Security Camera

Tech’s Next Imperative: Physical Security

The following is an excerpt from a Forbes article penned by Evolv board member Alan Cohen. You can read the full article here

The active shooter problem is one of the scariest and most intractable facets of public life. While mass killings represent but a fraction of total gun deaths, they tear apart the fabric of our open society — transforming entertainment venues, airports, houses of worship, office buildings, and schools into potentially instant war zones.

Why haven’t new methods or new technologies been driven to the forefront of protecting society and our “soft targets”?

Our safety technology must evolve. 

In 1925, Gerhard Fischer was granted the first patent for a portable metal detector. For the most part, variants of metal detector technology have been the primary scanning security for venues and transit points worldwide for decades. 

What metal detectors provide is a robust ability to find guns and knives at checkpoints (airports, government buildings, etc.) by comprehensively scanning every piece of metal, no matter how small or non-threatening. 

Anyone who goes to an NFL game knows it can take 20 minutes or longer to get into a stadium before kickoff. And we have to go back through the detector if we forget to take our keys out, requiring us to empty our pockets into frequently dirty bins and allow a stranger to run a scanning wand across our bodies before we can pass.

We agree to this social contract in order to protect our safety inside of venues, and we put up with the time requirements. If there is no alternative, it is the only answer.

It’s time to leverage technology for advancing how we approach public safety.

The time to revisit this situation is at hand. There is a range of proven new physical safety technology capabilities from companies such as Evolv Technology (a company for which I serve on the board of directors), security video analytics from companies such as IBM, and new building access control from companies such as Johnson Controls. 

These innovative technologies can help reestablish the balance between security and freedom of movement, keeping schools, houses of worship, entertainment and shopping venues welcoming and safe.

New scanning technologies, for instance, are built on radar instead of metal detection. They can find the worst threats — including guns and bombs — and distinguish an iPhone from a baby Glock with high accuracy. This clarity not only makes us safer but also restores personal privacy and dignity to security scanning checkpoints. The systems are more intelligent and can be connected to building systems, police, and others for more rapid response in the case of an incident.

Furthermore, hundreds or thousands of people can rapidly and securely enter one of these checkpoints in an hour, versus the small fraction who can pass through a metal detector in the same timeframe. We can walk normally through open gateways without emptying our pockets or bags and expect the same level of security. So, why haven’t more venues implemented these new technologies? The answer, simply, is cost and mindset. 

New scanning technologies are more expensive than low-cost, half-century-old metal detector technologies. Most venue owners or managers either do not know these new technologies exist or may not see or fully understand the time value of shifting the inconvenience from their patrons (who pay in time) to themselves (who can offer a more efficient and welcoming experience).

Venue managers and owners care deeply about patron experience but often have an under-evolved position on the investments and technology around the first experience people have when entering their facilities. As a personal security technology company, you have one time to make a first impression.

The emphasis should be placed on addressing the business and customer experience drivers, not only the technological aspects. This will also require new kinds of partnerships and business models — physical-security-as-a-service — to make these new technologies easier to consume and to pay for.

If we continue on the current path of limited and inconvenient security scanning, clinging to the “punch card” era of physical security technology and practices, how can we expect change? The well-known saying from the 1800s, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, rings true: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

The full article is available here.

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