From the Editor’s Desk: November 2015

Dear Reader

A news item that appears in our India Round-Up section of this edition is about the increasing dependence on electronic surveillance by banks to protect ATMs and its ramifications on the manned guarding industry. It estimates that as many as 200,000 security personnel manning ATMs across the country may lose their jobs over the next two-three years as banks have started deploying advanced e-surveillance architecture for security and monitoring of their cash machines. This trend is not surprising, considering the huge recurring monthly expenditure of employing security personnel to do the same job. The banks found that E-surveillance costs less than 15% of the manned guarding cost for any ATM!

As per MIT Technology Review last year, a quartet of five-foot-tall, 130 Kg shiny white robots patrolled Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. In order to do the kind of work a human security guard would normally do, the robots use four high-definition cameras (one on each side of the robot), a license-plate recognition camera, four microphones, and a weather sensor for measuring barometric pressure, carbon dioxide levels, and temperature. The robots use Wi-Fi or a wireless data network to communicate with each other and with people who can remotely monitor their cameras, microphones, and other sources of data. GPS and a laser ranging instrument help the robots find their way around their patrol area and avoid obstacles when on duty.

In the United Kingdom too, a robotic security guard called Bob patrols the headquarters of G4S in Gloucestershire, and is part of a $12.2 million pilot project for the University of Birmingham. The goal of the university’s project is to place robots in offices all over the globe.

Courtney Sparkman, Founder and CEO at states that technology will allow security guard companies the ability to do more with fewer human security guards. So rather than having three or four security guards working a shift, companies may be able to reduce that number to one guard and possibly one or two robots.

This move towards using robots in conjunction with humans in the western countries will also result in the shift of skill sets needed by human security officers. The ability to operate, respond to, and possibly even install and make adjustments to these robots, may become standard job requirements. It will be these additional abilities and skills that will allow human security officers to stay on post rather than be replaced by their robotic counterparts.

However, in India, as the guard wages continue to rise we may well see innovative use of surveillance and sensing technology to do the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work that security guards and the police do, leaving them free to perform more strategic tasks. These personnel who are deployed to physically monitor infrastructure and establishments could be redeployed to render the much needed emergency response services, which is also the topic of our cover story this month.

Till we meet next month, stay safe!

Cheers & Happy Reading

G B Singh

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