HPD to discuss $100,000 purchase of robot with Honolulu City Council

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The first Honolulu City Council meeting of the year will include a discussion on recent purchases made by the Honolulu Police Department (HPD), which includes a robotic dog with a six-figure price tag.

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HPD said, the robot will conduct touchless temperature checks and connect unsheltered people with tele-med appointments, but some members of the city council want to know more about the reason and need for the purchase.

The council’s agenda places HPD’s purchase of the Boston Dynamics Spot Robot for $150,045.00 in the discussion items. A report of enforcement action taken by HPD in response to illegal fireworks is also up for discussion in this week’s meeting.

An HPD spokesperson told KHON2 the purchase was made using CARES Act money. HPD was allotted $43 million from the City.

Public Safety Committee chair Heidi Tsuneyoshi said, she plans to get more details on the purchase.

“I think this is going to be a very interesting conversation on Wednesday,” Tsuneyoshi said. “Not only in regards to the expenditure but the type of equipment that it is, the service that it provides and what direction we’re going in, as far as purchasing and utilizing these types of things in our city.”

The makers of the robot — who named it ‘Spot’ — described several of its uses including the ability to inspect construction projects in progress.

Commercial construction company Swinerton used Spot’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the construction of downtown’s affordable housing project Queen Emma Apartments.

The makers of Spot also described its functionality with public safety departments as it can provide visuals to officers during dangerous situations.

HPD provided KHON2 with a statement on the purchase.

“The robot can conduct touchless temperature checks and telemed appointments and can also deliver medical supplies and food without contact.  Its thermal imaging capability means it can scan a large area for elevations in temperatures. The robot will be used at the POST (Provisional Outdoor Screening and Triage) site at Keehi Lagoon for now.  After POST is closed, the robot will be used for the HONU (Homeless Outreach and Navigation for Unsheltered Persons) program at locations across Oahu.”

Tsuneyoshi said, she wants to know more about the AI capabilities and how it will be used for city purposes.

“I was surprised just in the fact, that was such a purchase with a robot and the artificial intelligence component and what it did,” Tsuneyoshi said. “And cost comparison, if we actually had an officer out there doing what the robot is intended to do.”

HPD said, an officer will attend the meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 13, to answer questions from the city council.

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