Digital Threshold News: A Conversation on Innovation, Ideation and Data
Where is the pace of innovation, ideation and data heading? It’s a substantial question with multiple answers. Technology and those behind it are at their crux problem-solvers, and the world still has plenty of problems to solve.
In looking at technology’s future, Evolv started the year utilizing its next episode of Digital Threshold Live to talk about innovation, the art of the possible, tech trends that are emerging and what’s next.
Host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, invited Bilal Zuberi, Partner at Lux Capital and Evolv Advisor, to the show. Lux Capital focuses on “investing in people inventing the future.” Zuberi has a passion for startups that solve big, practical problems. His insight and experience brought lots of hot topics to the surface during the conversation.
Zuberi is a Pakistani immigrant that came to the U.S. for school whose father joked he should learn to make toothpaste.
“My dad told me to learn how to make toothpaste, because it was expensive, but they don’t teach you that studying chemistry,” he said.
What he did learn would fuel his American dream story. After earning his Ph.D. from MIT, he went from academia to industry.
“I wanted to make an impact on a greater number of people,” Zuberi said.
And he has by investing in companies that bring a greater value to society through technology that helps all and pushes humans to the next frontier.
The Source of Innovation Has Shifted
Zuberi also spoke about the major changes with innovation. The patent system began the invention economy, but innovation was top-down until the past few decades, starting with the military, then commercial, then the consumer.
The consumer technology evolution turned this around, as risk capital became available on the basis of an idea. Zuberi cites the iPhone is a great example. The touchscreen was a consumer product before it moved to other applications. That paradigm shift sets up where the world is now on innovation.
Tech Trends and Themes
So, how does Zuberi make investment decisions? Many times, it’s a process that starts with one company and plots a path.
“We invested in a company that made satellite antennas, and they told us about a company producing nanosatellites, and then that led to a company using machine learning and AI to process satellite imagery. Then it was a cloud company to hold the data,” he said.
The themes he’s currently most excited about are biocomputation and simulations. Simulations allow you to model the physics of the space then throw in many different variations of what could happen. This type of application is very conducive to security in venues.
“With scenario modeling to plan, then real-time responses improve, [it’s about] turning data into how to respond, not just what’s happening,” Zuberi explained.
Simulation can lead to better decision-making and making people and places safer. While the technology used in such an application isn’t unique, as it could be replicated, the differentiator is the speed of innovation.
What Did CES Show the World about Innovation?
To cap the conversation, Zuberi and Chitkara spoke about this year’s virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Trends that Zuberi picked up on relate to our current world.
“We’ve brought things outside of the home to the inside—education, healthcare, work, food, which leads to new problems and new technology,” he said.
Business models for technology are also evolving. First, it was sell something, then sell something better in two years. Then it was sell the hardware and the software. Now, the hardware is free, but the subscription is the revenue generator.
Other key topics included automation and specificity – the idea of a solution that’s smarter and more targeted, not simply automated, trends in sanitization, the infrastructure our world will need to better accommodate innovative technology solutions, and more.
The service is what matters now, Zuberi believes. He also noted that there’s a quote of “software eating the world.” The answer? Data and simulation can fill it back up. The trick is to use the data deliver better solutions and experiences.
Watch the Entire Conversation
To view our OnDemand version of Episode 6, click here or the video below:
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A Look Back at How We “Evolved” in 2020
While last year was filled with an abundance of sadness, uncertainty and civil unrest, it’s important not to overlook accomplishments and successes. As we put our 2021 plan into motion, I’d like to highlight the key awards, news coverage, launches, customer achievements and key lessons from 2020 that have set us up for an outstanding 2021. But first, I’d like to say how grateful we are for our customers and partners; you continue to put your trust and confidence in us to keep your visitors and employees safe.
January…Making Strategic Moves for the Year Ahead
At the beginning of 2020, Evolv made several strategic moves to scale operations and meet the unprecedented demand for free-flow weapons screening by raising $30 million in growth capital from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and others, promoting Peter George to CEO and expanding our research, development and productization efforts led by Co-founder Mike Ellenbogen.
Little did we know that those moves would help us keep our doors open through the pandemic and establish our market leadership among security screening companies worldwide, setting us up to assist venues and facilities to safely reopen throughout the year. As 2020 momentum was building, we were recognized as a great place to work, honored as one of Built in Boston’s prestigious Best Small Companies to Work for in 2020.
February…Working Towards our Mission of Making it Safer to Learn
One month into the year, we took huge strides in living our mission of making it safer to learn by partnering with two South Carolina school districts who installed Evolv’s AI-based, free-flow weapons-detection systems. Taking proactive measures to keep students safe was paramount for both school districts, given the increasing frequency of school shootings and related incidents. Dr. Mark Smith, Director of Student Services and Safety at Spartanburg 6, the first school in the nation to use Evolv’s AI-based free-flow weapons detection system stated, “We wanted to incorporate security technology not because we had any incidents, but because we wanted to ensure we never have one. I’d been researching security strategies and next generation technologies searching for a solution that delivered optimal security while providing a welcoming, non-prison-like environment for everyone on campus. I’d been coming up short until I discovered Evolv. They checked all the boxes.” As much as that statement meant to us, the most meaningful moment of the deployment was having a student walk over after the initial installation and say, “thank you, I finally feel safe.” That’s why we do what we do. It was Spartanburg’s ability to see beyond “the norm” that set all of this in motion and established a new baseline of security for schools across the nation.
March… Unprecedented Achievement for Evolv…and the Pandemic Took Hold
Just weeks after launching Evolv Express™ in school districts, and as the pandemic sadly began to spread, we were honored for outstanding campus security services and products, by being recognized by Campus Security & Life Safety with a Platinum Perimeter Protection and a Gold Screening Equipment 2020 Secure Campus Award. One week later, as we settled into our “work from home” routines, we were awarded the world’s most revered innovation award, a Gold 2020 Edison Award in the Threat Defense and Security Category. Winning an award of this caliber against elite competition worldwide was a true honor for everyone at Evolv.
April…Regrouping and Re-Engineering to Address the Pandemic Health Threat
In April, as all non-essential businesses shut down, or started to find a “work from home” rhythm, we saw a massive increase in factory worker hiring and an increase in uncertainty, civil unrest and the start of ongoing violence. We also saw a shift in security threats. No longer were CSOs and COOs worrying solely about weapons as threats, now they had to worry about health threats as well. Our executive team was refining our strategy, while engineering and product management started reshaping our roadmap. Security screening as we knew it was probably changing forever, and our solution was more important now than ever before.
While it would have been so easy to become stuck in what we coined, “the COVID fog”, our employees rallied together, hunkered down and worked even longer hours to serve our customer mission globally and sustain manufacturing.
