Skip to content

Integrating Robots in the Workplace

​The future of high-tech is here, but some are not as excited about that prospect as others, new research shows.

The robotics market will be worth more than $135 billion by 2019, according to the International Data Corporation.

Automated machines are already a strong industrial presence in several countries: In South Korean manufacturing facilities, there are 600 industrial robots for every 10,000 workers. In Japan, there are 300; in the United States, nearly 200, according to the Pew Research Center.

"Most believe that increasing auto­mation will have negative consequences for jobs," according to data from Pew's Spring 2018 Global Attitudes Survey. "Large majorities in each nation surveyed think ordinary people will have a hard time finding jobs, as a result of automation."

The respondents, who hail from 10 countries—including the United States, Canada, Japan, Argentina, and South Africa—expressed fear that advances like robotics and artificial intelligence will keep low- and average-skilled workers from finding employment.

"Relatively few predict new, better-paying jobs will be created by technological advances," the survey found.

One robotics developer argues that these automated machines, which are changing the technological landscape in a revolutionary way, should primarily function for the betterment of society—not as a threat.

"We have all these amazing appliances that are maximally helpful for the benefit of everybody—things like the dishwasher, the washing machine, or the microwave," says Travis Deyle, cofounder and CEO of Cobalt Robotics. "I think the robots that we are developing today are an extension of that."

During graduate school, Deyle created robots to assist patients in a variety of healthcare settings. He then worked at Google X, the tech giant's research innovation lab; his cofounder and Cobalt CTO Erik Schluntz was previously on the flight software team at SpaceX.

Deyle says the robotics company was founded on a question they posed to their friends: If they could wave a magic wand and solve a problem, what would it be?

"Our friends said, 'When we look at our offices, we have daytime security, we have daytime reception, we have office managers, but it's cost-prohibitive to have that coverage at night,'" he recounts. "They asked, 'Why can't you take these robots and help us provide after-hours coverage?'"

From there, Cobalt Robotics was born, and clients like Yelp!, Credit Karma, and Slack are taking advantage of the machines to augment their security workforce, gather building intelligence data, and respond to incidents and events.

Cobalt's machines are designed to augment the human workforce by roving their environments and capturing a detailed picture based on sensory input. The robots are tall, slim kiosks that have a video screen that provides two-way interaction with a live human specialist provided by Cobalt.

Adopting the new technology can be both exciting and confusing for the workforce, so robots can't be dropped into the office without a clear, defined mission within the organization.

"It needs to have a clear defined use case that works," Deyle says, adding that communication is vital when deploying the automated machines to address any challenges to adoption. "Then you need to start to overcome some of those cultural impediments—go out and communicate what the robot is, what it's doing, and why it's doing that."

Deyle emphasizes that the security industry should embrace technological advances to elevate the brand within an organization, and deploying solutions like robots can give security a more visible presence.

"Most of the time, security is the unsung hero in the background taking care of it all," he says. "They're here protecting us all of the time, not just when we see that guard standing out front."