Beyond Bodyguards: Awards Season’s Security Challenges

Paparazzi

With Sunday’s 91st Academy Awards now in the rearview mirror, water cooler talk around the countryturns to awards season takeaways. The majority of these conversations may focus on big winners, surprise snubs, and jaw-dropping fashion, but at Evolv, physical security is the main topic of discussion.

Hollywood’s awards season, held annually between October and February, culminates in a series of televised award shows. Each year, millions of people across the globe settle in to watch the year’s leadingactors, writers, musicians, and artists gather to be recognized for outstanding contributions to their industries. Venues hosting the biggest industry shows may change year-to-year but regardless of location, awards season has always been a time for Hollywood to put its most glamorous side on display — from onstage presenters and performers, to celebrity-packed audiences, red carpets, and after parties.

The polished and glamorous Hollywood environment displayed during these award shows may appear perfect, but that’s hardly reality. Any large event held at a public venue generates potential security threats. Despite the glitz and glamour, events like the Emmys or Oscars have similar physical security concerns to those of concert halls, sports stadiums, and airports around the globe.

Threats don’t discriminate

While celebrities and those in the entertainment industry can sometimes seem “untouchable,” they are not immune from the fact that any popular venue can be a potential target for active shooters and terrorists. Threats today don’t discriminate based on popularity, wealth, appearance, or talent. For venues, physical security concerns are universal, regardless of whether celebrities or the general public will be in attendance.

Modern security systems should protect all people regardless of the type of venue or event. Evolv’s customers include entertainment venues, airports, stadiums, corporations, hospitals, large scale events, and landmarks worldwide. For example, the Kravis Center, a performing arts venue in West Palm Beach, uses the Evolv Edge to ensure its audiences, artists, and staff members remain safe, while providing patrons with the best customer experience possible.

Security fit for the red carpet

Traditional security systems often detract from the aesthetic of the environments in which they’re used.The use of metal detectors, for example, requires guests to line up single file, dump out the contents of pockets and bags, and walk through the dated technology, only to be patted down later by a security guard. While it may be amusing to consider someone like Lady Gaga being patted down by security guards on the red carpet and forced to empty personal items from her clutch, this scenario accurately depicts the problem with using outdated security systems for red carpet events.

Fortunately, Evolv solutions use the latest AI and machine learning technology to enable frictionless, seamless, and effective security that can be modified to blend into all types of environments, including the red carpet. 

Be on the lookout

Many celebrities are faced with people who have the ability to do them harm, such as known stalkers, over-exuberant fans, or pesky paparazzi. The manual screening methods that traditionally have been used to identify such people require guards to memorize tens, if not hundreds of faces prior to the event, and have proven to be inconsistent and ineffective.

Facial recognition technology has significantly improved the ability of security teams to identify unwanted persons at large-scale events such as award shows. Because facial recognition technology, like Evolv’s Pinpoint, enables an event or venue to input images of people to “be on the lookout for,” guards are able to identify potentially dangerous guests almost immediately.

While this technology is ideal for diffusing threats before they occur, it provides other potential benefits too. Evolv Pinpoint’s ability to input images of people can be utilized for expected guests as well, enabling red carpet staffers to appropriately greet their A-list guests upon arrival. Facial recognition tech can ensure everyone feels like an award winner.   

Everyone, whether a celebrity at the Golden Globes or a family attending a major league baseball game, has the right to be safe. By deploying the most advanced screening capabilities, public venues can address a variety of threats, scenarios, and potential targets, so that no matter the event, guests and the overall guest experience are protected.

Biometrics To Improve Terminal Side Security And Employee Screening

Pilots in Cockpit

By Bill McAteer, Account Executive –

Innovations at airports have historically focused on one or both of the following primary factors: improving the customer experience, and securing passengers from ‘terminal to the plane.’

