Up Close and Personal With the K5 Security Robot Team

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<pre>Up Close and Personal With the K5 Security Robot Team

It's impractical and expensive to have an army of human security professionals in the area. each of the building 24-7, so why not try a fleet of “Autonomous Data Machines” to work alongside the team?

These 500-pound robots are 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and might be mistaken for Daleks . But they are actually Knightscope K5 units. A handheld digital screen shows a real-time video stream from the K5, as well as the smaller K3 patrol units and K1 stationary reception devices.

You might have seen one of these devices in the news last year, when some loose paving slabs at an outdoor Washington, DC mall sent a K5 tumbling into a fountain. Knightscope founder and CEO William Santana Li laughs off that incident as an edge case K5's unexpected swim.

Up next, Knightscope is opening a New York City showroom this week at The Roger Smith Hotel, which will be open until Nov. thirty; make an appointment here. Knightscope will also be showing off its devices at the GSX Security Conference & Expo in Las Vegas from Sept 25-27.

Ahead of those events, PCMag met Li at Knightscope's Mountain View HQ. Li is an American entrepreneur with Ford. But after 9/11, Li changed course and began to develop a high-tech safety solution that became Knightscope, which is just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Bill, let's talk about the motivation in starting Knightscope.
Two motivations, really: professional and personal. As an experienced automotive executive, I wanted to pursue a decidedly different path [to what others are doing] towards a strong, commercialized, self-driving autonomous technology business. We operate our Autonomous Data Machines at a distance of 25 miles an hour, on private roads, so we do not have a lot of the regulatory issues [that others do]and we're the only company I know that's scaling this technology in the real world, with real clients, across four time zones and 16 states.

And the personal motivation?
I grew up in NYC and someone attacked our city on 9/11. I've focused my energies on making the US the safest country in the world since then.

Your co-founder, Stacy Dean Stephens, is the former Dallas area law enforcement officer.
Yeah, he has the handshake, I do not [Laughs].

Are your ADMs already working within the police force?
We have relationships with probably 2,500 + law enforcement agencies with thousands and thousands of officers. This country has a million security people. It 's high time. There are 2 million people who get up every day, on our own soil, and get handed [just] a notepad, a stun gun, and maybe a camera. And they are willing to take a bullet for you and your family, all with a level of technology.

 Knightscope K1

to upgrade the technology capability of law enforcement and corporate / private security with your Autonomous Data Machine fleet of robots
A $ 700 + billion dollar budget is handed to the US Department of Defense but the 19,000 law enforcement agencies have literally no one in charge of the financial investment and technology innovation that's required.

How many ADM units do you have in many countries?
We have 50 machines in network, across 16 states, four time zones, running 24 /7.

In how many industry verticals?
Healthcare, manufacturing, commercial real estate, corporate campuses, shopping malls, [LaGuardia Airport].

Are any of your robots acting as bodyguards for the Saudi Royal Family yet?
We are focused on the US market at this time.

 Knightscope

How much do you do per client, including skins, APIs, and so on. percent are modified at the client's request-branding, decals. Some of them have been issued by our machines with a worker ID badges and most get named.

These, they used to have a combination of LIDAR, SLAM [simultaneous location and mapping]streaming video, thermal imaging scanning.

Assuming you're not building a K9, as that's what police departments call their canine unit, are you working on a co-dog robot unit with sensory AI?
Not at this time. Put it this way, there are a lot of numbers above. 7. Knightscope is developing a K7 multi-terrain machine.

 Knightscope K7

What's your business model?
It's a Machine- as-a-Service (Maas) business. For the equivalent of leasing our ADMs for $ 6 to $ 12 an hour you get the machines, user interface, the charging station, all the data and the support services. We are responsible for everything and that gives the client a massive amount of value.

Yes, similar to Tesla, we improve the products over time; dropping out new software updates every couple of weeks to upgrade the system.

How much do you outsource?
Nothing. Everything is done here, in this building. Industrial design, software engineering, tech stack, UX, client-facing dashboards, monitoring tools, modifications. That's why every ADM has “Designed and Built in Silicon Valley” written on it.

 Knightscope K5

May we address the K5 that tried to cool off in shopping mall water feature? ] We had fun dealing with that one. To be honest, there are so many edge cases you can not plan for; you have to iterate. We could not have foreseen how to deal with the situation with a girl who wants to hug of one of our machines and take a self, or the children who are surrounded by one and the other.

real time and make contingency plans. But what happened with the robot in the water?
In an early engineering meeting, one of our software engineers said, “for algorithmic purposes, we're going to assume that the ground does not move.” And we said okay. But at that location, the paving slabs were loose. So, in that instance, the ground did move. The machine shifted 90 degrees and did not realize why. It ended up in a fountain. We've now fixed that issue.

You dealt with it well.
[Laughs] Thank you.

On a more serious note, very few tech startups get to five years of age and you had problems with the VCs.
Ninety percent of venture capitalists are into software [not hardware]. This was the case back in 2013. Name a VC that's fluent in physical security, law enforcement, robotics, and hardware, and has a track record of delivering [in that market]. That was not exist.

So you went elsewhere.
Most founders do not have the nerve or maybe the understanding that VCs are not the sole source of capital. We've raised over $ 40 million dollars and several financing rounds from major corporations, a bunch of family offices, and some private investors, that all have a long-term view. We just announced a Series S Preferred Stock Offering round. Currently, Knightscope has five strategic investors: Konica Minolta, Silicon Valley Bank, Flex, NetPosa, and NTT DOCOMO.

How big do you think Knightscope could become?
I think we have a shot to build a $ 30 billion dollar company that we are in the forefront of the long-term vision.

Finally, as you gave me a tour of the labs here today, we saw some futuristic concept machines in progress. Do you see a Minority Report for the future where your ADMs are pre-cogs?
That was a cool movie. Yes. The long-time vision is to make the US the safest country in the world. One way to do that is to build up a knowledge base in the field of behavior. We've got over a dozen crime-fighting wins today including issuing an arrest warrant for a sexual predator. We're helping the fight fighters today and will continue to do so.


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