First on the list for our updated product roadmap was to evaluate and build an add-on thermal imaging package to help venues and facilities spot individuals with elevated skin temperature who might be possible health threats. While our support team managed calls assisting venues with reallocating systems to different locations, our marketing team developed a customer spotlight program to drive awareness and business to customers online, and our Customer Success Team established a Best Practice program for customers, setting up customer meetings to field questions, help share trends and lessons learned across industries as everyone worked together to keep our various communities safe. And while the teams were hard at work, working remote and assisting customers meet the new security demands, we were honored by the Tech Tribune as a 2020 Best Tech Startup in Waltham
May…Time for Adaptive Recovery
Throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic, we continued to be surprised and honored, and in May we earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Best Workplaces List, where they recognize successful businesses that value company culture, offer standout worker benefits and prioritize employee well-being. This award helped shine a light on why we all love working for Evolv…it’s a family and we all are driving towards the mission of keeping people safe. Our customer partnerships are an extension of that family, and we knew we had to do everything possible to help venues and facilities adapt and recover. We were lucky enough to be able to call on one of our Advisors, Juliette Kayyem, to host an hour-long webinar discussing the adaptive recovery process for schools, workplaces and ticketed venues. She was able to offer hundreds of venues and facilities strategic guidance into how to adapt and recover during this unprecedented time.
June…Reopening America with Touchless Security Screening
Since the launch of Evolv Express, interest in the free-flow, respectful, fast screening had been strong. What we hadn’t focused on until the pandemic was its “touchless” capability. Because Express offers free-flow screening, and drastically reduces the need for secondary screening, we realized that Express was the only screening solution out there that enables social-distancing at entrances while still screening people as they walked in the door. And, in June, we were grateful to help reopen some North American sites with touchless security screening starting at Six Flags locations nationwide, Set Jet and several others. Together we were reimagining security in the recreation space.
What once was a “nice-to-have”, was now an imperative. People refuse to be touched. People cannot and will not stand in lines. And, Express was and is the one solution that enables safe screening at a distance. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment for all of us…
July…Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging as Touchless Screening Demand Surges
As customers such as Georgia Aquarium, Six Flags Theme Parks and others reopened throughout the summer with Express systems in place, we saw a demand surge for touchless security screening. We also were hearing of many other new security tactics and operations solutions enabling touchless guest experiences that were being adopted by our customers. We called upon Anthony Rivera from Georgia Aquarium and Todd Fasulo of Wynn Resorts, to host the webinar “It’s Time to go Touchless”. Their years of experience in both security and hospitality left us with a number of important takeaways, including: 1) Adopt a culture of relentless innovation; all things can be improved upon; 2) Think “five-star experience” as you approach every step of your guest, visitor or employee journey; and 3) Engage your full leadership team, ensuring public safety AND public health are organization-wide strategic imperatives.
In keeping with the notion of “going touchless”, Evolv was thrilled to launch our thermal imaging package for Express. Venues and facilities could now screen for both weapons and elevated skin temperature in an integrated, touchless fashion ensuring safe screening for all involved.
August…A Global Partnership is Announced and Cultural Institutions Begin to Reopen
In August, we announced a global partnership with STANLEY Security, the world’s second-largest electronic security company. As a result, organizations receive unparalleled expertise and the full spectrum of value-added services from the two combined companies. Shortly after our partnership was announced, we were honored by Campus Safety Magazine with the Campus Safety Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) award for the “Inspection & Detection Equipment” category. As CEO Peter George stated, “As classrooms begin to reopen, public officials, administrators and security professionals alike share a commitment to do so safely. Keeping people safe is Evolv’s core mission and we’re honored to be recognized by Campus Safety magazine’s 2020 BEST awards for the tremendous value Evolv Express brings to campuses nationwide.”
Just as schools were beginning to reopen and find a “new normal”, so too were museums and cultural institutions, such as those in New York City. Our customer success team spent the month working with customers like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and several others to ensure a smooth and safe reopening.
September…A Golden Ticket to Safety and the Rise of the Digital Threshold
In September our teams were now in full swing working with customers nationwide as they slowly and carefully reopened, several of which were proudly showcasing new attractions, exhibits and entrances. One such customer was Hersheypark, who used the shutdown time to finish rebuilding a brand new entrance for a better customer experience including the incorporation of touchless screening to eliminate the need for person-by-person manual bag checks. With metal detectors, it typically took the park four to five seconds per person for screening, regularly followed by hand searching of bags or other personal items, so not only was this a welcomed change by park guests, but the park’s security professionals emphasized how easy it was to learn and use the system while optimizing their staff resources.
As mentioned earlier, Six Flags also updated their entrances, in fact, they won an Amusement Today Golden Ticket Innovation of the Year Award for their entrance improvements which included incorporating Evolv Express for park guest screening.
By mid-September, we had spent months talking to customers, analyzing market trends and watching nationwide violence and civil unrest hit new highs. We used that newly found knowledge coupled with expertise in both the physical and digital security spaces to build a new vision, one where the physical and digital security realms merge, and our CEO published “The Rise of the Digital Threshold” piece illustrating our thoughts on security of the future.
Tied to that new vision, we launched a webcast series called Digital Threshold Live where Co-founder Anil Chitkara talks with security, operations and guest experience professionals about emerging trends, lessons learned and so much more.
October…The Current Threat Environment and Reopening Safely
Kicking off the month of October, we held our first episode of Digital Threshold Live. In the first episode, Anil talked about safely reopening New York’s premiere arts venues with Keith Prewitt, Chief Security Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lisa Schroeder, Director of Finance, Performance and Campus Operations for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Thomas Slade, Senior Security Director for the American Museum of Natural History.
Our second episode was held three weeks later where Anil sat one-on-one with Managing Director of Corporate Safety and Security for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Jason White, to discuss trust and confidence being the foundation of delivering an exceptional visitor experience. In each of these episodes, Anil and the guest speakers covered a variety of topics related to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal.
Mid-way through the month, we proudly sponsored Counter Terror Business’ CTB365 event where our European Sales Director, Nathan Bailey, gave a virtual keynote presentation around “the current threat environment and the need for layered security strategy”, and then Co-founder Anil Chitkara joined esteemed security professionals and advocates in the final Panel Discussion & Round-up featuring: Philip Ingram, Figen Murray, Rick Mounfield, Paul Jeffrey, Gary Simpson and Nick Aldworth.
While a majority of outdoor ticketed venues were finding ways to reopen throughout the summer and fall, many of our beloved performing arts venues, stadiums and indoor arenas were unfortunately dealing with a different situation. Many sports venues allowed the games to take place, but they were without fans and most of their employees, such as Manchester Arena. For some performing arts venues, opening up was highly dependent on location. For instance, Omaha Performing Arts Venue was able to reopen in October after installing Evolv Express as their new security scanners to eliminate close contact between employees and attendees and changing to cashless transactions.