For example, the ‘Automated Screening Lane,’ originally proven to be successful in many European airports, have been widely adopted by U.S. airports in the past two years. In addition, new scanning technologies are making it possible to rapidly detect explosives, firearms and other weapons hidden on a person, without requiring them to remove layers.

On the customer experience front, more than 15 airports started testing and using biometrics to dramatically improve the customer experience. Airports are using advanced facial recognition to make it much easier for travelers to check-in at self-service kiosks, drop their luggage off at counters, and board planes – all without showing passports, IDs or other credentials.

While many airports are still in trial phases for these technologies, early results of reduced wait times and improved service levels are encouraging.

Despite these advancements, there has been little innovation in two critical areas: terminal-side security and employee screening to protect against the insider threat. Though some airports actively identify new technologies to improve these areas, many play a game of ‘wait and see’ to find out what the TSA will support or mandate.

Based on my experience, the airports that are proactive with their technology are the ones that set the future trends. When projects are successful, the TSA embraces those airports as models.

Security has traditionally been separate from the customer experience, but based on the early success of biometrics, we’ll see a big shift on this front in 2019. Airports will increasingly leverage successful customer technologies to improve their security apparatuses as well. This will set the trend for what airport security will look like for terminal side and employee screening in 2019 and beyond.

Here are two big ways we expect to see the combination of biometrics and security deployed this year.

Battling the Insider Threat – Improving Employee Screening

According to a recent economic impact study conducted for Airports Council International – North America, about 1.2 million people work at 485 commercial airports in the U.S.

In a risk-based security model, airport employees don’t require the same level of scrutiny as passengers, but they still need to be screened. Because there are no TSA mandates of physical screening for employees, many airports  deploy new security programs only after several noteworthy incidents have occurred, including the Horizon Air worker who stole and flew a commercial aircraft over the Seattle area, and the multiple arrests for various smuggling charges.

These incidents have put many aviation security veterans, including myself, on high alert and increased the possibility of a mass casualty act conducted by a disgruntled or radicalized employee. While many airports have added physical screening procedures for employees, the use of biometrics for employee screening for employee screening will start to explode in 2019.

Here’s why. Security and customer convenience are constantly at odds in traditional airports. Adding additional physical security procedures for employees can be cumbersome and cause delays for travelers because the employees are held-up at security checkpoints. This is why biometrics, combined with the power of new physical threat detection systems like Evolv Edge, will become the defacto standard for employee screening.

Customer Biometrics Provide Another Layer of Security

The early success of biometrics from a customer satisfaction standpoint will crossover to the security side as more airports employ biometrics at security checkpoints for another layer of security for passenger identification.

In fact, the TSA recently announced their roadmap for expanding the use of biometrics to improve passenger identify verification. This will be a departure from the current process of examining physical documents and processing biographical information on every traveler.

But, by adding biometrics scanners at security points like TSA Pre-Check, U.S. Customs and Border Protection points, and more, the TSA and the airports will be able to improve the customer experience, while strengthening their ability to verify each passenger.

These advances in technology will allow airports to treat security and the customer experience in the same way, while improving both at the same time. The combination of biometric identification, along with the ability to rapidly scan travelers for weapons and explosive materials without requiring them to take off layers of clothes, shoes, belts and more, will result in more secure, more convenient travel.

Protect against insider threats with employee screening at airports

Why I Started Evolv: A Q+A with Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Ellenbogen

Mike Ellenbogen

By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –

I recently sat down with Mike Ellenbogen, our CEO and co-founder. We discussed his career path, what’s to come in the security industry in 2019 and Mike’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. See what Mike had to say.

Melissa Cohen: Mike, you have a lot of experience launching new companies and building something from the ground up based on a new idea. You did this with both Evolv and your previous company. Can you tell us about an accomplishment that shaped your career?

