Authored by:Dan Gelinas
Originally Published by: IPVM
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Published with permission, may not be duplicated, copyright details within.
The Robolliance has died.
Formed 2 years ago to fanfare, the robots-focused marketing machine is no more, having slipped quietly away sometime in the first half of 2018. When originally launched
IPVM covered that the Robolliance, if not actual robots, had arrived.
The past 2 years have been rocky for robots, primarily around (non-Robolliance member) Knightscope, who has drawn significant attention and criticism.
IPVM spoke with Sharp, the founder of the Alliance, PSA, the main promoter of the alliance, a competitor who considered the Robolliance a ‘sham’ and multiple companies bullish about the future of security robots.
- Look At What Happened To the Robolliance
- Feedback From Alliance’s Backers And Leaders
- Tracing The Last Days
- Discuss The Outlook For Robots In The Industry Today
What Happened To The Alliance?
IPVM spoke with Sharp, the primary funder and backer, along with PSA Security Network, of the Robolliance:
Sharp has discontinued the Robotics program in the US. This includes the Intellos product and Robolliance marketing program … Regarding the question of why Sharp ended our robotics program (including the Intellos product and Robolliance marketing program): Sharp has recently been acquired by Foxconn. As with any large multinational organization Foxconn spent a lot of time carefully analyzing their new and existing product portfolio as well as where they wanted to take the newly merged Sharp-Foxconn business and technology. It was decided that Sharp/Foxconn would be focusing on other categories and this particular category was not in line with that new vision.
Foxconn acquired Sharp in February 2016.
Sharp then shifted its discussion with IPVM away from robotics R&D and focused on the marketing benefits achieved:
The original intention of the program was to shine a spotlight on the opportunities and benefits of autonomous vehicles. Though it was never intended to be an everlasting program, we believe we achieved that goal.
Sharp did say they do not feel Foxconn’s decision to end Intellios and the Robolliance reflected badly on the prospect for robots in the security industry:
It is unfortunate, but a reality of large technology business that these types of difficult decisions must be made. This decision is in no way a reflection of our passion and believe in the potential for this industry and market, but rather an internal business investment decision to focus on other areas of product business development that align with our new company ownership and vision.
Tracing The Last Days
In Q1 2017, it looked like the Robolliance was going strong with that stated mission, as seen in a pre-ISC West PR Newswire Release that featured the video below:
View this Video on IPVM.com
However, a year later, signs of a demise began to show. Now, the Robolliance website at www.robolliance.com redirects to Sharp’s main website. A Google search for “Robolliance” returns an interesting feature at Security Sales & Integration, The Robolliance Corner. The site announces: “This new quarterly online feature, Robolliance Corner, will offer exclusive content authored by subject-matter experts to explore and inform on the autonomous robotics marketplace.” Robolliance Corner had its launch in December of 2017.
And then there was a follow up in April of 2018.
We could not find a Q1 2018 edition.
Bill Bozeman (PSA Security Network)
IPVM spoke with PSA Security Network President and CEO Bill Bozeman about what went wrong:
The first deployments didn’t go very well. So when field deployment doesn’t go very well, the news spreads like wildfire … In general the leadership of our industry is conservative. It’s the nature of seucrity … We’re not big risk takers. Security is not the place to take a gamble.
Bozeman was also quick to agree with Sharp’s assessment that this speedbump was not a fullstop:
I still believe it’s a matter of when, not if. When is not today, but we were saying the same thing about cybersecurity five years ago and we were asking “Is anyone going to care?” And now we care. Think about this logically. Security integration is another business. It isn’t anything out of the ordinary for other businesses to utilize robotics … Why would security be an exception. We’re not that much smarter or that much dumber than other industries. It will impact us. It’s just a matter of when. Our advice to our integrators is the same: Pay attention. Just like with Cyber. Get on the front edge.
Mike Kobelin (Formerly With Sharp’s Robotics Division Intellios)
Mike Kobelin was Sharp’s former National Sales Director, Robotics Intellios U-AGV until June of 2018. He’s been Western Regional Director at Tech Systems since June 2018. Kobelin spoke with IPVM about Robots and the last days of Intellios at Sharp:
I’m very bullish on the future of robotics in security. The first product that sharp brought to the industry, though—the A-UGV—wasn’t quite what the market wanted. It was a great product, but people didn’t want it.
Steve Reinharz (Robotic Assistance Devices)
IPVM spoke with RAD founder Steve Reinharz who was not surprised the Robolliance went away:
From my view, it was basically a sham. There was no credibility to it. It would be like you pretending to be someone else and talking about how great IPVM was.
Reinharz feels certain Sharp shut down all things robot sometime in late Q1:
It would have been maybe March of 2018. I got a couple calls from some of their
employees who wanted to explore employment with us.
Steve said that people would continue to work in robotics until they figured out what the purpose of a security robot is.
Let’s pretend is 1918 instead of 2018. We’re going back in time before we had electric dishwashers. We’re sitting around and we’re thinking “What can we invent that people need that can make us some money? Well people need a machine to wash dishes!” And we might call that a dishwashing robot. At the end of 20 or 30 years of development, you might have a thing that puts the dish in the strainer. My whole point is I don’t like the word robot. Robots are really just things in development that don’t have a name yet. A robot is a robot until you call it a dishwasher … If I’m developing a security robot, I don’t need it to do all the things a human can do. I need it to do a few specific things. A humanoid security robot? Maybe sometime, somewhere, yeah. But there’s probably a better way to do it just like there’s a better way to make a dishwashing robot than having it be humanoid and pick up a plate and pour water over it.
Other Angles On Robots
An April 2018 Wall Street Journal article (“Seven Jobs Robots Will Create—Or Expand”) says there’s another side to the general fear of human obsolescence in the face of proliferating robots.
Robots In Security Going Forward
The status of robots in security today is not much changed from where it was two years ago. PSA’s Bozeman said they were “not currently moving the products,” but noted that PSA did work with Reinharz and RAD. IPVM asked when wide-spread adoption of robots in security would occur.
Tech Systems’ Kobelin felt adoption was imminent, based on improving wireless communications technology:
The answer to that is when 5G becomes the norm. When 5G becomes the norm, then security robots will become the norm.
RAD’s Reinharz had a similar answer:
I would say that by the end of 2020 I’m going to challenge most people to go one week without seeing some sort of security robot somewhere. So some level of ubiquity by 2020.
However, some of the key hurdles facing security robots are functionality and price point. It is likely that robots will need to advance quite a bit more in terms of functionality—improved
mobility, and autonomy, for example—and/or come down in price before they are widely accepted and adopted as the norm in security.