A Look at Touchless Security Screening
New security screening requirements in a post-pandemic world
Pre-pandemic, venue screening procedures relied on metal detectors, hand wands, and invasive bag inspections. While it was evident those methods were inefficient, frustrating and intrusive, in the pandemic-sensitive world, they are far too slow and manual and will result in unsafe crowding and dangerous physical contact.
The days of putting our phones and bags in containers handled by security guards are over
At Evolv, we are solving the security screening problems of today with the most innovative technology and thinking, making it possible for venues of all kinds to keep visitors and employees safe from concealed weapons and pandemic health threats.
In the wake of COVID-19, a fundamentally new approach to security screening is necessary for venues to safely reopen. To help people visualize what this screening looks like, we’ve produced a new video highlighting Evolv Express™ in action at several customer locations.
It’s security screening that is touchless, respectful and efficient.
Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging
By: Steve Morandi,
VP of Product Management
Let’s take a moment and ponder several numbers…. 15,300, 775 and 2,581,230.
Bold enough to imagine the next number in the sequence?
Careful – these are not prime numbers; not the number of stars in some distant galaxy; they have no higher order relation to each other, nor a discernable pattern. Given the lack of information, venturing a guess at a fourth number in the sequence is a fool’s errand.
In fact, what they do represent are the number of 2019 non-suicide gun-related deaths in the United States; the number of 2003 SARS global deaths, and the YTD number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. All unpredictable, crossing time/global /threat boundaries, and somewhat random. Even with the daily non-stop drum-beat coverage of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the “experts” are no closer to estimating what the final tally will be for 2020 US cases or the economic impact it will impart.
The broader observation is that we live in a world of uncertainty with a variety of threat vectors. Some are known, while others are lurking behind a future unsuspecting corner.
The Coronavirus caught the world off-guard and it continues to affect every part of our lives. After months of the most substantially reduced business, education and social activities we’ve ever seen, we’re reemerging into a ‘new normal’, or quite possibly, the ‘now normal’.
Against this backdrop, safety is the top focus. For individuals and organizations alike, risk of exposure to the virus and defending against its spread are paramount. We’re all trying to come up with game plans and calling line of scrimmage audibles as we go. Recently, we hosted Evolv Advisor and Crisis Response Expert, Juliette Kayyem, in our “Adaptive Recovery” Webinar, where she provided guidance and insight as she walked through her Adaptive Recovery Framework to discuss reimagining recreation, education and the workplace.
Evolv has always been about keeping people safe as they live, work, learn and play. Our touchless security screening systems have redefined what’s required in modern physical security and have protected more than 50M people from guns, knives and bombs.
Today, COVID-19 is the biggest threat on virtually everyone’s mind. It “weaponizes” people. By doing so, it’s changing the very fabric of our society and challenging our social norms.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a surge of interest for thermal imaging as a front line of defense. Screening people for elevated temperature to identify potential carriers of the virus seems like one of several logical steps. There is a range of technologies and products available from multiple providers. In fact, I recently heard a reference to more than 150. Suffice to say, there is no shortage from which to pick.
Given the proliferation of options and “entrepreneurs”, it is critical to understand what thermal imaging can provide…and what it can’t. It can be a valuable component to a multi-layer security screening approach, but it’s not a silver bullet. Here are some insights to help your organization as you consider deploying thermal imaging.
- Almost all solutions are measuring a visitor’s skin temperature as a proxy for the person’s body temperature. It is a preliminary screening and should be paired with a more comprehensive health screening station (venue defined) for “alerted” individuals.
- It is important to vet the claims about accuracy and detection capability.
- Familiarize yourself with the comprehensive guidelines issued by the FDA this year to ensure solution alignment.
Later this month, Evolv TempCheck™, part of our new optional thermal imaging package for Evolv Express™, will become generally available. You might ask “Why Evolv?”
This optional package represents another proof point for our ability to quickly and easily provide customers with new capabilities to address the threats we face today and to move quickly to address those we’ll face in the future. It creates an enduring product, one that is flexible enough to grow with you over time, instead of becoming obsolete, where you tuck it away in a corner or closet.
Here is a sneak peak of what you can expect…a physically integrated capability that’s a powerful add-on option to the Evolv Express touchless security screening system. One that’s mindfully integrated into the Evolv Express concept-of-operations (conop) to enhance the touchless visitor experience while optimizing venue footprint requirements and security staff resources.
Each visitor can be screened for elevated skin temperature in an average of 2-3 seconds, followed by immediate, frictionless, and touchless weapons screening. With this optional add-on package, venues are now provided an integrated health and weapons screening touchless conop, and the ability to screen 800-1300 people per hour per dual-lane Express, optimizing facility space and resources.
