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Robots join New York City workforce

Submitted by douglas cooley on April 25, 2014

Smart city technologies often fall into the realm of things like integrated communications networks, cloud computing frameworks and advanced instrumentation.  But, as New York City demonstrates, there’s room for your old-fashioned robot, too.

The New York World recently profiled three municipal “workers” that automate diverse and important city functions. What these employees lack in the flesh and blood department, they make up for with their touch screens, thermal cameras and sophisticated programming.

Here’s the roster of robots operated by the city:

  • SuperDroid LTF. This Fire Department gizmo costs $100,000 and takes photos in collapsed buildings to assist with searches. It also takes metered readings during hazmat operations.
  • Andros HD-1. Employed by the Police Department, this 245-pound, camera-toting machine handles suspected bombs. It climbs stairs at angles of 45 degrees or more and travels at a speed of 4.3 miles per hour.
  • Robot-Rx. This Municipal Hospital robot handles more than 90% of medications dispensed from central pharmacy.
  • Mailbot (retired). This automated mail tracking system (see video) delivered letters and packages to its Department of Housing Preservation and Development employees from 2007 to 2011.

A more pervasive development in robotic smart city solutions may be the arrival of driverless cars and delivery drones. According to a study commissioned by Intel Corporation, 44 percent of American respondents would like to live in a driverless city where cars, buses and trains operate intelligently and automatically without people driving them.

When asked how automated transportation could affect their cities or towns, American respondents cited reductions in the number of traffic incidents (40 percent), traffic (38 percent) and the amount of carbon emissions (34 percent). More than one-third (34 percent) expect to see a driverless city in 10 years or less.

Robotics and driverless cars are part of the larger “Internet of Things” discussion that forecasts more advanced forms of connectivity between devices, systems and machines. To learn more about the Internet of Things and the connectivity requirements that enable it, download the Council's Smart Cities Readiness Guide (free, one-time registration required).