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April 05, 2016

New "K"night Watchman

Alum Heads Visionary Security Firm

By Emily Durham


A new security guard roaming the Silicon Valley campus is causing some passersby to take a second look.            

At 5-feet tall, 3-feet wide and 300 pounds, its hulking physical presence and “furrowed brow” command respect, while its rounded figure is “cute” enough not to scare babies. Known as the K5, this autonomous Robocop is just one of an army of data machines built by Knightscope, Inc., to predict and prevent crime.

Twenty-four-hour, 360-degree data collection cameras and sensors gather every sound and image in its radius in real time, amounting to a total of 90 terabytes of data per year, per machine. Its unique powering capability is scheduled around two- to three-hour patrols with 30-minute autonomous docking recharge periods, playfully referred to as “coffee breaks.”

And the K5 is just one model of many.

William Santana Li is the mastermind behind the technology. A 1991 alumnus of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Li is now chairman and CEO of Knightscope, an advanced physical security technology company located in Silicon Valley. Li is impassioned when he talks crime; its impact on all of us is tremendous. Not only does society live in constant fear of the worst, but its economic toll on the United States is staggering.

“If you add up all the murders, all the jails, all the lawyers, and everything else,” says Li, “crime is a hidden tax all of us are paying every single year.”

Consider some statistics:

  • A violent crime occurs every 26.2 seconds;
  • Every 3.5 seconds, a property crime occurs; and
  • The private sector security industry has an employee turnover rate of 100-400 percent per year.

Robocop army“That means you get a new team every three months or every 12 months because you can’t keep the people in the job,” Li said.

“What if you could set up a whole plethora of technologies and be able to integrate them into a solution to cut crime by 50 percent?” asked Li. “How valuable would that be to society?”

Not only do the Knightscope robots promise to quell crime by deterring criminals, but they also make jobs safer for human security personnel by taking on the monotonous, computationally heavy and dangerous aspects of the job, leaving the analysis and decision making to the human professionals.

“So what if you could actually deliver this level of safety?” asks Li. “What are the effects on housing prices? What are the effects on insurance rates or the stability of financial markets, the quality of life, the business viability of a small business down the street or the safety of your family? It would be a huge game-changer for society. This is a worthy challenge to take on,” Li said.