Others, such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, created an online community for arts lovers to enjoy music and live performances virtually in what they call “Lincoln Center at Home”. Others took innovation and “thinking outside the box” to a new level. Dr. Phillips Center decided if people can’t be inside to see the performances, they’d bring the performances outside to the people. And, in October they announced their new series “Frontyard Festival”, an all-new outdoor, six-month long festival for downtown Orlando that started in December. Front Yard Festival features live entertainment in a safe, socially-distanced environment, using Evolv Express as part of their security operation.
November…Time for Research
While we are in constant communication with venues and facilities throughout the world who provide a wealth of anecdotal information, we were thirsty for formal data. To help venues and facilities with their planning assumptions for 2021, we decided it was time for market research. With Harris Insights we embarked on a survey. This Harris Poll was conducted online with more than 1,500 American adults who have a personal stake in the security screening experience: consumers who attended ticketed events in 2019 (n=506), parents of school-aged children (n=712), and workers at large factories, warehouses and distribution centers (n=504). Anil and Erica Parker, managing director at The Harris Poll, reviewed these research results and discussed the implications for workplaces, schools, ticketed venues and other facilities in mid-November in Episode 3 of Evolv’s Digital Threshold Live webcast series.
December…Putting a Bow on 2020
In the beginning of the month, Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions, joined Anil in Episode 4 of Digital Threshold Live: “Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters” to talk about the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI, exploring the business drivers, the technology and ultimately the effect on humans. He told us that “Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” and with regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”
In December we received three honors. Frost & Sullivan recognized Evolv with the 2020 North American Technology Innovation Leadership Award for Evolv Express™ publishing a full industry report. BostInno named us one of Boston’s hottest startups with an Inno on Fire 2020 Blazer Award; and we were awarded a 2020 Platinum ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award from American Security Today.
To tie a bow around what we learned from 2020 and put it to work in 2021, Anil welcomed Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm to join him for Digital Threshold Live Episode 5 – Resilience Is A Competitive Necessity: Learnings From 2020 And Considerations For 2021. Resilience is central, it’s an organization’s ability to respond, recover and rebound, and the challenges of 2020 have made it abundantly clear that resilience planning is critical.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Throughout the year, several themes emerged among our customers and their industries: 1) touchless solutions are the key to building confidence and customer reengagement; 2) sharing lessons learned across institutions and venues within one’s industry is a true treasure; 3) a layered security strategy is the only way to adapt and recover from any tragic event; and 4) the security landscape and the CSO’s role has changed forever.
As we move into the second week of 2021, I hope you and your organization are able to use what we’ve learned to build a more robust security infrastructure and customer experience for 2021. We look forward to our continued partnerships and for those who haven’t yet reached out to have a conversation, I’m only an email or phone call away. And, don’t forget to check back periodically for the latest Digital Threshold Live event.
Cheers, here’s to a successful and safe 2021, and thank you for entrusting us with your safety.
Simplicity is in the Details: Addressing the Deep-Tech Challenges of the Digital Threshold
A conversation between Evolv Technology’s Founder and Head of Advanced Technology Mike Ellenbogen and Chief Scientist Alec Rose.
Evolv Technology started as a small team with a clear mission: return confidence and peace of mind to people visiting public spaces by changing the paradigm of how security professionals can assure venues are safe from the most serious threats without compromising visitor experience. While this mission was created during ongoing and escalating terrorist threats and attacks, it was well before our current global pandemic environment. But it has never been more relevant or more prescient. According to the recent Harris Insights poll, “Consumer Sentiment – Advancements in Security Screening,” the pandemic has only served to heighten consumer, employee, and visitor expectations and safety and security awareness when it comes to work, travel, shopping, entertainment, and general interactions.
It is this core mission that has attracted innovative people like Chief Scientist Alec Rose to Evolv. According to Alec, he was “doomed from the get go” when it came to math and, later, physics. He grew up with a math teacher mother and electrical engineer father and solved “fun mental math problems” from a young age. His path to Evolv, and developing complex algorithms to solve the basic idea of keeping people safe while they do their ordinary things, seemed destined.
I sat down with Alec to understand what drives him to solve the big deep-tech challenges of the space we call the digital threshold.
Mike Ellenbogen: What brought you to Evolv?
Alec Rose: I always found math fun and interesting, but I needed a real problem to apply it to. Physics was that pathway because it’s about fitting the simplest possible model to a complex problem. I definitely see myself as a physicist—I love it and am always looking for a new piece of the puzzle to learn and new tools to apply. I studied physics in college. From there I got my electrical engineering PhD degree at Duke, although even then I did everything I could to take all my courses out of the physics department to stay close to math and theory.
At Duke, I worked with Professor David Smith who was developing metamaterials for millimeter wave imaging. You and Anil (Evolv co-founder Anil Chitkara) had been following David and his work and started Evolv to essentially commercialize this work. Through this, I met you both. One thing led to another and I became Evolv’s Director of Advanced Development in 2013 and then Chief Scientist in 2020. The evolution of my role here has allowed me to blend my desire to distill a complex problem down to the simplest possible model, with the goal of keeping people safe in a non-intrusive way.
Mike: How are you able to blend these to address the deep-tech challenges of the digital threshold?
Alec: I’ll never forget one of the first things I learned in my college Intro to Physics class. We were presented with a seemingly complex problem: what happens when a horse gets struck by lightning? To break it down, our professor instructed us to start with the assumption that the horse is a giant metal sphere, because we know how to solve for this simplification. There’s no need to get bogged down by the microscopic details. Instead, always try to distill the problem down to its simplest form to get a tangible, actionable answer. I use this as a guiding principle every day at Evolv.
My graduate work was in electromagnetics and specifically the area of metamaterials, which is essentially a toolbox of solutions for creating artificial composites to solve different problems. If we wanted to bend light a particular way, if we wanted to make a particular antenna, there was a tool in the toolbox for that. I initially joined Evolv to be the “metamaterial specialist.” But I wanted to go beyond that because I was always driven by that horse analogy—to distill the most critical problems we are faced with in the digital threshold down to their simplest form and solve for that.
My path at Evolv expanded from metamaterials, to millimeter wave imaging, to reconstruction techniques within imaging—how do we consume and analyze reams of radar data, for example, to create a semblance of a person and the guns that a person might be carrying? From there, my focus quickly moved to the world of automated threat detection and computer vision. While much of my focus is now on algorithms, sensors, and their interface, as well as machine learning, I never stray too far from electromagnetics.
Mike: Venue and facility thresholds are the spaces where someone goes from being an outsider, an unknown, to a person who’s either a trusted employee, or a welcomed fan or patron. From your perspective, what are the core technical challenges that you’re drawn to in this threshold area? What are the real problems that have to be solved there?
