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​Photo Courtesy of Credit Karma

Release the Robots

More than 80 million customers entrust Credit Karma with their personal data, so the financial services provider says it puts security at the forefront of its operations. 

“Security is woven into everything that we do,” says Luis Cortez, physical security manager at Credit Karma. “You name it, we have stringent controls around it. It’s a highly regulated environment.”

Headquartered in San Francisco in a building that exceeds 100,000 square feet, the company was recently looking for a way to augment its contracted security guards who provide around-the-clock coverage, Cortez says. “We’re not able to be everywhere at every time,” he notes. “They can’t be everywhere at the same time and they can’t complete as many patrols…. From that perspective, an officer—a human being—can only do so much.”

While robotics is a growing market within the security industry, Cortez explains that Credit Karma couldn’t hire just any futuristic machine as a force multiplier. The organization needed a solution that would respect the privacy of its members and only collect the information it was supposed to. “Being in such a highly regulated industry, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything too intrusive and didn’t collect too much data,” Cortez says. 

Credit Karma looked into several robotics and facial recognition solutions but wasn’t finding a product that met its high standards for data privacy. “We weren’t finding anything that met our standards. Then one of our security engineers actually referred us to Cobalt Robotics, and said, ‘You may want to check these guys out, they’re doing some amazing things,’” Cortez says.

By partnering with Cobalt, a tech start-up that produces roving security robots, Credit Karma says it received a two-way channel of communication and collaboration. “The implementation wouldn’t have been possible without that deep partnership with Cobalt and understanding the technology on both ends,” Cortez says. 

The first two robots were deployed at Credit Karma’s headquarters in the summer of 2017. Beginning at 8:00 p.m., there are two robots that patrol two separate floors of the headquarters building (one robot per floor). The machines look like slim, tall kiosks with screens that can read badges, display alerts and instructions, and provide two-way interaction with a human operator at Cobalt’s monitoring center. 

“It helps us understand usage, how many folks are in our office, how many folks are in our spaces, and it helps us authenticate that they are employees that are supposed to be on site,” Cortez says. “On that specific floor that the robot is on, it will be able to tell us as of 8:00 or 10:00 that day, ‘We were able to count this many people that we ran into.’” 

The machines also work as a visitor verification system by matching the person on site with existing access control records. “It can always double-check and verify the visitor is properly checked in,” Cortez adds.

The robots can perform critical tasks in the event of an emergency, like reporting whether a floor has been cleared during an evacuation. They also perform more simple tasks, like detecting leaks, spills, and broken lights. 

“Whenever it sees something out of the ordinary or sees an incident, it will contact one of the Cobalt specialists, and that individual will then escalate the response as necessary,” he notes. “It’s not just user-friendly and analytical—it’s also a moving, roving alarm system.” 

If an incident or anomaly has been detected, the machine sends an alert to someone internally on the escalation list at Credit Karma, who is connected to a live human operator. “The Cobalt specialist contacts the individual on site and lets them know, ‘Hey this is going on, can we please verify?’” Cortez says. 

At that point a security officer or staff member is dispatched to check out the situation. “Once that verification is made, we then make the determination, ‘Yes, contact the authorities,’ or, we can handle this internally.’” 

The wealth of sensors and cameras on the robot provide real-time intelligence for the Credit Karma team. “One thing that’s been really useful for us is the unusual noise recognition,” Cortez notes. “Anything that happens above a certain decibel, the robot comes and takes a look.” 

Daily, weekly, and monthly reports are generated that help the company detect incident patterns, or plan for future security needs. “From a technology standpoint it definitely helps us. The more data you have, the more you’re able to quantify and qualify what you need to accomplish,” he says. “And in the security industry, better numbers make for a safer location—and it makes our employees feel safer.”

Cortez notes the human operator aspect provides an extra level of comfort when an incident occurs. “In the event that you are having an issue, the operator can provide those calming words and say, ‘How may I help you? I’m here,’” he says. “You’re not just speaking to a machine or to an intercom—it’s that fast, rapid response of an actual individual being right there and then with you.”

Credit Karma is currently looking into deploying a third robot for the building, and notes the possibilities are endless when it comes to what the robots can do. “The robot isn’t just a data collection machine, it’s a combination of live assistance and automation,” Cortez explains. “Its capabilities for expansion have really been huge to help us move our security and our enterprise forward. 

Robots may still be thought of as something out of science fiction, but at Credit Karma, the machines are providing on-the-ground security. “It’s not gimmicky, it’s not an Internet of Things device,” Cortez says. “It’s actually a helpful tool for collection and a force multiplier for the human aspect of security.”  

For More Information: Travis Deyle, [email protected],, 650.781.3626.​