large systems integrators.

“We really wanted to start in the tough-to-staff graveyard shifts within warehouses, big box retailers, data centers, museums, and other places where the overnight shift is hard to maintain and staff. There is low human interaction on those shifts and we really wanted go narrow and deep within those applications for the robots to perform those ‘dull, dirty and mundane’ types of patrols that is really where the industry struggles the most with manpower,” Pincus adds.  

Barriers to Adoption

Reinharz believes the presence of security robots working alongside human guards will become commonplace in the near future; however, there are still a few obstacles standing in the way of widespread adoption, the majority of which have more to do with industry perceptions than the readiness of the technology.

“The security industry hasn’t necessarily been the best at adopting new technology, but dealing with that [more traditional] side of our market isn’t really our core focus,” Reinharz explains. “Our focus is finding the progressive end-users that really understand the value of security robots and are willing to be early adopters. Over the course of 2017, we expect to be able to produce many positive use cases of the technology.”

Pincus says robotics technology is still in its infancy stages in security and that companies like Gamma 2 are still in the process of trying to prove its value to the industry. “Until there are case studies, performance metrics and data to support why robotics makes sense, I think that will be one of the biggest barriers to adoption and it’s probably going to take one to two years,” he adds.

One of the biggest misconceptions about robotics in security, according to Reinharz, is that they are going to take jobs away from human guards, which he says simply isn’t the case.

“There’s hundreds of examples of how technology and automation have revolutionized the employment landscape. We’ve got well over one million security guards employed in the United States right now,” Reinharz says. “Realistically, how many of these robots are we going to be getting out on the road? It’s not like our factory is putting out 10,000 of these things a month? We’re dealing with such small numbers that there is going to be negligible impact on the security guarding industry for years to come. Almost every one of our [customer] prospects has said they’re not looking to replace security guards but want this to augment their security forces.”  

Pincus agrees and says that robots are never going to replace human guards outright given the depth of experience many of them have.

“Robots are not going to replace human security officers with field experience, either in law enforcement or the military, and have those situational awareness, observation and perception skills,” Pincus says. “What they can do is provide many of the onboard tools that turn them into a mobile data platform and becomes a security officer coworker with cameras, sensors and future capabilities like facial recognition on the fly.” 

About the Author: 

Joel Griffin is the Editor of and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected]

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.