Security robot that drowned in a fountain drives home security message for businesses: Don’t get distracted by “shiny things”

technology ethical guidelines

A Knightscope robot. Source: Knightscope

A robot security guard has reportedly “committed suicide” after being found face-down in the fountain outside a Washington DC office block, with the sad tale prompting security experts to remind businesses to think carefully about buying artificial intelligence solutions.

Staff members employed in the offices at the Georgetown Waterfront complex reported the distressing news the morning on social media, and the heart-wrenching images of real security guards trying to fish the robot out of the pond quickly went viral.

The robot is a Knightscope K5 security unit, which businesses can rent out for around $US6 ($7.65) an hour to patrol businesses, shopping centres and airports, reports New York Magazine.

The technology, made by high-profile artificial intelligence startup Knightscope, has previously been in the news after a drunk man was reportedly arrested for attacking one of the units in a car park, and another incident, in which a robot reportedly collided with a toddler last year.


A post shared by Knightscope, Inc. (@iknightscope) on

The story has captured the hearts of many users on social media, but Knightscope tells SmartCompany it was an isolated incident.

“No people were harmed or involved in any way,” says Stacy Dean Stephens, vice president of marketing and sales at Knightscope.

“A new robot will be delivered this week at no cost to the Harbour per our service agreement.”

Want a robot? Think about your needs first

The story is a stark reminder for businesses that just because you might be tempted by shiny new technologies, it doesn’t mean you should buy in, says chief executive of security monitoring business Calamity, Daniel Lewkovitz.

“We should stop thinking about these as robots and start thinking about moving cameras. At the end of the day at this stage, they’re really a moving camera, and that means they’re not at this stage replacing humans, but aiming to be a force multiplier for an existing human security force.” 

This means any investments of this kind do need a human element to protect and monitor them, but for many small business owners, simply revisiting your security priorities might reveal you don’t actually need cutting edge robot technology to protect your business, Lewkovitz says.

“If you get very excited about new technology, just pause and ask yourself, ‘have we looked at our security plans in the last two years?'” 

“If the answer is no, you’re probably getting distracted by shiny things.” 

However, co-founder of virtual reality storytelling company S1T2, Tash Tan, says businesses are actually already highly dependent on artificial intelligence technologies through systems they use each day, and while incidents like this robot downfall might be amusing, it shouldn’t put SMEs off the idea of investing in new ideas altogether.

“It is only when technology doesn’t work the way we expect that we spend a moment to consider the implications such a transformation is having. In this ubiquitous smart landscape we have to remember that issues such as safety, wellbeing and privacy are paramount, but this should not discourage us from embracing new technology,” he says.

While there might be a place for artificial intelligence in your business, the starting point should always be asking what you have to protect, Lewkovitz says.

At the end of the day, all these devices are is really weapons in an ongoing battle. The underlying security principles have not changed in hundreds of years. So ask: ‘What do we have to protect?’ You might need a robot, or you might just need a fire extinguisher.”

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4 years ago

Shades of Marvin, the paranoid android, from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Maybe the pain in the diodes all down the left side of this robot was too much and it decided to end it all?

Rohan Baker
Rohan Baker
4 years ago

It’s like the T-800 in Terminator 2. He knew it was for the greater good?