Lessons Learned from Pulse Nightclub: Modern Threats Require Modern Security Technologies

Screening Security Soft Target Threats

By Melissa Cohen, Vice President, Marketing, Evolv Technology

Two years ago, Omar Mateen entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and started shooting. Today, we remember and honor the victims who lost their lives in this terrible act of violence. Here at Evolv, anniversaries such as this one serve as a constant reminder to why we are here and how critical it is to continue our mission to preserve everyone’s fundamental right to be safe in all the places people gather.

In reflecting on what has happened in the two years since Mateen entered Pulse Nightclub, it’s important to first understand the larger trend the physical security industry has been experiencing and how the incident in Orlando fits into that broader shift. We sat down with Evolv CEO and Co-founder, Mike Ellenbogen to discuss how the threat landscape has changed in the past two years and what the industry can learn from the shooting as we look to prevent
future attacks.

Q. Today marks the two-year anniversary of the active shooter incident at Pulse Nightclub. What have we learned?

A. Namely, there’s a need for active shooter security that did not exist 10-15 years ago here in the United States.

According to the FBI, since 2000 there have been 250 active shooter incidents in US with 2017 seeing 30 active shooter incidents – the highest in the past 18 years. The numbers don’t lie – and no matter how you break it down or what angle you look at it from, the fact of the matter is these incidents are not only becoming deadlier but also more frequent.

When Mateen opened fire on the evening of June 12, 2016, it went on record as being the deadliest single gunman mass shooting in United States history. That was until almost a year and a half later, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, leaving 58 people dead and 851 injured.

If we’ve learned anything in the past two years, it’s that the current security solutions and processes we have in place are not sufficient. Put simply, yesterday’s tools were not designed to address today’s threat landscape.

Q. Talk to me about the threat landscape that exists today.

A. Terrorist attacks and mass shootings have changed the threat landscape drastically. In the old-world paradigm, planes and government buildings were the target. However, in today’s new world paradigm, anything can be a target. We’ve increasingly noticed a shift in attacks that focus on public spaces – think concert venues, transportation hubs and open office campuses. The result is millions of people becoming vulnerable to attacks. The incident at Pulse Nightclub exemplifies this trend to a tee.

Q. What needs to change from a technology perspective to prevent incidents like the next Pulse Nightclub shooting from happening?

A. Despite the fact that attackers have expanded their focus beyond airplanes to include private facilities, public venues, and the transportation infrastructure, we often see the same legacy security technologies and procedures in place, or nothing at all since the old solutions just don’t work for so many locations. We are fighting modern day problems with legacy technologies and that needs to change. We need to fight modern day problems with modern technology and modern thinking.

The Millimeter Wave advanced imaging technology (AIT) systems we see at the airport and walk-through metal detectors serve their purpose in the environment they were built for; however, they were not designed to combat the threats we are encountering outside airports today. At a time when we should be focused on detecting explosives and firearms, old technology is still detecting pocket knives, car keys, and cell phones. We need to move our security response from reactive to proactive to enable an active shooter prevention system/process.

Today there are numerous technologies available at our fingertips that can do remarkable things – from AI to 3D printing. Harnessing these innovations, and applying them to the physical security space, will enable us to provide smarter physical threat detection. That means higher throughput technology, less disruption and expanding the security perimeter beyond the walls of a building.

Q. How can we go about leveraging technologies to combat this new world paradigm? What needs to change from an industry perspective?

A. We need to leverage technology that combines detection, identification and intelligence – not rely on one technology by itself. This functionality will enable night club owners, stadium operators and other professionals charged with keeping us safe to face these safety problems head on.

Machine learning – an advanced form of AI – is the underlying enabling technology to address today’s and tomorrow’s physical security needs in a way that’s reflective of how venues today operate. Machine learning helps the sensors in safety technology become smarter over time.

This enables us to screen more people, more quickly and makes facial recognition and anomaly detection increasingly more accurate. As a result, we can identify people of interest against a collection of millions of known threats. In the case of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Mateen was known to authorities and his previous encounters with the law resulted in him being put on the terrorist watch list for a period of time. Had AI surveillance technologies been in place, there is a chance he could have been identified prior to entering the club. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it is important society, and the industry, becomes more comfortable with the use of innovative identity data.

By combining the power of machine learning with smarter sensors and biometrics, we’re empowered to both identify and heighten security against adversaries in real-time. This proactive, technology-driven approach to security allows organizations to focus on what is most important, protecting people by providing security anywhere.

To learn more, read the three questions security directors need to ask before the next soft target event here.

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