Mike Ellenbogen: Absolutely. I love building things and always have. I had a eureka moment that triggered the inception of my first company, Reveal Imaging. After new legislative requirements for airport security screening were put in place following September 11, I realized it made sense to employ smaller, less expensive systems and connect them together via a network of PCs. We rethought the way checked baggage was screened in the U.S., considering the total cost of the systems as opposed to just the cost of the technology. Ultimately, Reveal Imaging was acquired by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in August 2010. I’m immensely proud of the work that team did and grateful for the experience – it’s really helped shape who I am today and is what motivated me to keep going and start Evolv.

MC: Based on your extensive experience in the security business, what do you think makes a good CEO in the industry?

ME: There needs to be an inclination to push beyond the conservative approach that is so common in the security industry. There are plenty of businesses out there with the “same old” security technology that’s been around for decades. I like to push the envelop and ensure that my company is offering something that solves a problem while also surprising and delighting. I think it’s important that a security industry CEO sees the world that can be rather than replicating what’s already out there or being happy with the status quo.

MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building either of these businesses and how did you overcome it?

ME: The core technology at both companies was/is really complicated – millimeter wave imaging is a challenging field, so is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Of course, you have to have technology that works in order to have repeatable and reliable customers that you can pursue. Leading an emerging technology company and inventing fundamentally new technology, there’s inherently a lot of pieces you have to glue together. It’s daunting and the success of the company is reliant on a deep understanding of the physics of the real world and how to appropriately push the boundaries of electronics and processing.

With any new technology or applications, there is also a steep learning curve among your teams. An engineer may be familiar with the technology, but not with the application. On that note, another challenge is finding the kind of people that can help move the physical security technology industry forward. We look for people with credibility, who have energy and creativity, and can also help move the needle.

MC: What are some of the biggest trends and themes you’ll be watching for in the security industry in 2019?

ME: We’ll definitely see further integration of AI and facial recognition into more security technologies and applications. Disparate AI capabilities will need to be packaged in a way that is more useful for customers in 2019. We’ll also see an increase in compute power at the edge, for example, more compute power within security cameras rather than via a central/integrated service. And, I know people have been saying this outside of the security industry for years, but we’re going to see expanded use of the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) within security technologies. While this has already started, some major shifts in this space are coming.

MC: Let’s do some rapid-fire, fun questions. How would you describe your leadership style?

ME: I like to think I present a vision of what could be to get people behind that vision – you need people to believe in the vision to engage them in getting there. Considering I’m focused on solving problems in a new way, I also recognize that it’s important for me to surround myself with people who are optimistic but real.

MC: What is your top productivity hack?

ME: I live my life multi-threaded, which I think is just another way of saying that I’m always trying to be efficient. I do a lot of different things in parallel. For example, I turn the coffee pot on before I get ready for work so that it’s ready when I leave. I take pride in maximizing my time like this.

MC: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

ME: I always wanted to run a company and invent something – this desire was within me from a very young age. I would tell myself you need time to see the opportunities in the market, so find an industry you really love, make it your own, and word incredibly hard at it.

MC: What motivates you?

ME: Every day I’m motivated by the vision that the technology we’re working on is important and helping to save lives. As I mentioned before, I also love building new things and, in doing so, helping to bring success to the people around me.

MC: What best practices can you share for future leaders who are looking to start a business?

ME: It’s all about the people. Whatever your path, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the trenches with them, so you better like them. And of course, expect the unexpected!

Three Trends Impacting Entertainment Security

Boston Garden

By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America at Evolv Technology  –

In past blog posts, we’ve discussed the need for weapons screening and how to improve security at performing arts venues. In taking a look at the broader entertainment industry as a whole, the conversation around security looks different.

At large concert venues and sports arenas, we often find that security is already a defined and established practice. These venues typically have a dedicated security team, led by a veteran security chief and supported by a series of technologies and procedures. In contrast, we find that many performing arts venues – primarily those that are not located in big cities – are usually at the beginning of their security journey.

While security and the practice of people screening is not new to the entertainment industry, there have been significant developments in the past five years that have impacted how security directors approach securing these venues. As patron experience, speed and increased detection continue to remain paramount in screening, security directors at these venues are starting to ask themselves what they can be doing better.

