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The Knightscope K5 robot could replace some security guards

| December 18, 2013

What is five-feet tall, 300 pounds, and can forecast crime?

A start-up tech company Knightscope, based in California rolled out its K5 autonomous data machine early this month with an aim to predict and prevent crime in the country. Company officials say that deadly mass shootings and increasing crime rates inspired Knightscope and the invention of the K5 Autonomous Data machine.

William Santana Li, CEO and chairman of Knightscope, says, “We founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook. You are never going to have an armed officer in every school.” According to the FBI’s latest statistics, the rate of violent crimes increased 0.7 percent in 2012, and there were 386.9 violent offenses per 100,000 inhabitants in that year.

Knightscope was chosen as the third most promising start-up by the Plug and Play Tech Center’s 2013 winter expo, where its recent invention in the form of the K5 roboguard garnered appreciation and apprehension in equal parts. Where William calls the K5, a mash-up of Batman, Minority Report and R2D2, Marc Rotenberg, President and Executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center calls it the “evil twin”of R2D2.

Knightscope K5 transforms the traditional neighborhood watch

Li believes the presence of the K5 in any environment can change criminal behavior. Li tells Mashable, “Criminals are looking for the path of least resistance…Are you really going to go into a community with 200 droids roaming around? No, you’re going to go into the next neighborhood.”

Inventors claim that the K5 can reduce crime by 50 percent in any scenario you employ it.

K5’s mass surveillance may lead to privacy breach

Not long ago, a federal appeals court in California agreed to proceed with the lawsuit accusing Google’s Street View of scooping up private data. Knightscope K5 also has cameras and other devices that will record and store every activity happening around the robot. The innovation might meet a similar fate if the public becomes concerned about privacy.

Mr. Rotenberg says K5’s abilities would rapidly encroach on traditional privacy rights. “There is a big difference between having a device like this one on your private property and in a public space,” he says. “Once you enter public space and collect images and sound recordings, you have entered another realm. This is the kind of pervasive surveillance that has put people on edge.”

The K5 threatens private security jobs

In the labor sector, while K5 has created new hopes for better security by helping security professionals tackle crime, it has also raised a few eyebrows. The machine works for $ 6.25 an hour, a dollar less the federal minimum wage. The K5 could hurt the income of the mostly non-unionized, 1 million plus private security guards employed in the country.

The Robotic Security Guard has a bevy of high tech surveillance instruments at its disposal, such as a 360-degree high definition video camera, high quality microphone, a laser imaging sensor that maps in 3D, a thermal imaging system, radar, and facial- and license plate-recognition systems to keep an eye on every activity in the patrol area.

The data collected by robots via a network of sensors will be stored in a centralized data center, which will send out real time alerts (not only to local law enforcement but to concerned parties) to preempt any unwanted situation.

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