Robolliance Corner: SSI Introduces New Online Feature for Robotics Applications

The new quarterly online feature, Robolliance Corner, will offer exclusive content authored by subject-matter experts to explore and inform on the autonomous robotics marketplace.

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Security Sales & Integration is proud to introduce a new quarterly online feature called “Robolliance Corner,” offering exclusive articles and other content authored by sponsors of the Robolliance.

SSI is the security media partner of Robolliance, a forum for technology partners and industry experts in robotics, surveillance and security to advance the understanding and awareness of the autonomous robotics marketplace. Sharp Electronics Corp. (SEC) first introduced the forum at PSA-TEC 2016.

In this inaugural installment of “Robolliance Corner,” five subject-matter experts provide responses to the following question, which aims to illuminate risk mitigation and emergency response lessons to be learned from the past six months of natural disasters and terror incidents. 

In what ways do you believe security robotics and associated technologies could be deployed in the future to predict, prevent, reduce losses or respond to natural disasters and acts of terror?

Robolliance Brian HigginsBrian Higgins
Group 77
Founder & President

Although the United States has the most highly trained and well-equipped first responders, getting help to those who need it is not always accomplished as timely as we prefer.  When the events pass, we ask ourselves questions:

  • How did this happen and why?
  • How could we have stopped it or reduced its effect?
  • What did we do right?
  • What could we have done better?

We ask these questions so we can plan for the next disaster. We do this so we can save lives and reduce the impact of such events.

When creating plans for responding to disasters, organizations often approach that planning in phases.  Those phases begin with preparation, which includes mitigation, so the effects of a disaster are eliminated or reduced, followed by the response and recovery phases. The response and recovery phases can be very dangerous to first responder, especially when the event is still occurring.

As soon as a disaster strikes it is imperative that assessment begins as quickly as possible to get an understanding of the needs for the response and recovery. It is during the assessment phase that first responders will determine where to deploy resources to save lives. To accomplish this, emergency operation plans include sections to address the use of camera images to assess damage in real-time during an event helping to protect our first responders and deploy response assets as quickly as possible where most needed.

The use of camera images for assessing damage and determining needs for response is expanding through the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The benefits of this will continue to increase. For now, one of the greatest benefits of using UAVs for this purpose is to expedite the assessment phase, thereby assisting in getting help as quickly as possible to those who need it immediately.

UAVs may be deployed prior to a severe weather event, such as a hurricane, to get a current view of the state of a facility or geographic area. UAV images can identify areas in need of prompt equipment attention or identify those who are in the direct path of the storm. UAVs can be deployed as the hurricane or earthquake is passing to get a view of the damage for need assessment and prioritization.

Though a powerful tool, UAVs cannot work alone. There are limitations, such as strong winds, which can keep them from flying. There is also the issue of operating time-based on battery life. The use of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) can enhance the capability of UAVs and fill the gaps when weather and battery life impact them.

While UAVs can view a greater geographic area by providing an image from the sky, UGVs can operate in adverse weather conditions to gain vantage points from the surface of the emergency. In addition, UGVs typically have longer battery life, so they can perform during longer operational periods.

Unmanned vehicles that operate semi-autonomously and autonomously provide a platform for other technologies to be integrated. Unmanned vehicles can be equipped with cameras, thermal imaging and chemical/biological detectors. During the most recent disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wild fires, the need to find victims was crucial.

Organizations are now deploying equipment with the capability to sense human beings.  They can identify victims trapped in collapsed buildings and other debris. The use of unmanned vehicles equipped with such devices could provide real-time sensing of victims during the event and immediately after.

Robots and unmanned vehicles will never completely replace human beings, but they can definitely provide force multiplication by putting more “eyes” on the destruction left by a disaster, increasing a rescuer’s capability while decreasing the time to deliver emergency response.

Robolliance David AntarDavid Antar
IP Video Corp.

