What do ED 209, Box, and the Sentinels have in common?

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11/06/2009
The answer is they're all descendants of my favorite childhood toy ever. But what do they have to do with security? I blogged recently about video and audio verification of alarms and how they are improving relations with emergency responders and municipalities. I was speaking with Keith Jentoft at RSI Video Technologies, who--for obvious reasons--evangelizes video verification as the way of the future for the security industry. I spoke with former NYPD detective Edwin Day who backed up much of what Keith was saying. I wrote a story about the burgeoning trend of verified alarms last month, as well. My editor Sam touched on audio verification recently in a story he wrote about developing tensions between Sonitrol--who evangelize audio verification--and The Stanley Works. Security systems that allow us to hear and see what is going on and interact, via two-way voice are here... What about systems that do more? What about systems that really give us telepresence? Of course the military already widely uses unmanned drones called UAVs to perform surveillance and reconnaissance. And there are other projects in development as well. But when do I get to use my own personal robot to sneak up behind my son and scare the daylights out of him when he's doing something he shouldn't. The next issue of SSN will feature a stats brief dedicated to another possible future for video surveillance. I spoke with ABI Research's NextGen research director Larry Fisher about the forecasted growth of the personal robotics market and what role security applications might play in the next several years. Larry pointed out there were already a couple lower-end robots out there that offered real telepresence (full, wi-fi control of the robot, cameras, and two way voice). Wowee's Rovio seems the more serious of the two and with a $230 price tag, it's not really a toy. Erector also makes a model called the Spykee. This seems much more like a toy, though there appears to be no pricing information on the website... always a bad sign. If you have a free few seconds watch the video... it's AWESOME. I'll admit it, I'm a comic book, sci-fi geek from way back and the idea of a personal robot patrolling my property appealed to my inner nerd. At least I try to keep him "inner" most of the time. So how close are we to personal robots silently and autonomously patrolling our homes and businesses, surveilling and apprehending the bad guys? For those of you who're on the same geeky wavelength with me, when can we finally (FINALLY!) go out and buy our very own ED 209 (that poor guy--wrong place, wrong time--in RoboCop), UCAV named EDI, or Sentinel? Of course, I have to be careful what I wish for... All us nerds know the danger of autonomous robotic guards gone wrong... Here's some of what Larry had to say:
On the low end of this segment are surveillance and telepresence robots like WowWee's Rovio and Meccano/Erector's Spykee robots, both of which are essentially mobile webcams with a speaker. They can be programmed to patrol set paths, and can be controlled by a remote user over Wi-Fi (and through the Internet). Their low height and low-resolution cameras provide limited functionality, but over time this will improve as features will be added to give them greater security and telepresence capabilities. In the long term, the market for high-end security robots will be limited by lower-end products gaining much of their functionality. High-end robots will be sold mostly to owners of large estates for use outside the house, where large size is required to prevent trespass and theft, and better sensors and mobility are required to view and navigate the terrain.
So not now, but perhaps someday. Baby steps... Baby steps... Baby steps.