As noted earlier in this blog, the threat vectors are varied, complex and unpredictable. Evolv’s unique multi-sensor, software-centric platform allows us to add additional sensors and AI-driven applications to respond to this expanding threat landscape and assist our customers as their world and operational requirements change.
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Interview: Evolv powers Six Flags’ new touch-less way to go through theme park security
Imagine going through theme park security without having to open all your bags and allowing a security guard to look through your things, or not even having to put your bags into an x-ray machine. That may be the case soon at some Six Flags parks.
As attractions begin reopening after their coronavirus closures, theme parks are reevaluating the security screenings their guests go through in light of social distancing measures, and Anil Chitkara’s company, Evolv Technology, has introduced an innovative touch-free system Six Flags recently featured in a video highlighting their parks’ new safety procedures.
Ever since 9/11, theme parks have implemented various types of security screenings to ensure that guests don’t enter with weapons or other prohibited items. The Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts use a combination of manual bag inspections and walk-through metal detectors, while Universal resorts employ automated bag-screening machines and walk-through metal detectors. However, in announcing their reopening plans, Six Flags has released the following video depicting the use of the Evolv Express security system in their parks, which permits guests and their belongings to be inspected while walking through without removing or opening their bags at all:
The new bag screening system depicted in Six Flags’ video comes from Evolv Technology, which was co-founded by Anil Chitkara. Six Flags will only confirm that the chain has ordered 37 Evolv Express units, but is not sharing publicly at this time at which parks (in addition to Frontier City) they’ll be used at, or how many units per park. Chitkara himself was unable to confirm or provide any specific details about his company’s involvement with Six Flags (a standard contractual limitation in the security industry). However, he did provide us this exclusive interview about how his team is helping to keep guests both safe and happy in the age of COVID-19. (Note: this interview has been edited for space and clarity.)
How did Evolv Technologies get started?
We started the company about seven years ago, myself and my co-founder, named Mike Ellenbogen. Mike has been in the physical security industry for 20 years after Pan Am 103 … My background is more sort of business and technology. And we’d known each other for 15 years at that point.
I had sold the company I was at, Mike sold the company that he was at, and we were trying to figure out what to do next. There were two pieces of motivation: the Boston Marathon bombing, and 9/11. In the case of 9/11, my college roommate and good friend was in the north tower; had just gotten married, had a kid and unfortunately, he was part of Cantor Fitzgerald [headquarters], which was tragic.
In the case of the marathon, my wife is a marathoner. She had run that marathon. I had my three young kids at the finish line. She finished about 45 minutes before the first bomb went off, got in the car and came home … and then all of the news happened. A good friend of ours was there, actually, he got hit with the second bomb and has fragmentation.
It really caused me to think about, what do I want to do next? And how do I want to spend the next 10 to 20 years? I had done a lot with technology to solve business problems. Mike had done a lot to bring innovative technology to physical security. And we went out and talked to lots of people about how they were trying to keep their venue safe.
I thought about my kids. I don’t want them to have to live a life where it is airport-style screening everywhere they go. I want them to be able to live as freely as possible, but also as safely as possible. And that was my personal motivation around starting a company.
Where is your technology currently in use?
At the end of 2017, we started deploying technology, so it’s been deployed and screening people since the end of 2017. We’ve screened well over 50 million people since it’s been deployed; it’s probably closer to 60 million people now. And our customers have used the technology to find thousands of weapons. The types of places where it’s deployed are largely commercial venues, so those have been performing arts centers, sporting stadiums, museums, and tourist locations. They’ve largely been places where they hadn’t used walk-through metal detectors up to that point; they’d been trying them, but they just weren’t doing the trick. They basically were too invasive relative to the visitors that were coming in.
About a year ago, we launched the second product, which is the Evolv Express product [which is what is featured in Six Flags’ video]. We’ve screened millions of people with that product. There were two very large events we did last fall screening with Express. One of them was a week long conference in San Francisco where we screened about 500,000 people, and then there was a second conference we did a month later where we screened about 400,000 people. So there’s been some very large-scale, high volume deployments that have been used the system. There are other applications where people are screening it using it for visitors on a daily basis.
We haven’t yet used it in a theme park environment. We’ve used it in large-scale events, and we’ve used them in some sporting events in some performing arts and entertainment events. But not a theme park event up to now.
What’s the hourly guest capacity and staffing requirement of the Evolv Express?
One unit of Express has two lanes. Each of those lanes could do 1,800 guests an hour, or 3,600 for that combined system. That compares to a walk through metal detector where they’re doing “take things out, check the body, check the bags,” those tend to be about 250 to 300, maybe 350 people per hour. So this is about 10 times the speed of a traditional approach.
