NBC News shared a touching story about the challenges and hardships faced by the folks who make a surveillance bot.
Cops aren't all that fired up about the slow rolling, many-eyed enforcement droid. Some say its had a positive impact, some can't give it much credit, but what they do agree on is that it is a way to maintain control over the public.
"Are we seeing dramatic changes since we deployed the robot in January?" Lerner, the Westland spokesperson said. "No. But I do believe it is a great tool to keep a community as large as this, to keep it safer, to keep it controlled."
So if controlled is what you want, get thee a bot!
Oh, wait! You can't! There are only 52 of these camera bots currently in the field, and they are back-ordered. I am not sure if this is due to a lack of funding to develop the bots, or pandemic part shortages, as the economics of bot hiring seems to be pretty bad for Knightscope and individual law enforcement professionals, but maybe not so bad for the people wanting to control stuff.
Typically, a casino, residential facility, bank or, in one case, a police department, rents a robot for an average fee of around $70,000 to $80,000 per year. Part of that cost involves Knightscope storing all of the data that robots like Westy gather in a year. This huge volume of data is the equivalent of more than the combined storage of 175 iPhones, each with the maximum storage capacity of 512 gigabytes.
According to Knightscope's most recent annual report, the company has a current fleet of 52 machines used across 23 clients, with a backlog of 27 more robots to deliver. Each robot has an expected life span of "three to four and a half years."
Cheaper than a fully-loaded cop with benefits and taxes. Maybe cheaper than a mall security guard. Seemingly more expensive to manufacture than they can generate in revenue, the spybot seems to have been too successful a loss leader, leading Knightscope to insolvency.
Also 512 gigs? You can put that on a $15 thumb drive with your company logo on it, and leave it with the client. 80 terabytes can probably be had for around $3000 in a RAID config.
Just two months ago, Knightscope told investors that there was "substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue" given the company's "accumulated deficit," or debt, of over $69 million as of the end of 2020. Its operating expenses jumped by more than 50 percent, including a small increase on research, and a doubling of the company's marketing budget. Knightscope itself recently told investors that absent additional fundraising efforts, it will "not be solvent after the third quarter of 2022."
I imagine the Knightscope bot sitting down at a bar with the Pets.com sock puppet and throwing back a few.
So, it doesn't seem like the super obvious and in your face camera intended to settle you down and make you think twice is the popular option. The many, many cameras and other devices tracking you and your cellphone as you move around the world are far less intrusive.
I bet business is booming!