CEO William Santana and his cofounders are betting that crime won’t pay with the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine on patrol
Knightscope CEO William Santana Li has heard countless “RoboCop” references relating to the K5, an “Autonomous Data Machine” that his startup is banking on to disrupt the security industry.
“Every possible Hollywood comment has been made to us, and we think it actually helps,” he said. “The machines actually bring out the kid in everyone. We never expected the level of admiration, the number of robot selfies, the number of people who are hugging or kissing the machine or families bringing their kids to see them.”
Birth of the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine
Not to be confused with RoboCop the crime fighter, the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine robot is a crime deterrent. At five-feet tall, three-feet wide and weighing about 300 pounds, the K5 features LIDAR (light enabled radar) to see where its going, GPS to tell where it is, a 360-degree live-video camera that works in light and dark situations, license plate recognition, and the robot can even be equipped with sensors to make it a mobile, hyper-local weather station.
Essentially, the K5 is a robot security guard that observes, reports and generates a steady stream of information to provide real-time monitoring as well as historical data to help fight future crimes.
Too much money is being spent globally on developing military technology instead of focusing on more immediate public security concerns such as petty crimes and other non-violent infractions. So Knightscope’s mission, Li said, is to support the millions of security guards and law enforcement professionals who are “willing to take a bullet for you and your family.”
“I would endeavor that over the last 100 years, there really hasn’t been much innovation — other than, perhaps, Tasers or bullet proof vests and cameras,” he said. “It’s high time that we build on all the amazing capabilities that exist in Silicon Valley … to provide really interesting, force-multiplying technologies for the security professionals to give them really smart eyes and ears to do their jobs much more effectively.”
The Knightscope security robot is all about data
And that’s exactly what Li and his cofounders set out to do with the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine. Its ability to collect massive amounts of data (up to 90 terabytes per year per machine) means that, over time, the information can be combined with existing historical records to provide predictive analytics that Li believes could cut future crime in the U.S. by 50 percent.
“Crime has a trillion dollar-negative economic impact every single year just in the United States,” Li said. “To develop technology that would be able to cut that in half would basically create one of the most important companies coming out of Silicon Valley.”
Investors seem to agree with that assumption, given that Knightscope is once again close to securing millions in funding, and nowadays it’s not uncommon to see the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine patrolling in Silicon Valley.
But not long ago, it was a rock ’em sock ’em fight for the robot startup to stay afloat.
When Knightscope launched in 2013, getting the startup funded was an uphill battle because its business plan didn’t sit well with potential investors.
“There are not a bunch of venture capitalists sitting on Sand Hill Road who have raised money from a bunch of LPs with a strategy to go disrupt the advanced physical security space,” Li said. “That’s not a normal thing to be doing, and it’s not something that Wall Street covers significantly. Knightscope is a complete outlier, which is why we will deliver outlier returns.”
Knightscope funding gets a big boost
Then in October 2013, Li caught a break at the Plug and Play Tech Center Accelerator where he managed to scrape together enough cash to build Knightscope’s first prototype.
The startup unveiled its first-generation Autonomous Data Machine two months later at Plug and Play’s Winter Expo, where it won Demo Day and caught the media’s attention.
Since then, there’s been plenty of interest in Knightscope and the money has been flowing in.
After taking nearly a year to raise its seed round, Knightscope raised a $5.3 million Series A round that led to the K5, which they are continuously perfecting. And now Knightscope is on to the Series B round of funding, which is going well, Li said.
“I think this is going to be one of the most important revolutionary technologies that’s been developed and it’s actually going to have a meaningful impact on society,” Li said. “This is an opportunity for us to build a $30 billion global, new type of security company providing a unique portfolio of security technologies.”
You can call the Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine interesting, innovative or even revolutionary. And Li would agree.
But whatever you do, don’t call them RoboCops.
“Unfortunately, the media sometimes portrays new technology in a negative light,” Li said. “I think over time people will realize this is not something ominous but is, instead, a value-creating, positive influence in our communities.”