With that, let’s explore three ways entertainment security has changed and how these venues are looking beyond traditional security processes and procedures to improve security screening and create a more welcoming visitor experience.

Access to Artists Draws Attention to Stalkers

Weeks after wrapping her worldwide Reputation tour, it was revealed that Taylor Swift’s team was using facial recognition technology to scan for potential stalkers at her shows. Unbeknownst to her concert goers who stopped at kiosks to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her rehearsals, the system was secretly recording their faces and immediately sending the data to a “command post” in Nashville that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers. While Swift has started to receive some backlash over the use of the technology, it represents a growing trend in entertainment security: the need to control stalkers.

To-date, the majority of entertainment venues have taken the same standard approach to security – screening the entire general fan population via a manual bag search and metal detectors. However, as celebrities, athletes and artists provide more access to their fans – think paying $200 extra for a meet-and-greet ahead of the show – security directors are beginning to look beyond traditional screening methods to prevent known assailants from getting close to talent. While Swift’s team is one of the first to come out and acknowledge the use of facial recognition technology to spot and identify stalkers, they are not the first and will certainly not be the last. In the coming years, I expect we will see facial recognition technology leveraged more frequently to identify stalkers. In addition, the use of advanced sensors such as millimeter wave technology will be used to identify any concealed weapons, particularly non-metallic ones, that fans might be attempting to bring in.

Monetizing the Security Experience

Two headlines from earlier this year that really caught my eye when thinking about entertainment security, at sports venues in particular: “Nobody’s Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care,” and “College football attendance sees second-largest decline in history.” As ticket prices rise, and as temperatures continue to drop in some regions, a noticeable trend in sports and entertainment is that people simply aren’t going to as many games as they used to. Instead, they are choosing to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes from one of their many devices, often via streaming services.

Because of this shift, heads of these facilities are beginning to explore how they can create more value for the fan experience. Think about what Disney was able to achieve with the introduction of the FASTPASS – pay extra on top of a standard ticket price to spend less time waiting in lines for popular attractions. What if this same concept could be applied to security at concerts and sports games? An improved security experience, whether it be less invasive or a faster process, is one way venues are working to get fans back into seats – and they’re looking at how technology can help them do this.

Protecting Against Insider Threats

Unlike employees who work at airports or office buildings, many of the employees who work at entertainment venues are subcontractors who only work during games or when events are happening. There is a level of employee screening that is happening; however, it varies from venue to venue. For example, if a venue is home to a national sports league team – such as the Boston Bruins – the venue itself needs to meet the NHL standards for security. Employee screening is a component of meeting this standard. Because these venues already have standards in place for games, they tend to follow these standards for all events. However, venues that are not the “home” for a national team do not have a standard set of security practices in place for screening employees that they follow all the time.

The recent shifts in the entertainment landscape means that everyone from C-level executives to security directors at entertainment venues are tackling new security challenges every day. Whether they are hosting the AFC East Championship Game or night two of an artist’s summer tour – fan experience, detection capabilities and the overall speed of security will continue to dictate security processes throughout the entertainment industry. As the industry itself has shifted, we will start to see more of these facilities leveraging new, innovative technologies such biometrics and facial recognition technologies to combat today’s threats.

To learn more about what is ahead for physical security in 2019, check out our recent blog post.

Photo Credit: Jeff Egnaczyk

Security content kit for stadiums and arenas

Physical Security in 2019: What Can We Expect?

Lit Up 2019

By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President of Evolv Technology –

With 2018 coming to close, Evolv is intently focused on the year ahead and how we can bring a truly unique product that keeps venues, events and people safe. This year alone we saw more than 300 mass shooting incidents that targeted venues across the United States. 2018 also brought the first publicly available downloads for printing 3-D weapons in the U.S.; in the first four days, more than 1,000 people downloaded plans for 3-D printed AR-15 rifles. Attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued around the globe, with deadly threats occurring in Ghazni, Kabul and the Gercüş district of the Batman Province in Turkey. Security teams at commercial venues and transportation hubs continued to deploy technology to keep their facilities and people safe.