If we look at the walk-through metal detector, let’s say you need 10 units. They tend to have two and a half people per unit; they have a front and a back and a supervisor. For us, you tend to have between four and six people per unit, so the staffing is significantly reduced.
The turnover in the security guard industry in the U.S. is 300% or three times a year, the entire industry. Therefore, training and getting skilled guards is a challenge, so we have automated some of the key tasks [and] provided a level of automation that assists the guard, so that they can be very targeted in their search.
What are the advantages to Evolv Express over traditional bag screening methods in a COVID-19 reopening environment?
Ninety days ago, we used to talk about 3,600 people an hour coming through; today, we talk about a touchless contact screening process. If I’m going through those 42-inch-wide lanes, without taking anything off and going right through and the alarm rate is extremely low, then I keep going; thousands of people are going through never being touched by a security guard. One benefit is the proximity of guard-to-visitor is lower, because they walk right through. A second benefit is the speed enables people to go through quickly without lines building up, so are eliminating visitor-to-visitor proximity as you’re waiting in line to go through security. And then anybody that’s looking at bags manually is touching every bag; people are trying to figure out how can I have less touch, but fundamentally, you’ve got to look in the bag when you’re doing a manual process.
How does Evolv Express improve the overall guest experience?
There’s so much work and effort that’s put in around the visitor experience, but then the security experience just grinds things to a halt. There is excitement, you get there, you want to get in, you want to participate or listen or enjoy the entertainment, and then grinding to a halt because I’ve got to stop, I’ve got to put my bag down, I’ve got to take everything out of my pockets. That’s we’re trying to fundamentally change: that visitor experience. That’s essentially one of the key principles of the technology we’ve developed.
Have there been studies demonstrating your technology’s detection rate compared to the more traditional methods?
We’ve done a number of studies with both government and commercial organizations, and a number of large organizations will do the testing themselves. They’ll do lab-based testing: we’ll take a system and run a bunch of threats through and a bunch of nuisance alarm items that they’ll read. And they’ll actually put threats on individuals and have them go through the system in operation. We’ve done that extensively; we can’t share specific customers or specific examples of what’s been done, but that’s been done a number of times in the U.S. and Europe. And what they had found is that the detection rate is a combination of the technology, plus the people operating it, plus the processing protocols … The breakdown oftentimes comes in the guards or the protocols relative to that overall system, so what’s been told to us is the effectiveness of the overall system has been much higher with our technology as part of an overall system than with the traditional technology.
How is the Evolv Express system priced?
We don’t publicly share actual pricing levels. We have a subscription model … a per month fee, not “buy it and you own it forever.” We include improvements, upgrades, service, and everything all combined into that one monthly price. So the pricing model is something we believe is pretty unique in the industry.
What is your current outlook as attractions reopen after the pandemic quarantine?
Everybody sort of hunkered down when COVID hit right. There was a lot of “how am I going to respond to this?” Over the last four weeks, we’ve had a significant amount of inquiries from organizations as they plan their reopening. And many of these organizations have used the “mag and bag,” (the walk through a metal detector and bag) approach in the past and they just don’t believe that’s the right way to go to do it going forward. What’s changed is they’re trying to balance the public health threat and the public safety threat, and do something that considers both of those.
It’s going to be different going forward. It needs to be lower touch, it needs to be cognizant of the public health risks, as well as the public safety risks. And so they’re looking to our technology to be able to help them enable that.
For more information on Evolv, visit evolvtechnology.com.
Evolv Express™ vs. the Traditional Metal Detector
By: Julie Zomar, Director of Marketing, Evolv Technology
In today’s era of viral violence, we should no longer be screening with yesterday’s technology. Manual inspections, hand wands and traditional metal detectors are slow, invasive, inefficient, involve too many nuisance alarms and create long lines, forcing venues to choose between safety and the visitor experience.
Did you know, some venues are actually opting not to implement any security at all because they’d rather not make the trade-off between safety and visitor experience? This can’t be the choice you make.
Deploying screening technology in your venue is no longer something you and your team should dread or delay. With Evolv Express™, the first-of-its-kind free-flow weapons-detection system, visitors and employees walk through while simultaneously being screened for potential threats.
Through the power of AI, Express instantly differentiates threats from personal items such as keys, coins, belts and cell phones, making it easy for guards and frictionless for visitors. In fact, visitors no longer need to stop, empty pockets or remove bags. They simply walk right through at a natural pace one-at-a-time or in groups. It’s the fastest weapons-screening product on the market, screening 60 people every minute. That’s 3,600 people per hour – 10X faster than a traditional metal detector.
