Breakthrough Solutions Will Save Lives and Keep Businesses Afloat

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Photo by Mitch Nielsen on Unsplash

Man-made and natural threats are rapidly increasing. People are in danger. Fortunately, new technology solutions are available to help prevent or mitigate many potential disasters.

Drones, robots and artificial intelligence software will take safety, security and business continuity to new heights. This article describes how you can use drones and robots to save lives, prevent violence and help your organization become more resilient. Specific use cases are discussed.

I am a Critical Technology Solutions Advisor and Business Continuity Director. My profession and passion requires I discover and integrate technology solutions to protect people and maintain continuity of operations. It is a ‘no miss profession’. If I succeed 99% of the time — I have failed.

Fortunately, I have succeeded in making organizations safer and more resilient 100% of the time by implementing world-class technology solutions and instilling an ‘always be prepared’ culture. My greatest joy and satisfaction is often hearing from people that benefit from the critical systems I implement.

We live in a dangerous world

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The world is becoming more dangerous every day. I receive thousands of situational alerts daily from services I monitor, and that is for the United States alone! Every few seconds 24×7 a new alert arrives by text, phone, push notification or email:

  • Active Shooter
  • Terror Incident
  • Suspicious Package
  • Tornado
  • Wild Fire
  • Hurricane
  • and Many, Many More…

These alerts can be critical to life and safety. Unfortunately, it is impossible for a human to monitor this tsunami of alerts and respond in a timely manner. I know because I tried, failed and found a much better way…

Smart Drones & Robots to the Rescue

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Photo by Tyler Casey on Unsplash

Drones, robots and artificial intelligence are the perfect combination to help us understand in real-time the impact of incoming threats and trigger the appropriate response.

In the event of an active shooter or a tornado, seconds are often the difference between life and death.

Impact is an important concept. If an event occurs in the middle of the desert and your nearest asset — people or locations are hundreds of miles away, it might not be a threat and there may be no impact. But if an active shooter event occurs in or near your headquarters or university the impact is extremely high and a real-time response is critical.

I will describe specific ways drones and robots combined with artificial intelligence improve security, safety and business continuity.

AI Software Can Predict Disasters BEFORE they occur

Innovative real-time artificial intelligence threat detection solutions empower drones and robots to become mobile ‘eyes-in-the-sky’ life-savers protecting schools, companies and government entities. Using artificial intelligence drones and robots can detect threats before they escalate into disasters. Machine learning allows them to learn and improve as they work.

For example:

  • Lives can be saved if an active shooter can be detected BEFORE a shot is fired — you read that right.
  • Injuries can be eliminated if an impending fight can be detected BEFORE it occurs.
  • COVID-19 cases can be prevented or minimized if compliance violations such as social distancing or not wearing masks can be detected BEFORE a the violations occur

I know the above scenarios appear to be scenes from the Minority Report movie. Fortunately, the solution is very real and can save lives. Watch this short video from to learn how the ability to predict future violent events work and can be life-saving.

Drones – Overview

A drone is a robotic unmanned aerial or underwater vehicle. Drones come in all sizes from less than an inch to the size of a full-scale plane. They derive intelligence using hardware including cameras and sensors and software such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. It is the innovative integration of hardware and predictive software that produces astounding results.

Drones will create more than 100,000 jobs and at least $482 million in tax revenue for the United States by 2025. We are only scratching the surface on the types of valuable use cases drones will assume.

Off-the-shelf commercial drones costing from $99 to $2,995 can provide great value for the right organizations. These drones typically include cameras and virtual reality controllers so you are seemingly flying in the pilot seat on the drone. You could even hack these drones to add additional sensors for custom capabilities that can benefit your organization.

Drone Companies to Watch

I monitor and report on drone company advances as part of my Critical Solutions Advisor newsletter. Here are three to consider:

DJI : Market leader for security drones as of this writing. This may change due to Chinese ownership being scrutinized by government and strong competitors.

ParrotFeature rich security, search & rescue, law, power-line disruption and many more professional use cases.

Skydio: Serious new competitor to DJI and Parrot. Security and personal drones. They completed a very successful Kickstarter personal drone campaign and are concentrating on catching up in the professional space .

Advanced AI and obstacle avoidance. I purchased a Skydio2 drone during Dec 2020 for testing in a warehouse and personal use.

