While retail theft is a leading cause of business failure, Lowe’s has introduced a new, “dystopian,” device to catch shoplifters.


Certain stores of the home improvement chain Lowe’s are conducting trials with security robots in an effort to combat the widespread theft that has plagued their establishments recently.

Philadelphia-area Lowe’s stores have begun using K5 autonomous outdoor security robots made by Knightscope, a security technology firm headquartered in the Silicon Valley region of California.


Four Lowe’s stores, in various Philidelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhoods, began testing the robots in February


According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, testing of the robots began in February at four Lowe’s stores in different areas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The news source claims that pilot programs are already underway in the states of Washington, North Carolina, California, and the District of Columbia.

One pilot project to “heighten the security and safety” of Lowe’s stores involves 5-foot-tall, egg-shaped security robots that make a cosmic whirring sound as they roll across the pavement.

According to Larry Costello, Lowe’s senior manager of corporate communications, locations chosen as good sites to test the technology are selected “based on varying criteria and scenarios.”

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The robots are equipped with 16 microphones and various sensors such as lidar and sonar, allowing them to detect irregularities and immediately notify Lowe’s central monitoring team.

The K5 has thermal anomaly detection and “people detection” sensors, according to Knightscope’s executive vice president and chief client officer Stacy Stephens in an interview with The Inquirer.

The most recent report from the National Retail Federation found that organized shoplifting had increased by 26%.

Jeanel Alvarado, a retail expert at Retail Boss, was quoted in The U.S. When the sun comes out, things will only get worse.

“Footfall decreased during the beginning of the pandemic, and now that things are back open, store traffic is slowly returning back to normal, however, with increased people entering shopping malls and retailers, and Americans bracing themselves for an economic downturn — the threat of organized shoplifting and theft is at an all-time high,” she said.

The news outlet claims that the security machine, which locals in the Philippines have dubbed “snitchBOT,” is equipped with four wide-angle cameras capable of recording 360 degrees of high-definition video.

The people “can see a person but not who it is,” Stephens said.

Lowe’s has installed 400-pound robots that can identify license plates and mobile devices if that data has already been entered into the company’s database.

Stephens clarified that the system is not intended to replace human security personnel.

Stephens explained that the police were looking for “known threats,” including former employees who had been fired for domestic violence or criminal trespass warning recipients.

The K5 is designed to improve the situational awareness of human security guards and provide companies with evidence for criminal prosecutions.

According to The Inquirer, K5 robots were parked outside of stores in South Philadelphia and Port Richmond with security guards parked next to them last week, and no one seemed to notice them.

The K5, despite its futuristic appearance, is unarmed.

The question is wonderful, Stephens said, “because it’s so natural;” however, the robots’ primary functions are “observation and reporting,” and they are not designed for offensive purposes.

Even though it is unarmed, shoppers are still wary of it because of its appearance.

“Having a large object moving around creates a sense of concern, an uncertainty about the capabilities it has,” Derek Leben, an associate professor of business ethics at Carnegie Mellon University who studies emerging technologies and artificial intelligence, said.

As much as “that sense of uncertainty and concern can be an effective deterrent,” it can also erode trust and create a dystopian feeling.

In January of this year, a video surfaced showing a robot called SQ-2 guarding the streets of Tokyo, Japan. This robot represents the next generation of security guards.

The Japanese robotics company SEQ SENSE created the 4-foot-tall robot that is similar to Lowe’s security addition.

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Micheal Kurt

I earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport science from Oregon State University. He is an avid sports lover who enjoys tennis, football, and a variety of other activities. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and is a huge Cardinals supporter.

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