Alec: I’m very interested in the role of the guard at the threshold. They’re often the first person that anybody meets when entering a venue. Not only are the guards responsible for spotting a gun or a bomb but they’re often asked general information questions. They suffer fatigue just like anybody else. It’s easy to blame them for long lines or missed threats. I want to make the process more synergistic with the guard. How do we make it easier for them to quickly and unobtrusively scan for, or monitor for, a threat? And all while reducing false alarms. If you lower the false alarm rate, guards are less stressed because they’re chasing fewer phantoms. And visitors are less stressed because fewer are getting stopped.
Mike: Why are there so many false alarms?
Alec: Unlike the electronic articles surveillance systems that most retailers use, we don’t have control over the shape, size, or materials of the things that need to be stopped from crossing the threshold. The possible space of threats is gigantic and it’s inevitable that in trying to protect against all of these possible threats, overlaps with some common items that people might carry will occur, creating a false alarm.
Mike: How do these overlaps occur?
Alec: The signature we look for on certain threats can be very similar to the signature on something quite benign. For example, the steel barrel of a rifle can look very similar to the steel pole of an umbrella. Since we want to catch all possible rifles while trying to let through all possible umbrellas, there’s going to be some overlap. You’re going to stop some people with umbrellas, to make sure you’re not letting through any rifles.
Compounding this, the materials used in threats can be similar to those used in everyday items; a similar amount of steel and a similar shape can show up in a gun as well as inside your laptop. At the same time, the venues and their customers are incredibly varied and very fractured. They don’t all have the same types of people coming through, they’re not all carrying the same type of “clutter,” such as bags, mobile phones or thermoses. The person coming to work at an office building is carrying something very different than the person entering a sports stadium. And each has a very different expectation of being stopped and searched based on the type of venue.
Mike: Drawing on your roots, how do you distill this into a solvable math problem? What is “the shape of this horse?”
Alec: We’ve moved well past the “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” approach of traditional metal detectors that…detect metal. If we open up parameters, we can then consider not just how much metal, but what kind of metal? What shape is it? The extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves at the lower end of the spectrum interact with metal objects and reveal what looks like just a blob to the untrained eye. But that blob still has color and shape. These two dimensions end up being immensely important to algorithms for separating consumer electronics from firearms.
And yes, this definitely harkens back to identifying the simplest possible model that can extract usable information from a very, very complex problem. How do we represent analog signals alongside digital data in the same rich way, in the right formats and with enough precision, so that they can be analyzed? In this case, the complex problem is the interaction between the system and all the possible combinations of metal objects that somebody could be carrying.
When someone walks through the Evolv system, we collect over half a million measurements across all of the different sensors and frequencies. How do we boil this vast amount of data down to actionable, real-time intelligence that the security guard can use to detect threats, make a visitor feel welcome, and not create false positives? We use a physics model called magnetic polarizability tensors (MPTs) that synthesize these half a million data points and dimensional data streams we’re constantly collecting, and represent them in six physically intuitive and computationally useful numbers. We can then teach a computer what these six numbers represent by giving it lots of examples. The computer can start drawing relationships between threats of interest and the clutter items that people carry. The guard can then use this “well-digested data” to have a clear profile of the person walking through the system.
Mike: Many solutions to problems work great in the lab, but not in the real world, where everything is dynamic and varied. How do you solve for the commercial environment?
Alec: It’s true, venues come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and infrastructures. But a commercial product needs to work in all of these environments, without exception. If we only focus on the cool things that we can do in a lab, we actually miss some of the more fun challenges of making something work in the real world.
For a security system to work, assuming it’s comprised of sensors and algorithms, the sensors need to be able to listen to their environment and adapt to temperature, to nearby metal or nearby electronics emitting in similar spectrums. Successful products actually build an algorithm that’s smart enough to listen to the environment and continuously adapt. Sensors and algorithms have to constantly verify their assumptions and be able to dynamically change in real time.
Using the Evolv system as an example, we made it sensitive to one part in 10,000 of our signal strength. When a system is that sensitive, it means anything that blows it around or moves sensors in the middle of the scan is going to present some interesting challenges. You run into this in wall scanning or synthetic aperture radar in drones, where you need to always know where your sensor is located, relative to whatever you’re imaging. It’s an incredibly difficult problem.
Mike: And then, of course, these sensors and algorithms generate a flood of data and the analytics needed to synthesize it, to make sense of flows, spot patterns, etc. Do you see any interesting technical challenges there?
Alec: As I said earlier, the goal is presenting that data from sensors and algorithms in an integrated, “well-digested” way to deliver something actionable in real time. Once the data is collected and stored, it needs to be analyzed for this actionable information, which is where machine learning takes over to look for patterns.
Additionally, not all sensors are built the same, or talk to each other very easily. You then need to create an orchestration layer to coordinate all of these different sensor streams in real time, and make sure they’re processed, that the sensors all turn on together, that they’re all collecting together, that none have failed.
Mike: Given your path to date from those early math problem-solving sessions, what do you hope will be the impact of your work?
Alec: I want to synthesize the actions that need to happen at the digital threshold down to a visitor experience that’s as unobtrusive and ubiquitous as it is at any store. My goal is to have sensors and scanning everywhere, but they are just part of the daily fabric keeping people safe while they do their ordinary things
Mike: That’s a goal we all hope for. Thank you, Alec.
Digital Threshold Live Episode 4 Blog – Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters
The continued acceleration of the digital transformation has unleashed seemingly limitless possibilities for technological applications, from the widespread global standpoint all the way down to the personal level. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) presents incredible opportunities in many arenas, including the practical application of physical security.
Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and host of Digital Threshold Live, was joined by Mahesh Saptharishi during episode No. 4 to discuss the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI. Saptharishi is the CTO of Motorola Solutions and leads innovation of mission-critical communications, as well as video and command center software.
Saptharishi provided a detailed and thorough perspective on the synergies of machine learning, AI, big data and analytics and how each plays a necessary part in the digital threshold and the creation of state-of-the-art physical security systems.
“Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” Saptharishi said. With regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”
Episode 4 Highlights and Provides Insights on the Security Threshold
Saptharishi explained that AI has come a long way in the past 10 years as computing power and speed have taken major strides – in large part due to the evolution of gaming GPUs.
“I think storage becoming cheaper, network bandwidth becoming cheaper, the ability to collect data becoming more practical – that acted as a fuel that powered all these algorithms to develop further and actually reach their performance potential and become practical through the processor technology that has come out,“ Saptharishi said.
This has been instrumental in AI development. One such real world application is AI understanding audio and speech patterns, as well as analyzing video. Utilizing improved GPU technology, these computations can now be done in real time. What once was done with multiple computers can now be done from your phone.
Chitkara asked about the human impacts of AI and whether this technology is replacing people or helping them.