This two-lane system is approximately 11 feet wide and requires far fewer guards than traditional metal detectors to manage. In fact, some venues are seeing a 70% reduction in labor costs.
For those of you accustomed to traditional metal detectors, it’s going to be a positive shock…
- You no longer need a large footprint for security equipment
- Long, frustrating security screening lines will no longer form outside your venue
- Guards will now be able to conduct targeted searches using image-aided alarms
- And, your labor costs will decrease by up to 70%
Finally, venues can stop threats, while assuring a welcoming visitor and employee experience.
If at 800 people per hour, you need 50% less screening equipment, and 60% fewer guards, imagine what your coop would look like as your visitor throughput needs increase. Download our full infographic to see what screening 1200, 1600, 2400 and 3600 people per hour would look like with Evolv Express versus traditional metal detectors.
Celebrating July 4th Should Be Fun AND Safe
Holidays and celebrations bring people together — but in doing so, create “soft targets”, i.e. locations and venues that people gather that aren’t closely or heavily monitored and protected.
Examples of large, well-known holiday gatherings include Rockefeller Center around Christmastime, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks show at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Since we know that attackers are increasingly targeting public venues and large-scale gatherings, as security professionals, we have an opportunity to transform the way we approach security to meet this evolving threat landscape.
July 4th is a Soft Target
With one of the most popular holidays in America right around the corner, it’s important to recognize the myriad ways we create soft targets during the fourth of July. Whether the Boston Pops July 4th Firework Spectacular, a community concert, or workplace barbeque, massive amounts of people are planning to come together in celebration across the country.
On a day intended to celebrate freedom, one of the last things venues want to do is burden guests with onerous security measures. However, allowing these large gatherings to go unprotected is a sure way to create a soft target and open yourself up to an attack.
Protecting Holiday Celebrations
Here are several proactive best practices that your venue – outdoor or indoor – can take to protect your staff and guests this 4th of July.
1. Collaborate with Law Enforcement
In the event of an attack, local law enforcement is essential to mitigating damage and protecting guests. Your venue security, law enforcement (e.g. police, fire department, etc.), and venue staff should all be introduced prior to an event. Establishing relationships between these is key to fast, streamlined emergency response.
2. Perform a Security Threat Assessment
In light of recent active shooter and bomb incidents, performing a security threat assessment and establishing specific response protocols will help safeguard your staff and guests.
In partnership with local law enforcement, walk the perimeter and identify all entry and exit points. Determine if you are able to lock down the event – and if so, identify what it will take to quickly make that happen without letting unwanted persons in, or a person of interest to escape.
It’s good to ask yourself these questions while performing your assessment:
- Where are the gaps in our security?
- Do we have enough perimeter control measures? (i.e. gates, security personnel, signage, etc.)
- Do we have screening systems in place to identify persons of interest and detect threats?
- What will we do if a threat is identified?
- How do we physically lock down the event?
- Will communicating to all security personnel and law enforcement be easy?
- How easy will it be for law enforcement to enter the venue/event?
- Where should local law enforcement be placed for rapid response?
- Do we have proper evacuation signage for event attendees?
- If an incident occurs, and exiting the event is not an option, do we have adequate areas for attendees to take shelter?
3. Build Emergency Response Plans & Procedures
Upon performing your security threat assessment with local law enforcement and your security staff, you will want to work together to determine safety plans and procedures in the case of an attack.
Think about including the following:
- An emergency response & communications plan – to ensure all staff and local law enforcement know what to do and are notified immediately
- A bomb threat plan – to manage bomb threat calls and know what to do if you locate a suspicious object
- An evacuation plan – with venue layout and evacuation routes
4. Incorporate Visual Deterrents
While creating plans and procedures, as well as highlighting evacuation routes, are an important and necessary process to ensure you are prepared, there are a few ways to keep yourself left of boom/bang.
Notifying guests that there are screening solutions upon entrance has actually proven to prevent attackers from entering or even targeting a venue. For example, the Orlando nightclub shooting that took place in 2016 was actually intended for Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex, however the shooter became spooked by police that were on-site and instead chose the night club as his target.
Thus, maintaining a strong security presence can deter attackers from executing their plans and simultaneously show guests they’re being protected. Whether you implement visible cameras, strategically place security guards and police on horseback, add signage identifying items guests are prohibited from carrying into the venue, or simply alert guests that they’ll be subject to screening, there are numerous ways to show an attacker that the venue is prepared to deter an attack.
