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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

On the beat: Former UTA student co-founds robot security firm

Knightscope Inc.

Mountain View, California 94043



It’s not Robocop, but a new mobile robot designed to keep people safe rolled around the University of Texas at Arlington recently.

The robots are from Knightscope Inc. of Mountain View, California. The company was co-founded by University of Texas at Arlington alumnus Stacy Stephens. He showed off the company’s K5 and K3 Autonomous Data Machines (ADMs). Stephens, a former Coppell police officer, studied aerospace engineering at UT Arlington from 1990 to 1993.

The Knightscope robots are used to detect suspicious activity in schools, businesses and neighborhoods in several locations in California and the company recently announced plans to offer the technology in Texas.

The K5 model is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 3 feet wide and is designed for outdoor use. The K3 model is 4 feet, 4 inches tall and 2 feet wide. Each weighs about 300 pounds.

“Knightscope security robots may be seen today at a lot of shopping centers, corporate campuses, hospitals and professional sporting arenas in California,” Stephens said.

Stephens said Knightscope’s clients include Westfield Malls, Microsoft, Dignity Health and the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings team.

“Knightscope just recently announced the expansion of its services to Texas, and UTA was one of the first organizations to contact the company,” Stephens said.

Knightscope was created in 2013. Its developers said the creation was inspired by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, and the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.

It detects suspicious activity using a variety of sensors, including video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, air quality sensors and a microphone. If it detects abnormal noise and temperature changes, it will alert local authorities.

Knightscope robots are leased for about $7 per hour, company officials say, compared with about $25 for a security guard.

Stephens gave an example of Knightscope’s success.

“Knightscope’s K5 was deployed in a parking lot that averaged 1-2 vehicle break-ins per week in 2016. In the five months since the K5 started patrolling, the number of vehicle break-ins went down to zero,” he said.

“Crime has a devastating effect on society, both psychologically and economically,” Stephens said. “Did you know that crime has a $1 trillion negative economic impact on the U.S. alone each and every year? Imagine for a moment if we were able to cut that in half. The impact on the quality of life, the viability of a business, the safety of our children, housing prices, insurance rates, etc. would be overwhelmingly positive.

“This is our passion. Knightscope’s technologies increase the physical presence of security to help deter crime, drastically improve situational awareness for public safety officials, and increase the amount of actionable intelligence needed to fight and prosecute crimes.”

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