WORLD CUP - Robots patrol Berlin soccer stadium

Robots are patrolling the Berlin stadium, one of 12 venues hosting the World Cup soccer games.

Robots are having a heyday in Germany. While one group has just completed a World Cup championship in Bremen, Germany, another is diligently patrolling Berlin's Olympic Stadium, one of 12 venues hosting the World Cup soccer tournament currently under way in the country.

The RoboCup 2006 championship ended Sunday with Germany winning 11 of the 33 robot soccer categories. China came in second with nine medals, followed by Japan with six and Iran with five. Japan won the humanoid competition, with a kid-size robot from Osaka.

The RoboCup's goal is to develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can play -- and win -- against a human World Cup champion team by 2050

With RoboCup over, robot enthusiasts are now shifting their attention to another group of robots busy protecting the historical Berlin stadium, home to the Olympic Games in 1936 and host to a handful of matches for the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament.

Eleven moveable robots are patrolling the stadium area every night through July 9, when the final game of the World Cup soccer tournament takes place in the Berlin stadium.

The robots, built and operated by Robowatch Technologies GmbH in Berlin, are part of a contract that the Federration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) awarded to Best Veranstaltungsdienste GmbH to provide security services at the World Cup stadiums in Berlin, Frankfurt Leipzig.

"The security company wanted to ensure 150 percent security so they hired us to help out," said Robowatch spokesman Benjamin Stengl in an interview on Tuesday. "We've been commissioned to provide 20 robots if necessary."

One group of robots is programmed for outdoor surveillance. With the help of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, they patrol the exterior area of the Berlin stadium and fences up to two kilometers away from control center, which is located within the stadium.

Another group focuses on indoor surveillance, programmed with a layout of the stadium interior, including administration rooms, underground parking spaces and storage areas.

The robots communicate with the control center via 3G (third-generation) mobile technology. Each robot is equipped with a 3G card, which connects to a dedicated base station in the stadium. All data is encrypted.

"We could have used Wi-Fi technology but it would have required additional access points and thus higher costs," Stengl said.

In addition, all of the robots are equipped with video cameras, radar sensors, temperature gauges and infrared scanners. Camera heads on the robots can turn in all directions and can be controlled remotely by a technician in the control center.

"If a robot registers something that has changed, such as a hole in a fence, it stops and sends an alert to the control center," Stengl said. " The radar sensors are also able to detect human bodies through most walls."

Upon request, the outdoor robots can be equipped with technology to detect alpha, beta and gamma rays, as well as biological weapons.

The outdoor robots are 1.40 meters long and weigh 40 kilograms. They move on miniature tracks similar to those on army tanks, and can reach speeds up 7 kilometers per hour.

The indoor robots and slightly smaller, at 1.18 meters, and weigh 25 kilograms. They roll on wheels at speeds up to about 4 kilometers per hour.

The robot software system is based on the open source Linux operation system. "We decided to use Linux for a couple of reasons," Stengl said. "One is security. Another is that we've found it easier to program our application on this platform."

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John Blau

IDG News Service

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