For the past few years, security technology has been discussing the appearance of “patrol” or “security” robots. These are bots that can move around and perform basic security tasks in a specific area like a mall, store, or plaza. They’ve also started becoming more common, which is raising plenty of questions for security firms of all sizes.

Let’s focus on what these bots mean for the security industry, how they affect security guards, and why they are enabling the industry rather than threatening it.

Security Jobs Are Largely Safe from Bots

Security robots cannot take the place of trained security guards – and don’t pose much threat to the guard jobs market at this time. This is because security bots can’t really do anything on their own. They are made for surveillance and designed to send data back to a human that can then make the appropriate decisions.

That means that while a security bot may be able to replace certain tasks (some types of patrols, for example), it can’t actually replace guards themselves. Your workforce is unlikely to be affected for the foreseeable future.

Bots Complement Security Guard Duties

It’s helpful to think of today’s security and patrol bots as mobile security cameras for guard workstations. They use large rechargeable batteries, wheels, and sensors to move around on their own, but their most useful function is an array of cameras they can use to send footage back to a guard. Like smart security cams, their sensors may also be able to tell if there is unexpected movement, and they can sometimes be programmed to head toward any alarms that go off.

This makes security bots an ideal companion for workstation guards that need to oversee a particular area and can’t be everywhere at once – or patrol guards that are covering a wide area, and need a bit of help making sure that all zones are properly monitored. They can be a very useful tool when their operation is coordinated with guard movements and broad security goals!

There are also smarter security bot prototypes that take things a step further and even attempt to interact with people or take care of problems they sense. However, these remain rare, struggle with popularity issues, and occasionally drown themselves or run people over, so don’t expect them to become a fixture for local venues any time soon.

Autonomous Features Can Vary Greatly

Just how smart is the average bot? There’s actually a significant range of abilities, with many different companies creating a variety of bots in all shapes and sizes. Some are targeted more toward warehouses and storage facilities where environmental monitoring is important. Others focus primarily on camera features, with 360-degree cameras and zooming cameras that guards can control to inspect an area thoroughly and get a good look at any suspicious activity.

Other features are specifically designed to fill in gaps where security guards may not be as efficient on their own. That includes infrared sensors to easily see in the dark without requiring a source of visible light, or large battery packs that can keep them running all day and throughout shift changes.

Some include even smarter features that provide more information. There are bots out there that can scan and recognize faces, read license plates, and even identify smartphones and notice if the smartphone user is acting out of routine or hasn’t been around before. This naturally brings up privacy concerns, and the ultimate fate of these novel features is uncertain.

Security Robots Have Important Limitations

Security bots are very limited in where they can operate. They are suited for very straightforward patrolling, but not useful in circumstances such as:

  • Patrolling in areas with no Wi-Fi, or spotty Wi-Fi connections
  • Patrolling in areas where they are alone and could be vandalized or stolen
  • Maneuvering around lots of obstacles, stairs, or debris
  • Moving in areas with lots of people and pets, where accidents could happen

Your Security Business Should Have Plans for Working with Security Robots

Even if it’s not in your plans to adopt any bots for your own security teams, your guards should still be prepared to work with the robots when necessary. As they continue to become more affordable and common, they may be integrated into local security systems at grocery stores, malls, arenas, and other locations. Just as with other on-site security technology, guards should be able to monitor the bots, use the data they provide, and use them to collect additional information if necessary.

Unfortunately, this is also a challenge. Different manufacturers have different systems to learn, and there aren’t many guard training programs focused on getting along with bots. Most bots are programmed and customized based on what property owners need, so it’s important to talk to clients about any security bots they have, and how to integrate operation with your guard services. Sometimes just running through a bot’s basic functions with assigned guards can be very helpful!

Bottom Line: Security Bots Have a Role in the Future of Guarding

Security robots are unlikely to take the place of guards, but they will require greater technological expertise among security guards, and could be handy future additions to your guard crew. Keep an eye on this growing trend, and if your business gets a chance to learn or interact with a robot, don’t let it go to waste: It may eventually become a necessity.