SINGAPORE: It cruises past a row of parked cars under the blazing hot sun at Outram Road. Suddenly, it stops in its tracks and zooms in on something.
“It has potentially identified a blacklisted car, through its car-plate," explained group managing director of Ademco Security, Toby Koh, while on its tail.
"This is information that will be relayed back to the command centre,” he said. “This is a simulated situation, but it can also be trained to respond to other abnormal situations, like abandoned baggage, or singling out an unfamiliar person using facial recognition software.”
This is by no means an ordinary patrol at a car park. It features a bright orange robot, part submarine-shaped contraption complete with periscope and part ATV.
S5, as the robot is known to Ademco staff, is the security company's first recruit among a fleet of autonomous robots that is promising to change the face of the security industry in Singapore - an industry plagued with a lack of manpower to match demand, as well as a high turnover rate.
“One of the biggest challenges for security staff, apart from working 12-hour shifts, is patrolling. It is tough to go and patrol seven to eight times a day. And for some sites, it may be even more strenuous,” Mr Koh said.
“And really, there are also limitation in human beings. If I were to do a patrol 10 times a day, at some point, my ability to focus and concentrate, try and identify abnormalities in the environment is going to deteriorate.”
Mr Koh said the S5 is the answer to such physiological challenges. Once it has been programmed to a route, the robot can patrol the entire area 24 hours a day without any human intervention. It can also self-charge.
Robots can complement the role of security staff, freeing them up for higher-value functions, said Ademco. (Photo: Monica Kotwani)
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, REAL-TIME MONITORING
The S5 is part of Ademco’s new Robot-As-A-Service (RaaS) launch. The contraption weighs about 160 kilogrammes, and has a suspension that allows it to withstand knocks and bumps. Its long neck is equipped with six cameras for panoramic vision and an additional pan-tilt-zoom camera for remote zooming.
Mr Koh said where a security guard’s vision may be able to monitor at most his peripheral view, the robot's camera assesses a 360-degree surrounding.
“For example, it is patrolling an oil and gas facility on Jurong Island. It patrols, stops and its vision is such that it is able to pick up minute details- for example, a cut in the fence line if someone has penetrated it,” he said. “It might be a small cut, put back together as much as possible. But because there is a small gap, the robot is able to pick up on minute differences.”
A built-in automatic guidance system allows the robot to take detours and avoid obstacles, preventing accidents with humans and vehicles. It also has a WiFi and other communication software that relays any information to an on-site security centre as well as to Ademco’s 24-hour Central Monitoring and Command Centre (CMCC).
Enlisting the robot's service starts from S$7,500 a month. Ademco said more than 10 companies based in Singapore have expressed interest. They include a “major landlord” with about 40 industrial and commercial properties as well as a Government agency.
ROBOTS WILL COMPLEMENT, NOT REPLACE SECURITY STAFF
With robots taking over tasks such as patrolling, Ademco said security personnel can now carry out higher-value functions that they have been trained for. Its director for group sales and marketing Patrick Lim said these functions include security planning, investigations and even interacting with the tenants they protect. Mr Lim said it would also help with staff retention.
“We have come across many security guards who would like to have a career in this industry but they find that the job is far from what they expect, mainly because it becomes a laborious and mundane job. If the job scope can be changed such that higher-value skill sets are being utilised more, I believe a lot of them would be willing to stay on,” he said.
Ademco said that while the technology is from the US, the company has localised it to withstand Singapore’s high temperatures and humidity. It expects to deploy the robots as early as next month.