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

International Security Expo 2018: The Changing Demographics of the Security Industry

London Eye

By Bob Falk, Managing Director of Evolv Technology –

For years, going to the United Kingdom Security Expo in London has felt like going to a get-together with members of a fairly tight-knit club. Everyone was involved in the business of selling, buying and deploying high-powered security screening gear for airports, government buildings and other hardened locations.

This year, the vibe was noticeably different, with many new faces, from different industries, and with different priorities—emphasis on the word “many.” With the awful increase in mass casualty attacks on soft-targets such as schools, corporate offices and houses of worship, registrations for the show rose 38 percent from the previous year. This includes corporate security managers, hoteliers, government regulators and municipal law enforcement officials from around the world.

The show organizers clearly saw this change coming. Besides renaming the show—as of this year, it’s the International Security Expo–they set off a sizeable part of the show floor for the dozens of drone (and counter-drone!) security products on the market. The centerpiece exhibit was the football field-sized “Protecting Urban Spaces Demonstrator,” where visitors could get a sense of the user experience of various futuristic products in a simulated city, right down to a smart man-hole cover that looks out for wanted criminals while it also monitors the water and gas levels around it.

We definitely saw the broadening demographics of the security business at the Evolv booth. We had visits from multiple soccer clubs and other professional sports teams, all looking for ways to lower the odds of an attack in their stadium without taking any fun out of a night at the game. We spoke with police departments, who wanted to boost security at police stations and potentially at crime scenes. Large event planning companies kicked the tires, as well.

As a rule, these people had little interest in speeds and feeds, and most probably couldn’t tell you the meaning of the acronym AVSec (Answer: Aviation Security). They wanted to talk more about use cases, and how to create fluid, non-aggravating screening processes that wouldn’t feel like lining up in an airport security queue. Rather than create impenetrable perimeters to find every last pen-knife, many wanted the ability to quickly stand-up a “pop-up” checkpoint—say, for the night when a dignitary comes to a restaurant or if a municipal alert goes out about a violent criminal on the loose.

I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these newcomers to the show found their way to our booth. Evolv set out in 2013 to create solutions for the growing soft-target threat. More than 200 of our Edge systems are already deployed, in everything from corporate headquarters to concert halls. We’re not the only company targeting these applications, but I’d have no problem betting that we have the most experience helping customers in real-world applications.

In terms of the amount of real business that got done at the show, it no doubt took place at the booths and suites of those aviation security companies. With the European Commission mandating a shift from traditional X-ray-based technology to systems based on CT-scanners, there’s a lot of money to be made or lost in that huge market.

But I took the stream of new faces at our booth and the show as a solid leading indicator of expanding demand for a new generation of security screening equipment. It’s an unfortunate statement on the level of violence in our society today that schools, businesses and sports teams need to think about the safety of their visitors. But it’s also a positive sign that these companies and institutions are thinking about responding rather than accepting it as the new normal.

Check out Six Ways to Prevent Soft Targets from Terrorist Attacks to learn more about options to combating today’s security threats.

EBOOK: A Security Professional’s “Must Find” Threshold for Detection

Hand Held Metal Detector

By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –

The last year has seen horrific mass casualty assaults in places people in most countries have never had to seriously worry about going. School shootings have continued, and we’ve been appalled by carnage at houses of worship, nightclubs, music concerts and corporate offices. This scourge, along with the continued potential for terrorist attacks from abroad, has many security professionals wondering about their options for boosting physical security—including potentially adding weapons detection screening for the first time. To help you get started, we’ve prepared an eBook, entitled “Detecting Physical Security Threats: Key Considerations for Security, Venue Operators and Facility Managers.”

Obviously, adding or increasing physical security is a big decision—especially for “soft-target” locations. Air travelers know, expect–even welcome–screening when they head to the airport. Not so with malls, shopping centers, and other places people congregate to worship, learn or be entertained. People go to a concert, sporting event, or shopping mall because they want to, not because they have to. While in today’s world most people appreciate the need for security, if it’s too time-consuming and intrusive, they’ll turn away from your venue. After all, you’re in business to provide a carefree, entertaining experience—not to turn a night out into what feels like a visit to a hardened military installation.

The key is to determine the right balance of security and convenience for your particular business or organization. Based on our own executives’ decades of experience and extensive interviews with a range of industry experts, it’s critical to define your threshold of risk. Are you looking to stop only massive attacks with explosives and assault weapons? What about a small, limited capacity pistol or brass knuckles? One strategy is to choose technologies that will find only weapons of a particular size and shape. Or maybe you want a flexible system, so you can turn up the acuity to find every last switchblade when high-profile guests are in attendance?

This e-Book will help you make those decisions.

Click here to learn more about a balance between threat detection and a positive visitor experience—traditionally, two mutually opposing goals.

Key considerations for detecting physical security threats