As we look to 2019, we see a number of developments in the physical security industry.

Increased use of multi-layered security plans

Organizations are using more layers of security as part of their overall security plan. This includes overt measures such as visible guards, police details, closed circuit tv (CCTV), turnstiles, bollards and personnel screening equipment, and less obvious measures such as increased use of intelligence, coordination with local, state and federal law enforcement, and social media analysis to identify local threats. The TSA has long used this multi-layer approach, which has influenced other organizations to follow suit. These plans will create layers of security that address and protect along four different capabilities: people, technology, intelligence, and process/protocols.

Technology as a force multiplier for guards

Security guards are the backbone of most physical security plans; however, it can get expensive as the guard force grows. Turnover among security guards is high and many new guards have a basic level of training and limited experience. Technology can be used to augment the guard force and provide them with tools that can increase their effectiveness. Instead of providing guards with more sophisticated training on how to operate equipment, there is a move to make equipment more ‘red light / green light’ to let guards know when they need to look more closely. Today, solutions also provide them with more specific, directive guidance to help them resolve an issue or alert that comes in. This augments guard capability and allows them to be more effective in what they do and more focused on areas of potential concern.

Value of deterrence more widely recognized

There are many examples where visible security served as a deterrence, shifting an attack to a different location. The Pulse Nightclub was Omar Mateen’s third stop that night, after there was a visible security presence at the previous two locations.  Countless security directors attest to the cache of knives found outside designated security checkpoints, and of people diverting before entering a screening point to lock their firearm elsewhere. Visible security and screening are effective both in the weapons they detect and in those that never coming through in the first place.

Increased reliance on third-party validation

With the infusion of innovation comes a surge of new devices, solutions, and systems. As more technologies and solutions are released onto the market, security teams will increasingly rely on third party validation as proof to identify which solutions are operationally sound. These third-party validations can come from industry peers or official designations such as the U.S. Department of Homeland SAFETY Act Designation and third-party testing organizations such as Safe Skies.

AI and biometrics go mainstream

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be all the rage. It shows up on product material, at trade shows and in your vendor’s sales pitches. We see the effective use of AI in specific products or solutions for specific industry applications. For example, using AI to review and learn from scores of medical radiology images to identify potentially cancerous anomalies that may be less visible to the human eye.  In 2019, vendors will find more practical applications for AI and deep learning models that add value.

Biometrics applications will also move into the mainstream and will expand beyond traditional applications. Not only will the application of biometrics expand beyond airports or highly secure facilities, it will also start to be used for non-security applications, such as customer service.  For example, the use of facial recognition technology to verify VIP guests at a sports stadium, ultimately improving the overall security screening experience for guests.

Interoperability to improve security effectiveness

As additional security layers are deployed, organizations are seeking to make them operate together as an integrated security infrastructure. This will allow the security team to quickly have a more complete picture of a security issue to execute its response. Additionally, it will allow more effective use of all equipment. For example, connecting security screening equipment with CCTV for monitoring and access control equipment will allow the team to see if a person of interest enters the facility, where they are, and if they are acting in a suspicious manner.

Increased blend of the cyber and physical security domains

The cyber and physical security domains are coming closer and closer together. In many organizations the responsibility to understand and mitigate these risks come under different groups. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) are now called on to work more closely together to keep the entire organization safe from a range of ever-changing threats.

Benefits of security technology expands beyond cost and risk mitigation

When it comes to physical security, one thing has become clear: there is a balance between a fully locked down, highly secure environment and an open and inviting space. Security directors and management teams are broadening how they look at the benefits of new security technologies and procedures by considering the impact on their physical space, visitor experience and overall mission. Traditionally, cost and risk mitigation have served as the primary factors when deciding which solutions to invest in, and while these are still paramount, we will start to see other factors driving decisions as organizations continue to deploy tailored approaches in 2019.

