HR Strange But True

The Rise—and Fall—of the Machines

Are you part of the 14% of workers who are worried they’ll lose their jobs to automation? As HR technology advances, it’s no surprise that HR professionals may fear losing their jobs to robots, but technology isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be!


benoitb / iStock / Getty Images Plus

For example, if your company uses security guards, those employees are probably safe from automation. Case in point: A security bot for a Washington Harbor development in Washington, D.C., decided it to end it all and throw itself into a watery grave after a few days of patrolling the area. We’re not saying the bot was bored to death, but its awkward design was no match for a set of stairs leading to a fountain pool in the area.

An employee who happened to be working at the time the bot drowned manage to capture it and share it on Twitter. And like everything else online, the Internet blew up with an outpouring of sympathy. The bot was given a name, Steve, and employees in the Washington Harbor development set up a make-shift memorial on Steve’s charging pad, with one Twitter user saying, “This is the memorial for Steve the drowned security robot outside our office on his charging pad. The future is weird.” That it is, indeed!

Knightscope’s K5, Steve the security bot’s real name, is a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound droid that looks like the love child of R2D2 and an egg. The K5 model was first introduced in 2014 and was widely used across the company’s campus in Mountain View, California. By 2016, the company had deployed 15 K5 bots across California, and by 2017, the company announced that it would be releasing 24 more bots across five states and three time zones.

K5 has “a 360-degree video camera array, sensitive microphones, air quality sensors, and even thermal imaging capabilities. The cameras can apparently scan up to 1,500 car number plates per minute; the microphones can detect gun shots and other notable sounds. Autonomous mobility is provided by a mix of lidar, radar, and the video camera array,” reports ars Technica. Unfortunately, the autonomous mobility feature may need to be improved in light of the recent tumble Steve took.

Along with the mobility issues, K5 also has some other limitations. The guard bot basically can’t arrest people, save people, or stop a speeding bullet … well, actually … it’s metal so it could stop a speeding bullet, but you get the point. The theory behind hiring/purchasing a K5 bot is that you can replace five human guards with four K5 bots, and then leave that one lone human to respond to the K5s’ alerts. So to all the security guards out there, breathe a sigh of relief, your job is safe for now … as long as you can navigate stairs!

Melissa BlazejakMelissa Blazejak is a Senior Web Content Editor at BLR. She has written articles for and the HR Daily Advisor websites and is responsible for the day-to-day management of and She has been at BLR since 2014. She graduated with a BA of Science, specializing in Communication, from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008. Most recently, she graduated in 2014 with a MS of Educational Technology.