Microsoft is one of the first companies to begin using the K5, an autonomous robot security guard. Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus has been monitored this month by five of these 300-pound robots. The robots are armed with HD cameras, sensors, and alarms, but no weapons as of yet. The K5 is built by California firm Knightscope, and the goal to one day replace human security guards. Given that they can run for 24 hours straight on a single 20 minute charge, there is the potential for the K5 to be more cost-effective than hiring people for certain security functions. The K5 also has built in artificial intelligence that allows it to determine if it has encountered an emergency situation, in which case it can use one of its built-in sirens to attempt to keep the peace — or it can simply request headquarters to send a human to the scene. All in all a fascinating development for the future of physical security.Read more
Bergen County Technical School in Paramus, New Jersey, now has a new tool to ensure the safety and security of students – teachers now wear a modern day version of LifeAlert (just making the analogy; there is no known connection to the company) around their neck (it’s actually called a safety badge, though it doesn’t really look like a badge), and it’s equally as simply to use: two taps alert administrators, school security and others the teacher needs help and automatically relays the teacher’s identity and location in the school. If the faculty member holds the button down for five seconds, an alert goes directly to the police instructing them to dispatches officer to the scene immediately. Motorola Solutions, the device’s developer, says the Bergen County school is one of only two in the nation using it, with the other in Wyoming.
Security at teachers’ fingertips in Bergen County [via NorthJersey.com]Read more
A Melbourne, Australia industrial designer has created a firefighter exoskeleton design to help rescue works carry the enormous weights associated with fire fighting apparatus. Such gear can weigh anywhere from 50 to 125 pounds depending on the circumstances and type of fire being fought, and emergency incidents could require climbing flights of stairs or running through uneven terrain (think outdoor wildfires). Although the design has yet to be manufactured as a working prototype, it would weigh 50 pounds while allowing a firefighter to carry up to 200 pounds with minimal effort. The exoskeleton is also meant to fit over standard firefighting gear but can quickly be disengaged and fall off with one pull in the event of malfunction. The designer has reportedly explained he was motivated to create his design after reading about a 2010 Shanghai fire that killed 58 people in a high-rise apartment building. He found that high-rise buildings can contain thousands of people above the reach of fire department aerial devices, and once the fire is above the reach of ladders, the chance of rescuing victims is nearly zero. Stairwells would then be the only option to reach victims, and his exoskeleton would make the climb up far easier.
Firefighter Exoskeleton To The Rescue [via Discovery]
California will soon provide driver’s license to autonomous (self-driving) vehicles that meet certain standards. The licenses will cost $150 – but cover up to 10 vehicles and 10 human drivers, as the autonomous vehicle will be required to have a driver behind the wheel, ready to take over in case something goes wrong. Also, the vehicles must be insured for $5 million in the event of an accident. But all roadways in California will be open to the vehicles.
Although for now the only individuals who can get their hands on such vehicles are employees of companies that are producing them (like Google or Volvo), car manufacturers are hoping autonomous vehicles will become available to the general public by 2020. And perhaps one day in the not-so-distant future, the number of people killed annually in car accidents will drop from thirty-odd-thousand to literally zero (it is actually the stated goal of Volvo that by 2020 one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo).Read more
Stephen Barounis, 50, a retired NYPD detective, is planning to soon open The 46th Street Station House, a new police station themed bar near Times Square – complete with a squad car and holding cell. An old-fashioned police call boxwill house the bar’s telephone, and a vintage 1960s era police car will be inside the bar on display, and the walls will be lined with celebrity mugshots of stars like Justin Bieber, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and others.
Former NYPD cop is opening a police-themed bar near Times Square [via New York Daily News]
So there are honest people still left in the world. Now making the rounds is this story of three SUNY college roommates found $40,800 in cash stuffed in a couch they bought from a Salvation Army thrift shop. (They reportedly starting looking through the cushions after finding the couch weirdly lumpy and uncomfortable). At first they cheered their luck for winning the lottery, but when they also found a deposit slip in the couch, they decided to track down the rightful owner. It turned out to be a 91-year-old woman whose (a little overly eager?) children had donated the couch to the Salvation Army when she had been hospitalized with health problems. To reward their honesty, the woman reportedly gave the trio $1,000.
New York roommates find $40,000 in sofa and return cash to owner [via The Guardian]Read more
As we had mentioned in this post a few years ago, texting – not calling – 911 for emergency help would hit the mainstream market in the near future. That day is now here. Sort of. Text-to-911 is now available in select areas. Check out this handy list of supported cities to see if your town supports the feature. That said, though the service will be particularly useful to users who are deaf or hard of hearing, for the general public it still makes more sense just to call in the emergency, as texts must include your full name/address and a brief description of the issue. Likewise, communication and instructions from the 911 operator will take that much longer to receive, and the operator won’t be able to hear what’s going on around you. The plan is for text-to-911 to go national by year’s end.
Now you can text 911… just not from everywhere [via Engadget]Read more
This fascinating story in the Daily Mail shows that the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s police detective sleuth Poirot may have been a relatively unknown Belgian cop named Jacques Hornais. Christie first introduced Poirot in her 1920 novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and went on to write 33 novels about his adventures. The renowned author never identified a specific person as the source of her inspiration, but an amateur researcher says he has now uncovered evidence Hornias could have been the real-life Poirot.
Real-life Poirot? Researchers reveal identity of policeman from Belgium who may have inspired Agatha Christie’s sleuth [via Daily Mail]
Google’s self-driving cars are getting better each year. Now, in addition to driving themselves, they are able to identify all kinds of potential road hazards, including cyclists, pedestrians, construction zones — even the hand signals from a school crossing guard or police officer. Though the busy streets of San Francisco are going to pose a larger challenge than the relative quiet of Mountain View, where the cars are currently being road-tested, according to project director Chris Urmson, “We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.” A recent Google blog post was even more optimistic about the vehicle’s future:
We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted.
The above clip from CNN details how a recent Kansas City police murder investigation may have been solved by the help of license plate cameras fixed to the back of many of the city’s police cars. Apparently, the plate numbers are stored in a database with the time, date, and location the vehicle was scanned by the license plate readers. Recently, Kansas City was terrorized by an individual who was randomly shooting area motorists. A 27 year old man has now been arrested; it happened after a female motorist phoned in the man’s license plate information after believeing she was being followed. Police went to their database and found that plate had been used on several different cars in various locations; with additional old-fashioned policework, they arrested their suspect.
Did police cameras help solve a crime? [via CNN]Read more