As Americans look forward to sporting red, white and blue, you and your staff need to be prepared for potential attacks on your celebrations. For more resources on protecting mass gatherings, the Department of Homeland Security provides several steps venues can take to strengthen security posture. And, for future events, consider implementing next generation weapons-sensing technology to efficiently identify threats and improve your guests’ experience.
Looking to learn more about how to protect a soft target? Read our blog “Relying on 100-Year-Old Technology is Not the Answer to Stop Today’s Active Shooter.”
Ensure Your Graduation Season is Memorable & Safe:
Do away with “old school” technology
While high school and college graduates, along with their proud families, gather across the U.S. to celebrate their academic achievements, real-time security should be at top of mind for school administrators and security staff.
Graduation ceremonies take place in a multitude of venues, from gymnasiums and performing arts centers, to outdoor areas or other large venues intended to accommodate the thousands of faculty, students and family members in attendance. Some larger college graduations even take place in stadiums that seat more than 90,000 people. While a crowd of 90,000 people makes for a joyous celebration, it also presents a number of security risks and challenges that academic institutions must address.
The reality is that school-related attacks are on the rise and your top priority should be protecting those in attendance. In order to feel confident that graduation is an enjoyable and safe experience for all, you and your security team need to overcome one of the biggest roadblocks ― Metal Detectors are Old-School!
Yes, we just said it, metal detectors simply are not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats. Since the late 1900s, the technology has changed very little, and anyone who has had to wait in a queue to go through one for an event knows that they’re incredibly slow-paced and often trigger false alarms. Yet, too many schools and venues still rely on old metal detector technology to screen large crowds.
Metal Detector Technology Limitations and Disadvantages
The technology in metal detectors is designed to detect metal and simply can’t disambiguate between a cell phone, toy or gun. It forces individuals one-by-one to divest of articles of clothing, belts, shoes, phones, keys, bags and more. Further, when guards repeatedly find that the detectors’ alarms are due to those everyday items and not weapons, they become desensitized and inadvertently less effective in the screening process.
Forcing individuals one-by-one to empty their pockets, and have your guards rummage through their personal belongings cause frustration for all parties involved. This slow, single-file security procedure creates a bottleneck of anxious people waiting to enter your venue, rather than creating a positive, seamless visitor experience.
The hassle, frustration and long lines that metal detectors cause, combined with their old-school technology that only detect metallic items, can create scenarios where the screening process itself is more of a risk than the threats the detectors are trying to mitigate. For instance, generating bottlenecks also creates a “soft target”, a person or group that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to a mass shooting or terrorist attack, in and of itself.
Taking a New Approach to Real-Time Visitor Screening
As the threats against academic institutions increase, you should look to adopt new advanced weapons-screening solutions that combine powerful sensors and artificial intelligence to better screen crowds of people simultaneously, while pinpointing threats such as guns, knives and other objects. These solutions efficiently identify threats, and help eliminate the large crowds gathered in front of the screening area.
Graduation day is one of the happiest days in the lives of students and their families. Through a combination of smart security and advanced technology, we can keep it that way.
Improving event security and the guest experience: Perspectives on screening from the executive protection industry
By Mike Ellenbogen and Christian West
In this blog, guest blogger Christian West of AS Solution and Mike Ellenbogen zoom in on the executive protection industry’s perspective on security screening for events. The goal is effective security for the principal and others – without compromising the guest experience.
Executive protection practitioners have a wholly unique perspective that differs from many others who use screening devices, including security providers at airports, sports arenas, and other facilities open to the general public.
Since they protect individuals, most often corporate leaders or high net worth individuals, the focus of private sector executive protection companies is naturally narrower than those who provide security for an entire stadium or office building. And when providing risk mitigation services for events large and small, as AS Solution also does, corporate clients expect security services to positively reflect brand values and contribute to a positive guest experience – not become a hassle for participants or a potential embarrassment for the corporate hosts.
Knowing when to blend in and when to stand out: It’s different in the private sector
It’s no secret that no one (and no thing) gets near the president of the United States without effective security screening. Entire sections of major cities are shut down to safeguard the presidential motorcade when he’s in town. We’re accustomed to seeing a variety of men in black near POTUS when he is out and about. When World Cup host Russia’s Vladimir Putin gifted President Donald Trump with a soccer ball during a 2018 press conference, it, too, was screened as routine.
But even though many outside the executive protection industry associate close protection with the president’s Secret Service coverage or celebrities surrounded by burly bodyguards, the protective reality in the corporate and high net worth segments is different.
Here, clients place a premium on customized protective services that are in harmony with the principal’s personal preferences and corporate culture – not only best protective practices. Clients want protection, of course, but they often want it to be as unobtrusive as possible. Unlike the high-profile people they protect, executive protection practitioners are normally quite happy that no one notices them at all: they need to know when to blend in (usually) and when to stand out (only as necessary).