  • It avoids obstacles such as trees and walls. I tested flying it toward a heavily tree lined space. Also tested avoiding poles and a scoreboard. Next, I will be testing it in a warehouse environment for an upcoming security use case.
  • It has great follow-me mode — it automatically follows a person. If someone is working in a remote area it can provide aerial safety.
  • It has an excellent camera — it can easily read license plates.
  • Good but not great range.
  • It is simple to learn to fly — I was up-and-flying in less than 15 minutes
  • It is very cost effective — I paid $1,750!

Drones Lift Security, Safety and Business Continuity to New Heights — Use Cases

Drones are becoming a key tool for security, safety and business continuity. I recently met with a company that automates the flight path of security drones. A human ground pilot is not required. The drones are programmed through a user-friendly interface to fly predefined routes which can extend for many miles.

A fleet of such drones can survey multiple locations simultaneously anywhere in the world and send video streams that are consolidated in a central command center console across the globe.

Using artificial intelligence, ‘needle-in-the-haystack’ insights are discovered from big-data and accurate predictions can be made that trigger actions such as alerts to the right people or doors locking in real-time to prevent access by an active-shooter.

Multi-national organizations can have drones in Israel, India and Indiana simultaneously flying and streaming valuable real-time images and other data to their emergency command center in Idaho or Iceland. The command center can then act on the data in real-time.

Drones can be used for border control and to monitor large sporting and entertainment events.

Imagine the value in autonomously surveying thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines to thwart threats or mesh drone data with artificial intelligence to predict threats to the pipelines or maintenance opportunities before a breakdown.

In the health field drones are already delivering medicine and other critical supplies to areas impacted by natural events, such as earthquakes or tornadoes.

AT&T is taking a lead on vital medicine delivery. They have partnered with Merck and Softbox on innovative initiatives. AT&T uses the thermal-insulated packaging system “Skypod,” which includes a smartbox powered by AT&T’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Here is a short video on one initiative.

Robots – Overview

Robots are internally or externally controlled machines that can perform many types of tasks in the physical world, from very simple to highly complex.

They are mobile in varying degrees depending on the requirements of the user. They can learn or they may simply do one repetitive task. Some can ‘think’ using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Fun Fact: The earliest recorded robot was built in 270 BC (no misprint) by an ancient Greek engineer and inventor named Ctesibus. He made organs and water clocks with movable figures.

In this post we are focused on security, safety and business continuity but the scope of robotics is growing rapidly, including autonomous vehicles, offices, hospitals and factories. They are also changing the world in verticals such as people movement, commercial delivery, logistics, the smart home, helping disabled people and entertainment.

They can have wheels, treads, legs or take on other forms such as a snake (great in disasters and emergency response as described later in the post), a dog or a humanoid-like person.

Robots play a central role in the Internet of Things (IOT). Mixing robots with technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, computer vision and tactile touch sensors exponentially increases their abilities. Intelligent robots are rapidly assuming more ambitious roles.

Fun Fact: The first robotic surgery was performed using the Puma 560, a robot used in 1985 by Kwoh et alto to perform neurosurgical biopsies with greater precision.

Robot Companies to Watch

I follow developments by existing and new robot security companies in the Critical Solutions Newsletter. Here are two leading companies:

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Boston DynamicsTheir Spot robot dog went viral during February 2021. Spot is an autonomous, mobile, legged robot. You might remember the commercial of it dancing and moving a heavy object. I watched it over and over.

The enterprise version of Spot is focused on security features. Impressively, because it has legs it can go anywhere a human can go. Yes, it can climb steps. Many types of sensors can be installed and there is a huge custom use-case aftermarket forming.

Because it’s sensors and cameras can create huge data-streams coupling it with a predictive active shooter detection system such as that from can be a game-changer.

In December 2020 Hyundai Motor company signed a deal to acquire a controlling share of the company which gave them a 1.1 billion dollar evaluation.

KnightscopeEmpowers you to augment your existing security program at a fraction of the average rate for one 24-hour security post. Their Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) are Made in the USA — Designed and Built in Silicon Valley by Knightscope — and offer security patrols as well as a physical presence that delivers real-time, actionable intelligence anytime and anywhere, giving you and your security team the ability to detect and react faster.

I have been following them for a few years and they continually improve their robots. I even took a picture with one of their robots at a robot/drone trade show.

Mobile industrial robots can traverse warehouses and factories delivering parts and picking and packing even the heaviest products. If they get hurt or break down it is far less of a concern than a person getting hurt. Safety first! Simply replace the part and robots are ready to get back to work.