To a degree, AI can replace or augment existing jobs done by humans.
“But, that said, humans are not static entities in terms of how we apply our intelligence,” Saptharishi said. When AI replaces certain tasks, people can focus on other areas where AI does not apply presently or perhaps cannot perform in the same way a human would.
For example, AI can assist law enforcement by helping search for people on video or by calling the attention of the officer to a particular situation that would require human judgement on whether or not intervention is applicable.
Saptharishi also explained the process of developing AI for particular applications. It starts by identifying the human factor opportunities. By shadowing individuals as they progress through their normal tasks, the development team can determine tasks that can be automated or assisted through technology.
This can greatly increase the productivity of the individual. With the automation of sensory actions, people can do things earlier, faster and also allow for more response time to particular situations, as technology has assisted in collecting information in an expedited manner.
In terms of security and technology, Saptharishi noted some key trends that have emerged. One trend is the combination of sensing modalities to create more powerful solutions. Other trends are the increased utilization of cloud connectivity and the integration of public safety, private security and enterprise security.
Chitkara and Saptharishi also discussed the security threshold and the factors that make AI successful for this application.
“Along with this notion that you need a high throughput solution, the threshold cannot become a bottleneck,” Saptharishi said.
The technology threshold needs to be as seamless as possible and not become an overwhelming burden to the flow of people. Secondly, the threshold needs to identify a person along with the right context. Is this person permitted to enter? Along with that identity permission, is this person bringing along something that is not permitted, such as a weapon or an illness?
“The days of somebody sitting in front of a security operations center, watching a video wall, hoping that they can detect something that is potentially suspicious or requires attention – I think those days are starting to reduce,” Saptharishi said.
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Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Getting Kids Back in School
By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder
Parents are equally concerned about mass shootings and COVID; the majority want weapons screening in place.
While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers as they work toward getting students back to school full-time, a recent Harris Poll we commissioned indicates there’s significant concern over violence and crime to be overcome as well. And in the COVID era, traditional screening methods that create lines and crowding will no longer be acceptable as a mitigation measure.
For the poll, more than 700 parents of K-12 school-aged children were surveyed in Sept. and Oct. 2020. It found 87% of the parents were either very or somewhat concerned about their kids contacting COVID upon returning to school. But concern over their physical security was a close second, at 81%. Although parents in urban areas were more likely to be somewhat or very concerned than their suburban counterparts, over half of suburban parents are concerned about the physical security of their children, 74% vs. 54%, respectively.
Eight out of ten parents are concerned about the physical security of their school age children.
COVID measures yes, but physical security, too
It’s a similar story when looking at COVID-19 prevention protocols and measures to ensure physical safety.
Having schools follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols is important to parents feeling safe about their kids. More than 90% of parents say it’s important for schools to ensure frequent handwashing and sanitizing, increased cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing and temperature screening (see Figure 1).
While that is certainly understandable, what may be surprising is that parents are nearly as concerned over physical security measures intended to keep students safe. More than 9 in 10 parents said it was somewhat or very important that each of the following measures be in place:
- Locked doors and visitors showing ID: 92%
- Presence of law enforcement: 92%
- All classrooms have door locks: 91%
- Metal detector for screening: 91%
Over 90% of parents say it is important to have a metal detector to screen for weapons coming into schools.
Part of the reason for concern over physical security measures is a fear of violence in public spaces. Sadly, school safety has been an issue for decades now. But concern seems to be growing, as the poll found 68% of parents think the risk is higher now than a year ago. Perhaps even more concerning, more than a third (31%) say going out in public is “mostly” or “very” unsafe.
Almost 90% of parents are concerned about a mass shooting in schools, matching the same level of concern about COVID.
In fact, parents are just as concerned over the risk of various sorts of physical violence as they are of COVID. Indeed, 88% of parents are somewhat or very concerned about COVID, the exact same number as for mass shootings. The numbers are similar for other forms of threats:
- Protest-related civil unrest/violence: 86%
- Street crime: 83%
- Terrorism: 76%
COVID-related issues with metal detectors
So, it’s clear schools will have to take steps to assuage parents’ concerns over various physical threats. But the poll makes clear the pandemic is making that more challenging.
Parents now see issues with traditional metal detector screening. More than three quarters of parents are concerned that screening can create long lines and requires a student’s belongings to be touched by a security guard (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of parents cite issues such as the possibility for human error, creating crowds that violate social distancing guidelines, and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.
The poll makes clear any schools using traditional metal detector screening are in for some backlash from parents. In the COVID era, at least half of parents are not willing to accept many of the problems associated with traditional metal detectors, including:
- Crowds that violate social distancing guidelines
- Use of outdated technology
- False positives
- Slow or inefficient processes
- Physical pat down searches
Three out of four parents are concerned that security screening creates lines, and two thirds of them would not join a line that lacked social distancing.
Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When parents were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would not join the line. This inclination was far more pronounced in urban (73%) and suburban (64%) areas than rural (43%).
A touchless screening experience
I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [parents are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.
The vast majority of parents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.
That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screener; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives – meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon – which means there’s no need for pat-downs.
All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and powerful sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.
New back to school requirements
The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for parents of K-12 students, their physical safety is a close second. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep kids safe and secure.
Parents will appreciate schools that implement a touchless approach, as 85% of them agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a school building makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (78%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.
With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and safely welcome kids back to school. To learn more, visit Evolv.
The Current Threat Environment and the Need for a Layered Security Strategy – Keynote Presentation
Evolv Technology was a proud sponsor of the Counter Terror Business 365 Virtual event on October 8, 2020. During the virtual event, Nathan Bailey, Evolv Technology Sales Director of EMEA, gave a keynote presentation where he discussed the current threat environment, the need for touchless security screening in this new normal and how Evolv can help keep venues and facilities safe from terrorists and pandemic health threats worldwide.
Here is that keynote presentation.
Watch other CTB365 event presentations, including the final Panel Discussion & Round-up featuring: Philip Ingram, Figen Murray, Rick Mounfield, Paul Jeffrey, Gary Simpson, Nick Aldworth and our own Co-founder, Anil Chitkara – Click here.
ABOUT NATHAN BAILEY:
Sales Director, EMEA – Evolv Technology
For twenty plus years, Nathan Bailey has been a recognised leader in the security sector. From a young inspired engineer working on vehicle explosives detection systems to running a company providing the best technology to combat contraband and weapons from entering prisons and courts, Nathan has never wavered from the mission of keeping people safe.
At Evolv, he has responsibility for market development and customer success across Europe. Nathan has worked with some of the world’s most recognized sports clubs and event operators, bringing the full breadth of his screening systems expertise to organisations committed to physical and health safety.