2018 was an important year for the physical security industry that demonstrated the significant role technology plays in addressing the evolving threat landscape. As we transition our thoughts to the year ahead, we will take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them as we continue to work towards creating solutions that keep people safe.

Read more from our Advisor, Mark Sullivan, former U.S. secret service director, on security screening in the 21st century.

Bulletproof backpacks, #2 pencils and iPads – Preparing for Back-to-School Season in the Era of Active Shooters

School Bus Stop

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO at Evolv Technology

The impending Labor Day celebration not only signifies the end of summer but also the start of the back-to-school season. Whether school buses are already making their daily routes through your neighborhood or you’re still chasing your kids to finish those final pages in their assigned summer reading, there is a dark cloud lingering above the back-to-school season: active shooter prevention and protection.

In past years, those of us who are parents have become accustomed to the run-of-the-mill back-to-school shopping list. However, as we enter the 2018-2019 school year, we are facing purchase decisions we never thought we would have to make. The list we’re armed with doesn’t feel quite as light in our hands.

Bulletproof backpacks, clear backpacks and TuffyPacks. These are now the items that fill back-to-school shopping carts.

The active shooter incidents that targeted schools last year created a ripple effect that was felt around the country. With reports of Parkland still ringing in our ears, school boards, superintendents and principals spent the summer brainstorming and hypothesizing about potential solutions. While parents have been tracking down bulletproof school supplies, teachers have been immersed in active shooter training programs while school districts are spending millions installing bulletproof windows.

Undeniably, this is an issue that needs to be solved particularly as soft targets and large places where individuals gather continue to be targets for attackers. Today, attackers are looking to inflict as much pain and damage as possible with one attack. What’s more, in the U.S. in particular, the access to guns has made it easy for anyone with a grievance to act on it in a way that can affect hundreds of lives.

As school districts, local officials, parents and students rally together to put forth a solution, it’s difficult to get a grasp on where to start or what even qualifies as a good solution. Some schools are already equipped with metal detectors – should others follow suit? Are metal detectors practical for a school environment? What about AI, facial recognition and other innovative technologies? When is it an invasion of privacy?

As the need for solutions to combat active shooters in schools continues to grow, the security industry is responding two-fold on both the consulting side and the technology side. Organizations of all sizes have been motivated to deliver technology that will help make school a safer place. As a result, the number of solutions and innovations available to us seem endless.

Technology can help us do incredible things. It can analyze thousands of data points in seconds. It can help you see things from miles away. It can identify an object as something specific based on pre-programmed characteristics. Leveraging technology – whether it be cameras or sensors – and applying it to physical security, particularly as it relates to schools, can significantly improve the safety of the environment without creating a prison-like atmosphere.

One technology that cannot be ignored when discussing this topic is face recognition. Today many schools require students to carry photo ID badges which allow them to get onto campus and also enter various buildings on school property. The face recognition most schools rely on today is based on staff using their eyes to detect someone or something that’s “just not right”.  This is inconsistent, inherently fallible, and biased.  Automated face recognition technology doesn’t blink – it’s always on, it’s consistent and objective, rather than relying on human memory and attention. Face recognition can be instrumental in helping to enhance a school’s security posture by automatically identifying individuals who shouldn’t be on the premises, or others that pose a potential threat based on input from local law enforcement, teachers or school administration.

Technology however, is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s more than just leveraging the technology available today to solve this problem – it’s about fostering a conversation. While it is promising to see school districts around the country spring into action ahead of the coming school year, there is a need for much closer, tighter coordination between all involved parties.

Only when we take an integrated, holistic approach – that marries technology and the broader discussion – will we find ourselves with a proactive plan to combat this problem. At Evolv, we look forward to continuing to cultivate those partnerships and foster those much-needed conversations as we work to identify a solution to this ever-pressing problem.