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

Combating Insider Threats at Airports

Airport Terminal from Above

By Chris McLaughlin, Vice President, Global Solutions, Evolv Technology –

The shift in the threat landscape has impacted multiple industries from entertainment to education. Today millions of people are vulnerable in places where, in the past, they could freely gather. For airports, which already require several security procedures and screening processes, the shift has resulted in the need to further secure non-traditional areas of the facility.

This need is partially being driven by the uptick in insider threat incidents that have taken place at airports in recent years. With new insider threats like a baggage handler smuggling several handguns onto flights, and an avionics technician showing a willingness to transport explosives to a secure part of the airport, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport authorities, and airlines are installing more physical security protocols to protect the vulnerable areas of the airport.

Let’s explore what we need to address insider threats at airports, the current processes that exist and how new, innovative technologies are addressing that need.

Security that Considers the Pace of Commerce

The Current Process: For decades, airport insiders have been given extensive access to almost all parts of the airport with identity verification serving as the primary tool for screening employees.To remain operational, employees need this level of access; however, it makes implementing new screening processes difficult as employees encounter dozens of access points daily.

The New Solution: When considering new employee screening processes, an important question to ask is, “will this process unduly slow employees down and make it difficult to do their jobs?” If the answer is yes, then you will want to consider another option. To help, look for options that do not require employees to empty their pockets or take off their shoes and belt.

Automating the Employee Screening Process

The Current Process: In addition to ID checks, there are currently a number of different processes being used for employee screening at airports. In a few cases, airports use traditional x-ray systems and magnetometers, which are costly to operate and invasive for all employees. At the other extreme, airports use physical pat downs, which while more cost effective, are much more invasive for selected employees.

The New Solution: As an alternative, airport managers should look for automated systems. These systems offer a variety of benefits. For example, instead of manual processes like bag searches and metal detectors, guards can maintain focus on the employees coming to work, responding to threats only when they present themselves.

Leveraging Innovative Technologies to Take a Proactive Approach to Security

The Current Process: Today, the screening systems have limited capabilities. For example, they cannot analyze data quickly and are not technologically advanced enough to perform consistently.

The New Solution: Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors offer airport managers a number of benefits. AI has the power to analyze data quickly and identify patterns in real-time. In a screening scenario, this application eliminates the need for full hand wanding or physical full-body pat downs as the technology itself alerts guards if someone is carrying an item of interest and tells them where to search.

Scalable Solutions for Pop-Up Deployment

The Current Process: Not all airport budgets support a 100 percent screening model. While we applaud those that can commit the resources, there is strong evidence that supports random, unpredictable employee screening models as well.

The New Solution: Random, unpredictable screening stations are not only effective but also offer flexibility as conditions change. Solutions that are designed for pop-up deployment allow airport managers to set-up employee screening stations at different access points throughout the airport for various amounts of time.

Flexible Solutions to Meet Specific Needs

The Current Process: This is a complicated process and often times, identifying where, and how, to start can be the biggest challenge. Because of this we see airports choosing NOT to strengthen security in lieu of reverting to a costly and cumbersome “one size fits all” solution that is expensive.

The New Solution: Each airport needs its own flexible solution that can be adjusted based on their specific needs, budget and risk factors. There is no perfect security solution; however, those that that strategically balance security, access, usability, and cost can ultimately provide the best long-term protection against an evolving adversary.

Airport operations are extraordinarily complex. At their most basic level, if security measures make it impossible for employees to get to work on time, airplanes won’t get off the ground on schedule. To incorporate additional layers of security that improve the employee screening process, airport managers should look to maximize their resources. In today’s new world paradigm, it is the combination of identity and physical security that will enable airports and airport managers to successfully protect against insider threats.

Check out this case study to learn more about how Oakland International Airport is leveraging innovative technology to enhance its employee screening process.