Knightscope, Inc. (also known as Knightscope) is an American security camera company that was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Mountain View, California. The goal of Knightscope is to design, build and deploy robots called Autonomous Data Machines (ADMs) for use in monitoring crimes in malls, parking lots, and neighborhoods. Knightscope's founders state that they started the company in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and to prevent future crimes.
Knightscope was founded in 2013 by former police officer Stacy Stephens. He partnered with William Li, a former executive at Ford. Knightscope says they hope the ADMs will help security and law enforcement personnel detect trouble while preventing and minimizing public injuries and fatalities. Another goal of Knightscope is to cut down crime rates. Li said "Our aim is to cut the crime rate by 50% in a geo-fenced area, which would increase housing values and safety while lowering insurance costs." Knightscope robots first shipped in 2015.
In 2017, Knightscope raised $20 million and indicated that they were seeking a partnership with Allied Universal. As of 2018, the company has sold 36 contracts and built 72 machines. The companies that have been confirmed as clients of Knightscope are Microsoft, Uber, Juniper Networks, the Sacramento Kings, LaGuardia Airport and NBC Universal. Knightscope is not publicly traded.
Knightscope has four different robot models: the K1, K3, K5 and K7. Clients are charged an hourly rate of $7 for each machine they use — a price designed to compete with the minimum wage in various states. The price structure requires the robots to operate on a 24/7 basis, and a minimum of two robots per location, costing $122,640 per annum.
The K5 model is a bullet-shaped robot that stands about 5 feet tall. It has twin panels of lights about two-thirds of the way up its body. There is also a small silver-colored flag of the United States on the left side of its body.. The K5 patrols and charges autonomously and detects crime using a variety of sensors including a video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, radar, air quality sensors, and a detector for suspicious wireless signals.
During its autonomous patrol, if the K5 detects abnormal noise and temperature change, or known criminals, it will alert the guards. The software package with which a user can respond to such alerts is called the Knightscope Security Operations Center.
The K5 moves at 1 to 3 miles per hour. It uses mapping software to create a geo-fenced perimeter that makes it stay within one area. The K5 creates a point cloud to show a 3D image of the surroundings in the geo-fenced area. The K5 also uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect objects in surroundings and movements of its wheels.
|Optical Character Recognition||Processing of the K5's images can check up to 300 license plates per minute. The K5 can send an alert upon reading the license plate number for a known criminal on a provided list.|
|Omnidirectional Imaging||The K5 has "360-degree high definition video capture".|
|Microphones||The K5 has an ambient noise microphone that can capture audio. The range from 80 to 90 decibels is normal. If the sound suddenly goes beyond 100 decibels, the K5 will notify the local authorities. The purpose of the microphone has been called "the opposite of voice detection" as it is primarily designed to pick up noise.|
|Ultrasonic||The ultrasonic sensor is used to detect speed and distance when the robot cruises in an area.|
|Cameras||The K5 uses the video cameras to collect about 90 TB of data per machine annually, and the infrared light can function at night.|
|Lidar||LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It emits a laser that sweeps 270-degrees to measure the objects and map its surrounding area.|
|Thermal Imaging||The thermal imaging sensor detects and measures minute temperature differences in order to detect objects in the dark.|
K1, K3 and K7Edit
In 2016, one year after the release of the K5, Knightscope announced a K3 robot with a focus on indoor environments. K1 and K7 follow-up models were both launched in 2018. The K1 is a stationary scanner designed for entrances and exits to buildings. It won the Security Today New Product of the Year award. The K7 is a larger all-terrain unit with four wheels.
The possibility of a K5 being used in public places has led to concerns with privacy. The K5 can take pictures and videos of people without any notification. It can also monitor conversations which has caused concern that social images could be damaged by the robot. Some do not trust the K5's ability to recognize the actual suspects. Jeramie Scott, a national security fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said, “Automated surveillance, facial recognition and license plate recognition in public makes us all suspects. The K5 could become like a cuter, less aggressive Terminator that kills privacy instead of people.” The center's President, Marc Rotenberg stated that “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.” Surveillance by robots has been compared to a panopticon.
Some critics question the K5's ability to prevent crime. Although it can detect suspicious activities, it cannot arrest the criminals or stop an attack. Furthermore, the K5's speed is limited and it only moves on flat ground. The K7 was released to operate in multi-terrain environments.
In July 2016, a Knightscope K5 which was deployed at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA collided with a 16-month-old toddler, bruising the child's leg and running over the child's foot. The Stanford Shopping center responded by docking all of its K5 units, suspending any further activity by the robots until the incident could be investigated. Knightscope responded, calling the incident an "accident", and issued a formal apology to the family of the child.
In December 2017, the San Francisco SPCA rented a Knightscope K5 robot to patrol the area next to their animal shelter, including the public sidewalk, to deter vandalism. The SPCA received complaints about using a robot on a public sidewalk where homeless people were encamped, and the robot was covered with a tarpaulin and smeared with barbecue sauce; the SPCA discontinued the contract.
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