The Kravis Center: Protecting Our Guests, the Experience, and Customer Service

Kravis Center

By Judy Mitchell, CEO, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts

Ask any senior executive in charge of a public venue what keeps them up at night and one of their top answers is likely to be “security.” The sad reality of our modern society is that popular venues of all kinds – concert halls, stadiums, schools, places of worship – have emerged as potential targets for terrorists and active shooters.

At the Kravis Center, like every performing arts venue, we’re focused on proactively addressing these security threats to ensure our audiences, artists and staff members remain safe. At the same time, we’re committed to providing the best customer experience possible to our patrons.

Security and the customer experience can sometimes be at odds. Making everyone line up single file and go through a metal detector, empty their pockets and take off their belts isn’t exactly good customer service, but many venues have been conditioned to think this is the only approach.

This is why we’re working to transform how we scan and identify deadly threats while ensuring that our patrons are provided a fast and secure entry.

We have a new approach to screening for weapons and explosives that provides significantly better detection rates than metal detectors while allowing for mass scanning of crowds – speeding up the security process.

Here are a few reasons why we implemented the Evolv Edge and what it means for our customers:

Non-Intrusive Screening

Unlike traditional screening solutions, the Evolv Edge allows our guests, artists and staff members to enter and exit the venue without the need to stop, pose, or empty their pockets.

Optimized Traffic Flow

By eliminating the need to stop each individual guest as they enter, the Evolv Edge enables us to provide a quicker and seamless guest experience, preventing bottlenecks and long lines from occurring.

Advanced Detection Abilities

Today’s threats are no longer limited to firearms and we wanted to make sure our security measures weren’t either. With the Evolv Edge we detect explosives and other weapons concealed on an individual, including fully non-metallic explosives. It even offers multiple sensitivity settings to respond to different threat scenarios should our risk-based security policies change.

Lifetime Evolution

Because threats, technology and security are constantly changing, we wanted to identify a partner that would help us keep pace with those changes and ensure we evolve with the industry. Evolv’s industry pedigree, paired with its multi-disciplinary team of experts are keeping us on the front-lines of performing arts security today and in the future.

While all of these advanced capabilities have significantly improved our security measures, we strongly believe that good communication and training for our security team members, staff and ticket holders are key pieces of our security puzzle. By pairing the Evolv Edge with our high-quality customer service, we can be confident in our ability to provide high-quality security and guest experiences.

After working with Evolv and the Evolv Edge for over a year now, we’ve been nothing but thrilled with the results. We even have patrons regularly approach our staff to express their appreciation for the increased security measures. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Evolv to bring our guests, staff and artists safe and enjoyable experiences.

Judy Mitchell is CEO of The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, a professional performing arts center in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. Read more about the “Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues” by Anil Chitkara, president of Evolv Technology. 

Photo Credit: Nick Juhasz.

Three Questions Security Directors Need to Ask Before the Next Soft-Target Event

Manchester UK Skyline

By Anil Chitkara, President, Evolv Technology –

It’s been more than a year since a suicide bomb was detonated in the foyer of the Manchester Arena. The blast killed twenty-two concert-goers and injured hundreds more. Since then, I have met with security directors from concert halls, stadiums, arenas, sports teams, and convention centers around the world. These security directors are typically asked three questions by their venue owners and managers:

1. How vulnerable are we to this type of attack? 2. What are other venues doing to prevent this type of attack? 3. How can we prevent this type of attack from happening in our venue?

The short answer is, there’s still more to be done.

A typical reaction after the Manchester event was for security directors to reach out to the security consulting industry to help them address these questions. This often included a new or refreshed threat assessment and vulnerability analysis that resulted in identification of security gaps. People, processes, and technology were then evaluated in various combinations to close those gaps.

An initial focus on upskilling people typically includes training to make guards and employees more vigilant and aware of the signs of trouble. This is a quick way to reinforce important skills. Venues will conduct formal internal training, either by bringing in an outside firm or working closely with law enforcement through various programs they offer. Having trained staff is an important part of the overall security plan.

