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Debian-powered surveillance bot wises up with Pentium M upgrade

Aug 26, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 31 views

ActivMedia has increased the computing power in its Debian Linux powered surveillance robot between 4 and 6 times, while raising power consumption marginally, according to SBC (single board computer) supplier VersaLogic, which will demonstrate the $30,000 “PatrolBot” at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston next… month.

(Click for larger view of ActivMedia PatrolBot)

According to VersaLogic, ActivMedia achieved a radical increase in the PatrolBot's processing capabilities by simply upgrading its SBC from a Pentium-III based VSBC-8 EBX SBC to VersaLogic's new Pentium M based Cobra board. “The Cobra has almost an order of magnitude more power, I think between 4 and 6 times more, with similar power requirements,” said VersaLogic Engineer Adrian Frost.

PatrolBot shows off its Pentium M based SBC
(Click to enlarge)

ActivMedia also upgraded the PatrolBot's embedded OS from Red Hat to Debian Linux. Engineer Dave Northrup said, “We are transitioning to Debian due to RedHat changing their focus from desktop-level sytems to larger-scale enterprise systems, [and because] Debian stood out because of its quest to provide very stable and proven sets of packages. Our commercial systems are very trimmed-down verions of Debian linux, and our research systems will be transitioned over to full-releases of Debian by the end of the year.”


PatrolBot is a “fully autonomous” robotic surveillance and monitoring system — the first such device available off-the-shelf, according to ActivMedia. The device targets laboratories, defense fabrication plants, data centers, and other sensitive areas where removing human guards is desirable. The mobile robot can augment and back up fixed camera systems, and can reduce camera costs by reducing the number of fixed cameras needed, ActivMedia says. The device can also carry sensors not practical for permanent installations, and new monitoring equipment needed on short notice, the company says.

The 22 x 22 x 18-inch robot weighs 70lbs, and can move at 7 feet per second. It uses an eye-safe laser for range-finding and mapping, and features a 3D navigation system with gyroscopic correction. A single battery charge powers it for between 4- and 6-hours of non-stop operation, ActivMedia says.

PatrolBot options include pan and tilt remote controllable cameras and night-vision cameras, 2-way audio, custom hazard sensors, a docking station for automatic recharging, on-board recording capabilities, and a software developer kit.

PatrolBot can travel to specific destinations in a known building, circumventing obstacles in its path. Security personnel watching and listening from the control room may intercede to manually drive the robot and camera, or PatrolBot may be programmed to respond automatically to existing alarms, according to ActivMedia.

PatrolBot's embedded computer receives and processes remote commands received via wireless Ethernet, and handles signal processing for cameras and sound. More information about PatrolBot and other ActivMedia products is available online.

“We chose VersaLogic embedded computers because they are robust and reliable, and because VersaLogic stays on top of ever-advancing technologies,” said ActivMedia Lead Systems Engineer Matt Vestal.

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