The Dawn of Robot Guards?

Artificial intelligence attracts significant R&D investment, and at technology shows across the world we see robot waiters, robot dancers, robot cleaners and even robot people walking robot dogs, whatever the point of that is I don’t know. Surely the time is right for the introduction of robot security guards?

The other night I had to chuckle to myself. I’m not sure what it is about Sky Plus that evades Mrs Dave, but watching her gradually lose her grip on reality as she tries to watch the soap episodes she has missed is a treat after a hard day at work. Now, what worries me is that she’s a smart woman, and I must have showed her how it works more times than I care to remember. However, as soon as she comes up against a problem she just starts stabbing randomly at buttons. Before you know it, havoc ensues!

We’ve probably all been out to diagnose systems that have mysteriously gone wrong, only to find that they’ve been through the mill with a random button stabber! Interestingly, if you ask the system operator what they’ve been doing, they shrug and innocently say the system was working, but then it just stopped. Every time I hear that I smell a whole bunch of something, and it ain’t bananas!

I have tried smiling sweetly and explaining that the system could be up and running again much more quickly if they’d only just tell me what they’ve done, but it doesn’t help. They’ll just repeat that it was working, but then it stopped. Just like that. I guess that’s just the way some security guards are.

When the Private Security Industry Act was first enshrined in law, much noise was made about how it would usher in the new age of the professional security officer. We expected a tidal-wave of competence, a surge of ability, an eruption of quality. The SIA rode into town and immediately afterwards the cowboys rode out. That was the script, wasn’t it? We were all going to live happily ever after in the knowledge that the industry was on the up and up.

At the time there were mumblings coming from the great and good that the installation sector was to be involved in licensing. Thankfully that didn’t happen. A Government-issued licence that didn’t reflect technical competence was pointless in a technology-specific market, and would have probably led to more problems than it solved!

Whilst those involved in pushing the goals of the Private Security Industry Act have made great strides, there remains a gulf between the manned element of the industry and the system-based sectors. As technologies advance, so those involved in the operation of systems need to be more technically aware. Often that isn’t the case!

Even with the introduction of workflows for system operators, I often wonder if some of them are doing more harm than good. I don’t know if its curiosity or a result of idle hands, but the propensity to fiddle is seemingly always close by.

Recently the news that Microsoft is trialling robot security guards has ruffled some feathers in the manned sector, but I think it’s a positive step. After all, the robots can use the data gathered by system to be more efficient, and data sharing can be further enhanced during incidents. However, best of all, they might actually understand how the systems work!

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It won’t be a popular sentiment with some sections of the security industry, but in many applications the weakest link is the human being in the uniform who’s struggling to stay awake!


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