They feel the same way about screening devices at events. Few corporate or high net worth clients are interested in forcing guests to line-up single file, empty their pockets, take off their belts, dump their cell phones, and walk through metal detectors – just to join a party, a product launch, or a press conference. While magnetometers and handheld wands can have their place in some circumstances, more discreet alternatives are welcome and even desirable.
Private sector executive protection contexts that call for discreet screening
At open-to-the-public events where a corporate or high net worth principal is present, his or her security is paramount from the executive protection perspective. But minimizing disruption and treating guests with utmost respect are also key. Similarly, at corporate events in which the principal participates, there could be dozens or hundreds of other company employees present, including venue staff, caterers, press, and more.
Corporate colleagues and vendors don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion – and they are not. But in the U.S., for example, the intentional or accidental presence of firearms at such events nonetheless represents a potential risk situation. While the probability of an incident in these contexts might be low, their impact on the principal and others, if something went wrong, could be very high.
Another situation that calls for discreet screening is celebrity protection. AS Solution has also done protection for musicians on tour, which can be considered a multi-city string of events. Access to the backstage and celebrities is limited and tightly controlled, of course, but not completely restricted. Many people are involved, some better known than others. A star’s private “entourage” and guests can number dozens of people and vary from city to city. These guests of the stars don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion, and nor do the principals or event hosts want to send such signals. But firearms are not a welcome part of any party scene.
AS Solution welcomes Evolv Edge as suitable technology for high-end executive protection
When AS Solution does Risk, Threat and Vulnerability Analyses (RTVAs) for events, the threat of a mass shooter has emerged as one of the more worrisome. Completely eliminating such threats is unfortunately not achievable, but it is possible to mitigate them. Security screening plays an important role here.
The challenge of using traditional security screening such as handheld wands and magnetometers in the kind of executive protection that AS Solution conducts is that it creates a negative guest experience. As a result, clients will often choose to opt out – even if the RTVA indicates that screening is necessary – rather than subject guests to the inconveniences and implied suspicion with which such tools are often associated. While this is an acceptable tradeoff in some circumstances, in others it is not.
Evolv Edge enables AS Solution to mitigate the risk of firearms and explosives at events with far less impact on the guest experience; AS Solution expects corporate and high net worth clients to be more amenable to such mitigation than previously available alternatives. The Evolv Edge provides a superior walk-through experience with multi-sensor technology that detects both metallic and non-metallic threats while eliminating the hassle of divesting every-day items and a need to “stop and pose.”
With enhanced security and a vastly improved guest experience, AS Solution is excited to partner with Evolv Technology to deliver high-end executive protection and event security.
This blog was cowritten by Mike Ellenbogen of Evolv Technology and Christian West of AS Solution, and also appears on https://assolution.com/blog/improving-event-security-and-the-guest-experience-perspectives-on-screening-from-the-executive-protection-industry/
Three Trends Impacting Entertainment Security
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America at Evolv Technology –
In past blog posts, we’ve discussed the need for weapons screening and how to improve security at performing arts venues. In taking a look at the broader entertainment industry as a whole, the conversation around security looks different.
At large concert venues and sports arenas, we often find that security is already a defined and established practice. These venues typically have a dedicated security team, led by a veteran security chief and supported by a series of technologies and procedures. In contrast, we find that many performing arts venues – primarily those that are not located in big cities – are usually at the beginning of their security journey.
While security and the practice of people screening is not new to the entertainment industry, there have been significant developments in the past five years that have impacted how security directors approach securing these venues. As patron experience, speed and increased detection continue to remain paramount in screening, security directors at these venues are starting to ask themselves what they can be doing better.
With that, let’s explore three ways entertainment security has changed and how these venues are looking beyond traditional security processes and procedures to improve security screening and create a more welcoming visitor experience.
Access to Artists Draws Attention to Stalkers
Weeks after wrapping her worldwide Reputation tour, it was revealed that Taylor Swift’s team was using facial recognition technology to scan for potential stalkers at her shows. Unbeknownst to her concert goers who stopped at kiosks to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her rehearsals, the system was secretly recording their faces and immediately sending the data to a “command post” in Nashville that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers. While Swift has started to receive some backlash over the use of the technology, it represents a growing trend in entertainment security: the need to control stalkers.