Robots Take Security, Safety and Business Continuity to New Dimensions

Imagine how you can improve security and safety in your organization by doubling or tripling your ability to view threats without adding to your employee roster. Robots can be programmed to patrol hallways, offices, warehouses and factories. They will work 24x7x365 and never complain.

Use cases for these safety, security & crisis management robots include but are not limited to:

  • active shooters
  • bomb threats
  • earthquakes
  • theft
  • tornadoes

Security robots armed with cameras, sensors and an intelligent next-gen detection system take robotic situational awareness to a very high level.

Robots Respond to Natural Disasters

While robots cannot prevent earthquakes, wildfires or tornados they can stream videos, pictures and many types of important metrics such as heat and tremors to a central command center anywhere in the world. They can intelligently climb over and go around objects in their path.

These robots can do dangerous work in inhospitable climates and remote areas rather than putting humans in harms way. This can prevent injuries or needless deaths.

Soft snake robots with cameras can slither into pipes, drains and crevices too small for people and larger robots. This can be critical during a crisis event. Nature lends a hand in providing innovative ideas for designers creating all sorts of new products.

Historically, large industrial robots were isolated from humans. More recently, collaborative robots are being developed that can safely work side-by-side with humans in industrial and office settings.

Robots in the home can be saviors to the elderly, disabled or anyone who needs help. They can improve safety and security with the appropriate sensors and software. For the elderly, a smart home may be an alternative to living in a nursing home.

Business Continuity Benefits

All the robotic and drone safety and security benefits I described in this post can make organizations more resilient. When your employees are safe and your business is resilient it increases your ability to fend off destructive threats.

You are able to prevent or mitigate impacts to your organization which greatly increases the likelihood of your business surviving without interruption.

Being resilient in our 24×7 world can prevent loss of revenue and even generate additional revenue. I have done this on many occasions. For example, during recent hurricanes being able to communicate with customers when other organizations could not, resulted in gain of new customers and loyalty from current customers including a 100% retention rate. These customers will never forget our concern for their well-being as well as their families.

Amazon uses a fleet of 100,000+ small orange robots originally developed by Kiva in their warehouses. The micro- bots automatically pick packages and bring them back to people that pack them in boxes. This saves a great deal of time and money. It also reduces errors. Amazon quickly realized return on investment from the little orange robots and how bright the future is for robotics, so they bought Kiva for $775 million.

Putting on my business continuity hat — in addition to reducing picking errors and cost, Amazon’s micro-bots can provide resilience and keep a business going during a critical event such as COVID-19. Bots do not get sick and do not have to social distance. They can work 24×7.

From a security perspective I am confident these bots could be retrofitted with custom sensors or software to perform ant-theft and violence avoidance tasks.

Meet My Friend and Namesake Marty the Safety Robot:

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Marty the Robot wearing his mask.

Marty the Robot works in over 200 Stop-and-Shop supermarkets.

I am fascinated by him. I always seek him out when I am in his store. Generally, he is performing safety duties monitoring the aisles for spills so people will not slip and fall.

When he finds one he communicates with store management and they announce on the loudspeaker — ‘spill in aisle 15’ — and an employee cleans it up.

Interestingly, most shoppers ignore him. He just sort of blends in. Usually, it is just me that follows him around the store taking pictures and videos.

The first day I met Marty I thought cleaning spills is just a first step for him. Marty can also do inventory work. I thought he could also be leveraged for security duties.

I found the name of the company that makes him, Badger Technologies, and visited their web site to do further research (I always do stuff like this) and publish it in my newsletter.

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I was not too surprised to learn that in addition to Marty they make his security focused brother, Patrol Bot.

Patrol Bot has a slew of benefits such as ‘Fixed position cameras are programmed to take pictures of doors, windows, fire extinguishers and blockages as the robot executes its tour.”

I imagine a day when Patrol Bot integrates an AI real-time threat detection solution and is capable of predicting incidents before they occur.

Drone and Robot Next Steps

Don’t wait! Once an active-shooter massacre or violent action occurs it cannot be undone. Never have the attitude that, ‘it will never happen to us’. Too often, I have seen that attitude come back to destroy precious lives and companies. I am called in after-the-fact when it is too late.

Now is the time to start thinking about how you can use robots and drones to improve security, safety and business continuity for your organization.

Marty Fox is a critical solutions expert advisor, digital technology thought leader and is the Director Critical Technology Solutions for an $18 billion company. He publishes the Critical Solutions Advisor newsletter.

Marty has successfully helped hundreds of organizations prevent, mitigate, and respond in real-time to critical threats using tools and technologies for improved safety, security, compliance and continuity of operations.