ABOUT EVOLV TECHNOLOGY
Evolv Technology provides touchless security screening systems that ensure safety without sacrificing the visitor experience. The company’s latest product, coupled with a thermal imaging package, spots concealed weapons and potential virus infection threats using advanced digital sensors and artificial intelligence that is incredibly accurate, discreet and delivers significantly more throughput than older technologies. Evolv Express™ has earned industry accolades such as the 2020 Edison Awards™, two Campus Safety 2020 BEST Awards, and Campus Security & Life Safety magazine’s Secure Campus 2020 Awards.
Evolv’s customers include hundreds of corporations, airports, schools, cultural landmarks, hospitals, outdoor entertainment venues, stadiums and large-scale events around the globe. Led by a team of security industry thought leaders with a track record for delivering first-to-market products, the company holds more than 100 patents. For more information, visit https://evolvtechnology.com.
Hi my name is Nathan Bailey – Sales Director for Evolv technology and it’s my pleasure to be able to speak to you today and talk to you about the current threat environment, the need for a layered security strategy and a little about our products and services that have been widely used across the world today.
Before I begin, I’ll give you a little background about Evolv Technology…
Evolv was founded on the belief that everyone deserves to live, work, learn and play in a safe environment; free from terrorist activity, free from attack and free to live life to the fullest without fear.
Evolv technology was founded in 2013 and since then has grown to become the leader in touchless security screening technology across the US and following this success is developing and growing throughout the world today.
We’ve seen over the last few years just how much the world is changing, with extremism moving from well-organized terror cells such as al Qaeda to your local activist who are radicalized through online propaganda
We’ve seen attacks such as the Paris shootings, London Bridge attacks and Parsons green tube station to name just a few, we can see that these attacks come in many forms and from many mediums and now to top it all off we have a biothreat, to which the industry has been crippled.
As we have heard from Figen and Nick today we need to learn from these tragic events in the past to make things better for the future. With the new legislation coming out, every venue must do what is right to secure the public, the venue and their staff, from becoming a victim to such attacks.
We must seek at all levels to provide the best we can at every moment because one life lost is one too many.
Now there is no silver bullet to any of the challenges we face but we believe that one right step at a time and with the right approach we can improve and reduce the number of attacks the adversary inflicts.
The combination of an unprecedented number of weapons and unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression creates an unprecedented danger. We are living in an era of armed anxiety. Even though people are not gathering at scale today, that will change someday soon. Any gathering or workplace could be the next target. Any employee or visitor could suddenly erupt into the next violent threat. Any fan could reach their breaking point during an argument in your stands.
It could happen anywhere at any time.
So, when we look to the future and consider reopening the doors once again to the public, to our fans and visitors, we must consider that the attitude will be different, some people will be anxious about returning to larger gatherings not just because of the Biological threat but also the very real terror threat, and so as a company we aim to provide a solution that enables venues to reopen its doors with confidence, to provide a platform which is inviting to the visitors, fans and public. A system which reduces human to human contact and at the same time prevents weapons of mass destruction from entering.
Reopening your venues will bring many challenges just, as we have heard from the guest speakers so far today and having worked with many sports stadiums, Event Arenas, theme parks, exhibition centers and conference halls , museums, hospitals and performing arts venues across the world prior to and during the COVID-19 Pandemic we understand just how difficult it is to plan for the new future. It’s important to remember, while you look to create a safer environment from biological threats, you cannot let your guard down on public safety related to weapons threats. You have a duty to protect all who enter from both public safety and public health.
We have heard from Rick Mountfield on the role of the security officer and I wanted to say that in almost all client engagement I have had over the past 6 months or so, staffing is one of the biggest concerns, with the ever increasing terror threat and now with the COVID-19 Bio threat, we have seen a large decline in the number of security personnel available and I’m sure that this has crossed your mind when looking at your reopening plans?
Because our Evolv Express system is capable of such a high flow rate for screening it replaces in excess of 10 to 15 metal detectors depending on your operational layout and as such reduces the number of security guards required to operate. This in turn allows our clients to reduce their security teams considerably, save a huge portion of costs and then reinvest in retraining and repurposing the additional head count to perform other duties such as crowd management and behavioral detection, or you can look at getting canine teams in or use the money for additional screening systems… or simple save money and reduce your overheads.
Express enables fast, respectful, touchless screening for your security teams, fans, and patrons; No longer are people required to divest their personal belongings before passing through security, No longer does the security officer have to carry out additional metal wanding or pat downs to every person who walks through which infringes on personal space and puts both the officer and visitor at a greater risks of human to human contact. With a screening capacity of more than 3600 people per hour, the Evolv Express provides free-flow screening at the pace of life, and with its proprietary artificial intelligence platform, Express is able to differentiate between every day personal items like cell phones, keys and coins and Mass casualty Weapons.
I could talk all day about our system and its performance but I won’t, I hope you have a great time in session 2 and as I say goodbye I’ll leave you with this video which shows everything I’ve spoken about. If you want to learn more or talk to us, then please connect with me or one of the team after the show…
<Express video plays>
5 minutes with Peter George – The rise of physical security screening technology
The pandemic has made one thing clear for security professionals across the globe, there is no going back to the old analog, invasive security screening methods we’ve used for decades such as metal detectors, hand wands and pat downs.
Evolv Technology CEO, Peter George, recently talked with Security Magazine where he called upon his decades-long track record in the cybersecurity industry to discuss how physical security is entering that same digital transformation.
In this interview, you’ll hear Peter discuss why the future of people screening must be touchless and digital in order to deal with the realities of today’s threats from weapons and viruses, and, while it’s impossible to specifically predict every new threat, digital technology makes it possible to reduce the window of exposure and minimize disruption. That’s what Evolv’s Digital Threshold vision could deliver, creating Agile Readiness.
Read the full interview.
The Active Shooter Epidemic: One Major Preventive Measure Launching Today
By: Anil Chitkara, President & Co-Founder, Evolv Technology
Too many mass shootings.
Too many venues without security checkpoints.
Too few technology solutions identifying the individuals who require a closer look.
Too many conversations with security professionals and venue operators asking for something better.
At Evolv, we have had enough. The “new normal,” as some have called it, is unacceptable. We’ve dedicated ourselves to keeping people safe by using technology to stop active shooters. The safer world we envision should be something that everyone simply expects without having to think about it.
Six years ago, Mike Ellenbogen and I started Evolv Technology with a mission to save lives.
Prior to the founding of Evolv, we spent more than two years conducting research. We met with security professionals across the globe and developed a deep understanding of modern threats and what security professionals need to prevent mass casualty events. We visited university labs and small tech companies to understand the latest innovations in sensors, data synthesis, image reconstruction, machine learning, and design thinking. Then, leveraging our combined 40+ years of experience using technology to solve critical, complex problems, we started Evolv.
At Evolv, we set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look. It’s a simple problem statement, but a difficult question to answer.