Next, many of these venues step up contact with various sources of intelligence to help them understand and identify the threats to their area, their building, and, if applicable, the people performing at their site. These sources stream in from various federal, state, and local agencies or fusion centers, through a range of companies providing intelligence-as-a-service, and through the venue’s own network of individual contacts. For example, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in more than 100 U.S. cities and similar international intelligence bodies are a critical component in this fight against terrorism.

The third key piece involves making changes to processes and technology. These may include fortifying the perimeter with bollards, adding “eyes on” such as CCTV cameras, or improving visitor screening operations. Process and technology changes, implemented effectively, can multiply the available forces, enabling significant improvements to both the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall security operation.

Decisions about which security technology should be deployed and what processes to wrap around them are highly dependent on the threats and vulnerabilities of a specific venue. There are some key considerations in this decision:

How vulnerable are we to this type of attack?
A key question is: what threats are we most concerned about? Based on physical layout, crowd concentration, and location, some venues are most concerned with person-borne threats and others are concerned with vehicles used as weapons. The threat of an individual bringing a firearm or explosive device to do harm to a crowd of people is high on most lists. Typically, threats are identified and prioritized within a logical framework including the probability of a given type of event, the impact on the venue and its visitors, and the vulnerability based on current security measures.

What are our operational realities?
One comment we consistently hear loud and clear is that a traditional airport or courthouse “mag and bag” checkpoint security process isn’t a viable solution. Security leaders do not want to create an environment where visitors or fans are required to remove all the items from their pockets and place them into a small white bowl, walk through a screening device, and then re-collect their items and go on their way. A manual search of every bag also significantly slows down the screening process and is intrusive to visitors.

What are the gaps in our security plan?
Firearms and explosive devices concealed on an individual are two concerns high on the list of most security directors. There are thousands of people converging on these venues in a short period of time, often just before the start of a show or beginning of a game. To effectively and efficiently screen each visitor for these types of threats is impractical, if not impossible, using traditional technologies – often a mix of walk through metal detectors, manual bag checks and guards trained to identify known trouble makers. For some venues, it’s canines for explosive detection. Evolv has combined all three of these capabilities into a single high-speed device.

Our formula is simple:

  • Find the threats we care most about: explosive devices and firearms
  • Make the visitor experience as unobtrusive as possible
  • Ensure throughput between 500 to 1,000 people per hour (per security lane)
  • Make it easy for guards or officers to use
  • Ensure it is flexible so that it can be used at multiple locations and in different operational configurations to screen different groups of people

Arenas, performance centers, and stadiums have begun deploying new security screening technologies such as the Evolv Edge, and even more are conducting pilots to understand how best to deploy them. However, too few have taken proactive steps to effectively protect their visitors and fans from today’s threats. Let’s focus on detecting the threats we know are out there.

Learn more about what Gillette Stadium is doing to safely secure its own venue.

It’s All About Balance: Improved Security and Better Customer Experience

Outside Arena

Mike Ellenbogen, CEO, Evolv Technology –

Evolv has had the pleasure of working with Mark Briggs for the past several months. As chief operating officer of TeamOps, which has provided security at Gillette Stadium since 2006, Mark has an incredible wealth of security industry knowledge. After a 16-year stint with the British Army, Mark has played important roles in protecting iconic events such as the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, as well as hundreds of concerts, corporate events, and games at London’s Wembley complex and at Gillette.

Mark realizes, as do Evolv co-founder Anil Chitkara and I, that sports and entertainment venues need to create a balance of heightened security and improved customer experience in order to address evolving security demands. “People don’t have to go to a sporting or entertainment venue,” says Mark. “They can watch on TV or download music onto smart phones. So we need to protect our guests, while also making venues a fun place to be.”