With the recent hurricanes and natural disasters, along with acts of violence and threats of terror, the focus on risk mitigation, prevention, and effective response becomes paramount. Technology becomes a big focal point as many in the safety and security sector wonder what technology resources can help predict, prevent, and respond to ensure a reduction of devastating loss. Robotics and sensor technology plays a big part of the solution.

As we have witnessed the horrible devastation resulting from recent hurricane activity, we have observed situations where it has been difficult to safely navigate emergency supplies throughout affected areas. In addition, looting and violence usually follow these types of natural events leaving survivors at increased risks.

Unmanned vehicles and robotics can help alleviate these risks by providing a safer means of navigating dangerous terrain to deliver emergency supplies while providing a security presence in areas involved in looting and unfortunate gang violence.

Maintaining a security presence helps deter violence and potential terror threats. Unmanned robotic vehicles can play an active role in providing regular roving patrols, detecting activity through its various sensors and providing real-time situational awareness to security personnel in the field.

In many cases, dangerous events cannot be completely prevented, however, robotics and sensor technology help to better prepare public and private entities with real-time analytical information and an ongoing security presence resulting in an active deterrent to violence.

Robolliance Jack WuJack Wu
Nightingale Security
Co-Founder & CEO

In recent months we’ve seen neighborhoods, cities and states inundated by powerful storms and fires. First responders are deployed to these dangerous and deadly situations with sophisticated equipment and training to do their jobs. And even though they are well prepared for action, what they also need is situational awareness.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide first responders with invaluable situational awareness which can help them save lives while also limiting their own risk exposure.

After a hurricane, people are often trapped or injured or lost. UAVs can give first responders an aerial view of large expanses — helping them locate people who need to be rescued, assess damaged infrastructure and prioritize how to best deploy their limited resources to do the most good.

In short, this technology can help first responders be faster and more efficient. In the case of a natural disaster, time isn’t money, it’s lives.

Robolliance Margie GurwinMargie Gurwin
Content Creation Partners
Founder & Principal

As the pace of artificial intelligence (AI) development intensifies and computers’ abilities to make sense of visual stimuli improves, humans will put more trust in robots’ decision-making capabilities, including the type of split-second decisions that must be made when responding to terror incidents.

What must not be lost, as we make that transition, is an appreciation of the role that accountability plays in justifying and/or forgiving first responders who occasionally make “wrong” decisions in the heat of the moment. When a human makes an error in judgment, we can often put ourselves in his or her shoes and understand why they made the choices they did under extreme stress and with incomplete information.

If a robot makes a similar mistake, will we, as humans, be as able to “forgive” a corporation whose failed AI is responsible?

The ultimate goal of AI is to process information more quickly, accurately and contextually than the human brain. It’s already happening. Robots have been proven to perform better than humans on many tasks that require deep thinking, including game-playing, medical diagnoses, and stock-market predictions.

Still, research shows that machine vision can be tricked; a recent article on talks about how Google’s AI can mistake a 3D turtle for a gun. As we move closer to a world in which robocops are a reality, it behooves us to remember the adage: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” When a robocop accidentally harms an innocent person, who will we forgive?

Robolliance Ben WatersBen Waters
Co-Founder & CEO

We’ve already seen amazing uses for both ground and aerial robots in disaster response. Whether it’s deploying miniature robots to search collapsed buildings or aerial drones for search and rescue in flooded neighborhoods, autonomous vehicles are going where humans simply can’t go.

One of the biggest challenges, however, is the amount of time it currently takes to get these systems deployed. In many cases, operators and their vehicles are summoned from outside of the disaster area, taking hours or days to get onsite and fully deployed.

Fortunately, technologies are emerging to shorten that deployment timeframe. We foresee the permanent deployment of many types of robots in disaster-proof locations, such as fire stations or emergency control centers. The robots can be housed in hardened enclosures that keep the vehicles fully charged and easily deployable.

During or immediately after these events, robots will be quickly utilized for surveillance and response planning purposes. With remote piloting now possible, it’s even thinkable for emergency coordinators outside of the disaster area to deploy these resources when local first responders cannot.

To learn more about security applications for robots and drones, visit Robolliance Expert Corner.

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