To-date, the majority of entertainment venues have taken the same standard approach to security – screening the entire general fan population via a manual bag search and metal detectors. However, as celebrities, athletes and artists provide more access to their fans – think paying $200 extra for a meet-and-greet ahead of the show – security directors are beginning to look beyond traditional screening methods to prevent known assailants from getting close to talent. While Swift’s team is one of the first to come out and acknowledge the use of facial recognition technology to spot and identify stalkers, they are not the first and will certainly not be the last. In the coming years, I expect we will see facial recognition technology leveraged more frequently to identify stalkers. In addition, the use of advanced sensors such as millimeter wave technology will be used to identify any concealed weapons, particularly non-metallic ones, that fans might be attempting to bring in.
Monetizing the Security Experience
Two headlines from earlier this year that really caught my eye when thinking about entertainment security, at sports venues in particular: “Nobody’s Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care,” and “College football attendance sees second-largest decline in history.” As ticket prices rise, and as temperatures continue to drop in some regions, a noticeable trend in sports and entertainment is that people simply aren’t going to as many games as they used to. Instead, they are choosing to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes from one of their many devices, often via streaming services.
Because of this shift, heads of these facilities are beginning to explore how they can create more value for the fan experience. Think about what Disney was able to achieve with the introduction of the FASTPASS – pay extra on top of a standard ticket price to spend less time waiting in lines for popular attractions. What if this same concept could be applied to security at concerts and sports games? An improved security experience, whether it be less invasive or a faster process, is one way venues are working to get fans back into seats – and they’re looking at how technology can help them do this.
Protecting Against Insider Threats
Unlike employees who work at airports or office buildings, many of the employees who work at entertainment venues are subcontractors who only work during games or when events are happening. There is a level of employee screening that is happening; however, it varies from venue to venue. For example, if a venue is home to a national sports league team – such as the Boston Bruins – the venue itself needs to meet the NHL standards for security. Employee screening is a component of meeting this standard. Because these venues already have standards in place for games, they tend to follow these standards for all events. However, venues that are not the “home” for a national team do not have a standard set of security practices in place for screening employees that they follow all the time.
The recent shifts in the entertainment landscape means that everyone from C-level executives to security directors at entertainment venues are tackling new security challenges every day. Whether they are hosting the AFC East Championship Game or night two of an artist’s summer tour – fan experience, detection capabilities and the overall speed of security will continue to dictate security processes throughout the entertainment industry. As the industry itself has shifted, we will start to see more of these facilities leveraging new, innovative technologies such biometrics and facial recognition technologies to combat today’s threats.
To learn more about what is ahead for physical security in 2019, check out our recent blog post.
Photo Credit: Jeff Egnaczyk
Evaluating the Need for Weapons Screening at Performing Arts Venues
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America –
Determining the need for a weapons policy and a threat detection solution at performing arts centers involves more than the security director to make purchasing and implementation decisions. From budget, policy and patron experience, the leadership team must work together to organize, evaluate, plan and implement and communicate such an important initiative.
This is entirely understandable. It’s one thing to work with a director of security and their technical staff, who are measured on their ability to keep employees, customers and other visitors safe. But involving the front-of-the-house team and human resources, who are responsible for creating the best customer and employee experience possible, is an even higher bar. A bad experience–say, delays or pat-down searches–can have a direct downward impact on sales. So if the front-of-the-house thinks a weapons screening technology is a bad idea, it probably won’t be seriously considered.
At least that’s how it has been. I’ve been focused on providing security solutions for over 15 years, but am now seeing the first meaningful shift in the relationship between security and the patron experience teams. Given the rise of senseless lone-shooter attacks in the U.S., many venues are coming to believe – or are at least are willing to entertain the possibility – that patrons will tolerate reasonable inconveniences for added security as long as it doesn’t degrade the overall experience too much. In fact, some of our customers believe their patrons want to make that trade-off. They want to know the people in charge of the facility they’re visiting understand the nagging “could it happen here” feeling they have on a night out.
This is especially true with performing arts venues, given the horrific attacks like those that took place in Manchester, England and Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, executives at some of these venues are increasingly stretching their purview beyond the front door and into the street where people wait in line for popular events. Due to the increase in terror attacks using rented trucks and other vehicles, such as in Nice, France and Barcelona, Spain, venues are looking for ways to get people off the street as quickly as possible and into the safety of their facility.
The fact that patrons must already stop to hand over or scan a ticket creates a natural opportunity to do screening in a way that won’t cause delays. We did a time study at a Broadway theater earlier this year and found that the ticket-taking process typically takes around five to 10 seconds per person in a live environment. If we can help the venue screen the patron in that time or less, everybody wins.