I’m proud to report that, thanks to this successful partnership with TeamOps, visitors to the suite entrances at Gillette, which are also used daily by employees who work at the stadium, no longer need to empty their pockets or be hand-wanded by security officers as they enter. Instead, they pass through our Evolv Edge screening systems at their normal walking speed. So far, Mark knows of no complaints of false alarms. “I’ve heard no reports of people going through secondary screening because of a car key,” he says. “In fact, I haven’t heard any customer complaints at all. When we’ve asked guests about the new screening protocols, they’ve said it was a very positive experience.”

Thanks to the Evolv Edge’s multi-sensor architecture, Gillette now has a detection capability that can identify both metallic and fully non-metallic threats, as well as adapt to an ever-changing stream of future threats. The Edge was designed to screen more than 600 people an hour, and its sleek aesthetics provide a welcoming gateway to those who just walk through. “We liked that Evolv’s approach doesn’t treat visitors like criminals,” says Mark.

With Pinpoint, the Edge’s integrated face recognition capability, security personnel can greet trusted guests and valued customers by name, and speed them through the screening process. Likewise, known gate-crashers or people who have been banned from the stadium can be detected within seconds.

Sports and entertainment venues, particularly those serving tens of thousands of people, must have concentric layers of security that start far beyond the ticket gates. Evolv’s vision, which we share with TeamOps, is to use advanced connected sensors along with face and image recognition to identify potential threats as soon as they arrive on property or come in sight of the venue. Our credo is “prevent, don’t just react.”

Finally, we’ve designed the Evolv Edge for flexibility, making it far more software-centric than other security technologies. This flexibility will enable the Edge to accommodate new sensor technologies and future algorithms that can identify new weapons or explosive materials. As Mark puts it, “you only have to change the software—not the technology.”

We at Evolv want to thank Mark and his team for working with us to prove that outstanding security and an outstanding visitor experience are no longer mutually exclusive.

For more information, or to request the full version of the paper that inspired this blog post, click here.

CSO’s No Longer Need to Choose Between Security and Convenience

Courthouse Steps

Mike Ellenbogen, CEO, Evolv Technology –

The New York Times ran a story the other day about the fact that more than a third of U.S. state capital buildings don’t require visitors to be screened with metal detectors before they enter. The reason, according to people quoted in the story, is concern that such screening would create long lines and other hassles for visitors. As Montana Governor Steve Bullock told the reporter, “I think we always want to make sure that we can figure out ways to keep this the people’s building, and not make it too intrusive to get in to it.”

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on the topic.

For starters, this idea that statehouses—or any public or private venue—have to choose between security and convenience is a false choice. At Evolv, we’ve developed screening systems that are specifically designed to screen visitors as they pass by at their normal walking speed, without requiring them to empty their pockets or take off their shoes. We have plenty of other ideas for how to weave soft-target screening equipment into the pace of modern life, and assuming we are anywhere close to correct about the need for this type of screening, we won’t be the only company out there innovating.

But the article highlighted an attitude that needs to change for such products to be adopted: the fatalistic assumption that so long as mass violence remains a problem, that we will have to compromise either our security or the freedom of movement that has been the hallmark of free societies. From the sound of it, the reporter and his sources seem to think this “new normal” is inevitable—and don’t seem to have even considered that technology could help solve the problem.

The story also hints at the relative lack of sophistication in the level of debate regarding soft-target protection. For example, why is the metal detector held out as the symbol of effective security? Increasingly, terrorists carry non-metallic weapons and explosives, precisely because it allows them to avoid detection by this century-old technology. Our Edge system, as an example, uses millimeter wave sensors that can discern potentially dangerous objects, enhanced by other sensors including a camera for face recognition to spot people who are known to be dangerous. The increasing role of software in the security equipment industry means companies like ours can build modular architectures that can be upgraded with sensors to combat whatever new types of weapons terrorists dream up in the future.

I make these points not to criticize anyone, but to try to pierce the gloomy view that securing soft targets will require major compromises in the years ahead. Based only on the progress we’ve made at Evolv, I can confidently say that public servants like Governor Bullock will not be limited to choosing from between two lousy options.