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Meet the AI-powered robot replacing humans as security guards in Switzerland

This robot security guard is on patrol in Switzerland
This robot security guard is on patrol in Switzerland Copyright Stuart McDill
Copyright Stuart McDill
By Roselyne Min with Reuters
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The robot frees up a single human to patrol large outdoor areas that normally require significant staffing but at a lower cost, its creator says.

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Amid labour shortages and growing attention to safety, security companies around the world have been looking to deploy robots on patrol duty.

In Europe, people living in Switzerland have been seeing an autonomous two-wheeled robot roaming around the country for the past six months.

The patrol bot, developed by a robotics start-up from ETH Zurich, Ascento, has been acting as a guard for Swiss security firm Securitas AG.

Ascento says its patrol robots have been providing an added layer of security and enhancing operational efficiency at several test sites, including a Swiss railway depot.

It has foldable "legs" and wheels as "feet". Its "head" houses the computer, battery, sensors, and cloud based-AI.

"It can go over flat terrain, it can go over obstacles, it can even go [up] one or two steps and this is because we use wheels and legs," said Alessandro Morra, CEO and founder of Ascento.

Its thermal camera detects people and vehicles, while the 360° camera captures images of the surroundings. The robot can communicate via a live feed with a backup operator in a control centre.

Ascento plans to further develop the bot to produce automatic daily security reports.

Robots rented by the hour

The company says its robot guards allow a single human security guard to efficiently cover large outdoor areas that would normally require significant manpower to patrol in person and cost less than a human guard.

Ascento’s original idea was to develop a robot that could jump upstairs, but discussions with the industry revealed a demand for a larger, more robust robot.

"When you jump there is still a certain probability that things go wrong. So then the next version became bigger and did not jump anymore and with that this this whole iteration started," said Morra.

He previously worked as a security guard while he was a student at ETH Zurich before spinning off the company.

"We chose to go for the security market because this is a place where it's really difficult to find people nowadays. They have to work long hours and they have to work in every weather conditions. We did this job ourselves and it's really brutal,” Morra said.

"We wanted to help and our robots are able to make the life of these guards a lot easier," he added.

The robots will be rented by the hour to complement a security company’s human guard team in the future.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Roselyne Min

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