Our First Product: Evolv Edge
We launched the Evolv Edge system in 2017, after about 3 ½ years of research and development. Evolv Edge is one of a kind. It’s the first product in the industry to screen people and their belongings at high speed without requiring them to stop or remove items from their pockets and bags. From a technology perspective, Edge’s combination of sensors, signal processing, detection algorithms, and user-centered design is like nothing else on the market. Gone are the white bowls for your keys, coins, wallets, belts and cell phones; gone is the need to stop and put your hands in the air. There is no need to place your bag on a table for a guard to search prior to walking through the Edge. With the Edge, you just walk through.
Since its launch, the Edge has screened more than 25 million people around the world, primarily at entertainment venues, sports stadiums, tourist locations, workplaces, hospitals, and houses of worship. In that time, the Edge has detected more than 5,000 weapons. Prior to selecting the Edge, many of these venues tried walk through metal detectors, but found the experience for their visitors to be too slow and cumbersome. These outdated pieces of equipment also resulted in long lines, creating a potentially new security target and concern.
Feedback on the Evolv Edge has been very positive. We’ve seen first-hand the reactions of visitors going through the system and guards operating it. The most common question we are asked is “Why don’t they have these everywhere?”
What We’ve Learned
As we deployed the Edge and spoke to thousands of security professionals and venue operators, we again asked how we could advance screening technology to make many more venues even safer, while continuing to deliver a positive visitor experience. These conversations were enlightening. We heard significant concern about several different scenarios:
- Workplace Violence Prevention:
One of the biggest areas of concern was the proliferation of workplace violence. People should not be concerned for their safety while at work. Many employers, however, are not willing to put a traditional checkpoint in place. They are looking for a system that screens people with little-to-no inconvenience.
- Event Screening:
Another scenario we heard was about screening large crowds for events. The shootings in Las Vegas, Gilroy and Jacksonville Landing highlight the need to screen large numbers of people at special events.
- Tourist Screening:
The third scenario we continued to hear was around screening at tourist locations. Many of these locations, whether an observation deck, museum, or landmark, carry their own unique complexities. Many visitors are carrying food, clothing, cameras, and a host of other personal items for a day’s outing. Often there are international visitors speaking a range of languages.
These three scenarios were just a few of the many that were highlighted.
In many cases, security teams had tried traditional checkpoints with walk through metal detectors and found them to be unsustainable solutions. Traditional screening created massive lines, frustrating visitors or employees, and resulted in an unacceptable overall experience. These stories, which we continue to hear on a daily basis, inspired the design for our newest product.
Introducing Evolv Express
We’re now launching our second product, Evolv Express™. Whereas the Edge screens individuals one-at-a-time as they pass through the system for venues who want a control point, Express screens large groups of people at a time with no stopping, no emptying of pockets or removing bags. After eighteen months of development, we’re now releasing Express, the fastest threat screening product on the market that ensures every individual and their belongings are screened as they pass through without even breaking stride. We have incorporated the latest high-speed sensors that move data in real time to a detection algorithm that renders a decision as people pass through; with Express, 60 people can be screened every minute, that’s 3,600 per hour. The system screened more than 250,000 individuals during our pilot testing this spring and summer. As with the Edge, Express detects those individuals who require a closer look, and automatically alerts guards and security personnel to confirm those individuals are not a threat.
How Express Works
Evolv Express combines the latest technologies and user-driven design principles to provide this high throughput, truly frictionless approach to screening thousands of people per hour. It all starts with the brains of our system, the Evolv Cortex AI Software Platform™. This is a machine learning-based AI system that uses data sets we have generated from the system to train the algorithm. The training is conducted on a methodical basis, starting with a designated threat set, such as firearms. A range of threats is scanned, and classifiers are developed, refined, tested, tuned, and hardened to detect the threat set. Similarly, a range of non-threatening items such as cell phones is scanned through the system. A similar approach is undertaken to create classifiers. As the range of threats and non-threats are analyzed by our development team, the algorithm is continually refined. Over time, as new threats emerge and data is collected, the algorithm will continue to be refined. This process is done in our labs in a controlled manner. Once we are confident in the performance of each new algorithm, it will be released and upgraded to Express systems operating at customer sites.
A key Express component is the sensors that collect data to drive the algorithm. These sensors were designed by Evolv to optimize the separation of the signals for both threat and non-threat items. After scanning millions of people with the Evolv Edge system, we had developed a tremendous body of knowledge regarding sensors as well as the typical items that are carried by visitors through our systems. This body of data informed the design for the Express sensor set.
We have also optimized the data flow through our system. For each individual screened, the Edge system moves nearly 1 million data points to the algorithm, with a resulting red light / green light decision as the person exits. For Express, this ultra-high speed data-processing engine has been further optimized to render a decision in less than one second from the time a person starts walking through.
A significant amount of time was spent on the Express user experience. The UX has a number of components: the industrial design of the system, the interaction with visitors being screened, the operator’s interaction with the system, and the people moving and setting up the system. Each of these elements has been carefully thought through and tested with the respective user group.
- Industrial Design:
The Edge was a significant step forward in designing a system that is welcoming to people passing through it. We have taken some of those key design elements and made improvements to streamline the look even further. Additionally, we recognize these systems need to visually fit into the environment, so we added the ability for users to add custom branding or signage on a key component of the system.
- Visitor Experience:
We widened the overall design to make it easier for people to pass through with minimal disruption.
- Operator Experience:
Our focus on the operator experience has resulted in a system that is easy to operate as thousands of people pass through each hour. There are a mix of audio and visual cues for the operator. If an individual alarms, there is a picture of the person alarming, with the alarm location clearly outlined for further evaluation.
- Ease of Deployment:
Finally, a key element of the system is the ability to move it around to enable screening at different locations. The system has built-in mobility capability, for easy breakdown, movement, and set-up. When the system is powered on, an automatic software calibration routine runs through diagnostics, resulting in the system being up and operational in two minutes.
We are starting a roadshow to preview the Express to security professionals around the U.S. Next week we will be unveiling at the ASIS GSX Security Show in Chicago. After that, we will be in major cities around the U.S. And, you will start to see the Express working at venues around the country keeping people safe.
We set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look; how do you improve public security without disrupting the public? Over the past 6 years we’ve dedicated our resources and our expertise to answering these questions.
We’re humbled to have the opportunity to ‘make our dent’ in the universe and couldn’t be more excited to launch Evolv Express.
What Role Can Technology Play in Building and School Security?
By Christian Wilson, MarketScale – August 12, 2019
Building security continues to be an increasingly important issue for business owners and building managers. Over the last decade, everywhere from commercial office buildings to retail centers and college campuses have been subject to violent attacks taking place within their walls.
With a wave of modern technology taking over workplaces in America, building managers are beginning to utilize things like Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition software to improve security measures and as a result help save lives.
