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Service Robots Will Secure a Spot in Tomorrow’s Smart Cities


April 15, 2022

By Terence Yap, Guardforce AI

Amidst the social and economic disruption caused by Covid-19, many organizations turned to automation to address new pandemic-related health and safety risks.

China’s medical sector, for example, was quick to deploy service robots to deliver food and medicines in hospitals and execute enhanced cleaning protocols. This early experience proved the value of robots in alleviating the workload of overstretched staff and maintaining standards of patient care with social distancing. 

As pandemic mitigation measures have extended into community settings around the world over the past two years, so too have robot helpers. We are now increasingly seeing facility managers deploying robots in commercial and residential buildings, schools, airports, railway stations and more to help keep communities safe. 

Supporting technologies for Service Robots

The world has been able to draw on a service robot fleet in this way because of the availability and convergence of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and cloud computing. Together, they enable smart, autonomous robots and the intelligent robotics platforms needed for fast and easy deployment of robot solutions and their efficient and secure management and maintenance. 

Public acceptance of robots is also rising. The pandemic has made people more aware of hygiene and social distancing and brought positive human-robot interactions to many of us for the first time. 

Perhaps a concierge robot has welcomed you to your office building with unobtrusive temperature screening. Maybe a robot delivered fresh towels to your hotel room or trundled past you in the hallway. Or perhaps you have seen autonomous air-disinfection robots navigate crowds and other obstacles to keep retail spaces clean and shoppers safe.

Service Robots in Smart Cities

One thing is certain: service robots are here to stay. Even as the pandemic recedes, people’s desire for convenience and safety will remain. 

As we move closer to more-connected smart cities in coming years, robots will have an increasing role. Service robots can already be integrated with smart building systems to enhance urban life, reduce costs and increase sustainability. 

For example, a smart building solution may use CCTV cameras, IoT sensors and video analytics to automatically detect fire and water leakage, perform crowd management and access control, and monitor electricity use and air quality and temperature. 

If people are gathering in an area, such as an elevator lobby, the smart building management platform could use its people-counting sensors and air-quality monitors to determine when to send disinfection robots for extra cleaning — and let these robots move autonomously between floors by connecting with the building’s elevator control platform.

TerenceYap150x150Mobile patrol robots can also link into the smart building system, patrolling a pre-set route around the clock and providing remote CCTV surveillance with facial recognition. These mobile robots could also be equipped to read meters and detect gas leaks or other hazards. 

As robots continue to prove to be allies of people, companies will continue to explore new ways for them to add value to society as part of our future smart cities. 

About the author: Terence Yap is chairman of Guardforce AI, a Hong Kong-based AI service provider that offers robots-as-a-service solutions for service industries such as public health, education, transportation, franchising, hospitality and real estate.

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