While smart security systems have played an important role on the ground, many companies are exploring how to better secure premises’ from buildings’ immediate airspace using unmanned aerial surveillance, more commonly known as drones. Security firms like Nightingale Security offer a Robotic Aerial Security Service that provides clients with drones to provide a new-level of aerial surveillance.
There are several benefits corporations can gain from drone security. This service utilizes drones for autonomous patrol missions, autonomous threat response, and manual surveillance missions. This application can be critical not only for quick response to a significant event like an oil spill, break-in or locating a trespasser, but also helps security officers on the ground have a quick and reliable perspective of the events with a birds-eye view.
Advancements in building security have been especially imperative for school districts nationwide. On this front, every second is critical when it comes to assessing a threat and protecting the safety of countless children and staff. While most schools have some sort of security team and camera infrastructure in place, the Putnam County School System in Oklahoma has gone above and beyond. It has invested $10 million over the last four years, and in a recent major upgrade, installed facial recognition software in its security camera systems.
According to KFOR News in Oklahoma, “Campus police plan to use the system to track a short list of people prohibited from entering the building. The software allows users to input a “watch list” of suspects, that is, anyone who’s not supposed to be in the building. In practice, the cameras with facial recognition are able to positively identify an intruder within 15 seconds of entering the building. Within 30 seconds, campus police are aware of the presence of the suspect.”
The main purpose of this is to add an extra layer of security to ensure people like ex-employees and their spouses, expelled students, or runaways don’t cause any harm or distractions in a place they aren’t supposed to be.
The high-capacity data processing power AI holds translates into big implications for large-scale access and crowd control. Companies like Evolv Technology offer physical security systems comprised of an AI-powered screening system working alongside facial-recognition to help enhance security and ease accessibility for patrons in places like sporting events and airports.
The systems are set-up at a checkpoint in a building and the video surveillance uses machine learning algorithms to match a face placed on a “watchlist” from the cameras. The system even has predetermined threat levels set for individuals on the watchlist. For example, if a red flag is displayed on an unauthorized person, they are immediately located, detained, and removed from the property. If a person brings up a yellow flag, meaning they are an undetermined threat, a person is physically dispatched to monitor the person and make a determination on a proper course of action. The company claims this process takes a matter of seconds.
This technology can help make patrons in large crowds feel safer, keep staff in these high-volume areas better prepared, and help mitigate bottlenecks and long-lines so many are accustomed to in large crowds.
Technology is Driving Modern Security
Now more than ever there is a renewed sense of urgency for companies and building managers to make sure the people occupying these buildings -are the safest they can be. The marriage between data, surveillance, and security has proven to have some serious benefits behind it. There are, however, still challenges these security firms face in this new era of security. The balance between personal privacy and general security has and will continue to spark debate and it is up to those in charge of security to make sure no line is crossed at the expense of someone’s privacy. In the meantime, any advancement in security is a needed one because at the end of the day, the better the technology in a building, the safer people inside of it will be.
Why I Started Evolv: A Q+A with Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Ellenbogen
By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –
I recently sat down with Mike Ellenbogen, our CEO and co-founder. We discussed his career path, what’s to come in the security industry in 2019 and Mike’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. See what Mike had to say.
Melissa Cohen: Mike, you have a lot of experience launching new companies and building something from the ground up based on a new idea. You did this with both Evolv and your previous company. Can you tell us about an accomplishment that shaped your career?
Mike Ellenbogen: Absolutely. I love building things and always have. I had a eureka moment that triggered the inception of my first company, Reveal Imaging. After new legislative requirements for airport security screening were put in place following September 11, I realized it made sense to employ smaller, less expensive systems and connect them together via a network of PCs. We rethought the way checked baggage was screened in the U.S., considering the total cost of the systems as opposed to just the cost of the technology. Ultimately, Reveal Imaging was acquired by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in August 2010. I’m immensely proud of the work that team did and grateful for the experience – it’s really helped shape who I am today and is what motivated me to keep going and start Evolv.
MC: Based on your extensive experience in the security business, what do you think makes a good CEO in the industry?
ME: There needs to be an inclination to push beyond the conservative approach that is so common in the security industry. There are plenty of businesses out there with the “same old” security technology that’s been around for decades. I like to push the envelop and ensure that my company is offering something that solves a problem while also surprising and delighting. I think it’s important that a security industry CEO sees the world that can be rather than replicating what’s already out there or being happy with the status quo.
MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building either of these businesses and how did you overcome it?
ME: The core technology at both companies was/is really complicated – millimeter wave imaging is a challenging field, so is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Of course, you have to have technology that works in order to have repeatable and reliable customers that you can pursue. Leading an emerging technology company and inventing fundamentally new technology, there’s inherently a lot of pieces you have to glue together. It’s daunting and the success of the company is reliant on a deep understanding of the physics of the real world and how to appropriately push the boundaries of electronics and processing.
With any new technology or applications, there is also a steep learning curve among your teams. An engineer may be familiar with the technology, but not with the application. On that note, another challenge is finding the kind of people that can help move the physical security technology industry forward. We look for people with credibility, who have energy and creativity, and can also help move the needle.
MC: What are some of the biggest trends and themes you’ll be watching for in the security industry in 2019?
ME: We’ll definitely see further integration of AI and facial recognition into more security technologies and applications. Disparate AI capabilities will need to be packaged in a way that is more useful for customers in 2019. We’ll also see an increase in compute power at the edge, for example, more compute power within security cameras rather than via a central/integrated service. And, I know people have been saying this outside of the security industry for years, but we’re going to see expanded use of the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) within security technologies. While this has already started, some major shifts in this space are coming.
MC: Let’s do some rapid-fire, fun questions. How would you describe your leadership style?
ME: I like to think I present a vision of what could be to get people behind that vision – you need people to believe in the vision to engage them in getting there. Considering I’m focused on solving problems in a new way, I also recognize that it’s important for me to surround myself with people who are optimistic but real.
MC: What is your top productivity hack?
ME: I live my life multi-threaded, which I think is just another way of saying that I’m always trying to be efficient. I do a lot of different things in parallel. For example, I turn the coffee pot on before I get ready for work so that it’s ready when I leave. I take pride in maximizing my time like this.
MC: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
ME: I always wanted to run a company and invent something – this desire was within me from a very young age. I would tell myself you need time to see the opportunities in the market, so find an industry you really love, make it your own, and word incredibly hard at it.
MC: What motivates you?
ME: Every day I’m motivated by the vision that the technology we’re working on is important and helping to save lives. As I mentioned before, I also love building new things and, in doing so, helping to bring success to the people around me.
MC: What best practices can you share for future leaders who are looking to start a business?
ME: It’s all about the people. Whatever your path, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the trenches with them, so you better like them. And of course, expect the unexpected!