Unlike many pro sports stadiums, which have had checkpoints and metal detectors for decades, many of these smaller, arts-related venues are adding physical security for the first time. Many don’t even have security chiefs. And yet performing arts is one of our fastest-growing segments. If you work for a performing arts venue or any other type of company that is looking to create a security strategy as quickly and efficiently as possible, here are a few best practices:
Get out of the security silo, fast: In the old days, the trick to implementing physical security was to work with the head of security and let him or her try to overcome the natural resistance from other factors in their environment. But we’ve found it works best when representatives from the front-of-the-house, finance, facilities and human resources, were involved in the sales process, ideally from the initial conversation. The security director provided a clear understanding to all the leadership team the consequences of an active shooter and suicide bomber in the facility and the solutions available to deter or prevent such a terrible event.
The more buy-in, the better: As security becomes a higher priority for a company, it makes sense to expand the number of seats at the table when considering new security solutions. The most celebrated accomplishments in implementing security screening at Performing Arts Centers I have witnessed involved the inclusion of the entire leadership team from the beginning. The CEO needs to bring their teams together and keep engaged throughout the process, clearly identifying their end-state goals and understanding of the tradeoffs. In one very successful scenario we witnessed, the chief executive officer directly led the process which involved security, human resources, front-of-house, facilities and finance to drive towards the optimal solution.
The Show Must Go On: Three Ways Performing Arts Venues Can Improve Security Processes
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President, Evolv Technology –
Why did this happen? Why now?
Twenty years ago, we asked ourselves these questions after hearing news of senseless terrorist attacks at iconic locations in major world cities.
Today, we’re still asking questions, but now we’re concerned about where the next attack might happen. Shootings and bombings are no longer limited to iconic venues in iconic cities. They can happen anywhere – at an indoor concert in Manchester, England, an outdoor show in Las Vegas, Nevada, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Terrorism has proliferated into many different towns and cities, perpetuated by individuals inspired in their basements and armed with weapons from stores in their neighborhood.
The security professionals responsible for protecting different types of venues including entertainment and performing arts centers also ask these questions. While most use methods such as deployed guards and closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras as the cornerstones of their security strategy, there are limitations to these methods. In the U.S., for example, security guards earn an average annual wage of just over $30,000 and the annual turnover at guard companies is between 100% to 300%. On average, a security guard will remain in the same job for only three to 12 months! Technology can help mitigate these inconsistencies and is critical to enabling the more effective protection of these venues.
People going to see a movie, show, or concert are out to have an enjoyable experience. They have countless ways to spend their time and money, and organizations work hard to provide the best “entertainment” for their paying guests. They do not want to encumber their guests with long lines, slow security or burdensome processes. With improved technology, today it is possible for entertainment venues to offer a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors entering while providing an enhanced level of security.
Performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Theaters, for example, tend to be high profile venues that play a prominent role in their cities. Live theater performances start promptly at a designated time, often with guests arriving from dinner or work just before showtime. Performers and patrons don’t want to be distracted by people filing in after the show commences, so doors are closed when the curtain goes up. As a result, security teams are under tremendous pressure to get people screened and seated quickly. Just before showtime is when the security process gets most chaotic.
Many performing arts venues are open and inviting by design. They were designed to encourage the public to come in and enjoy the art and architecture. This open environment runs directly counter to a secure building perimeter with checkpoints.
The “who” and the “what” are also unique elements for these organizations. The genre or artist can often dictate the type of crowd one might expect to see in attendance. The audience attending a chamber music recital is likely very different from the audience attending a rock concert. As entertainment venues broaden the types of performances they offer, security should be able to ”ramp up” or “ramp down” accordingly.
Lastly, guards are people and human behavior is inconsistent. Capability from guard to guard is different, and a specific guard’s security vigilance often wanes over the course of an evening. Very likely, the one hundredth person he or she screens is subject to a different level of scrutiny than the first. Experience, training, fatigue, and human error play a role in how thorough and effective a search is conducted.
Venue operators have an opportunity to upgrade their security capabilities to be ready for the changing nature of threats. Below are three ways they can keep their patrons happy and safe:
- A visible and effective security process can protect today’s event and deter tomorrow’s potential threat. Use security technology to improve upon the existing processes with more consistent and automated detection capability. Take the security approach to the next level by providing your guards with technology to augment their practices.
- Allow for an approach that can flex up security when the intelligence warrants it and move back to a baseline level when it doesn’t. Offer the ability to consistently screen and to change the level of screening depending on when or where the event is or who the performer is.
- Balance the security and patron experience to ensure it doesn’t make it too obtrusive for the paying guests. Rather than using clunky metal detectors, use a blend of state-of-the-art technologies – high throughput technologies with sensors and artificial intelligence.
The threat landscape has shifted significantly in recent years. We could all use a night out to forget about the daily headlines. Performing arts organizations can help us enjoy our visits by adopting modern security methods that protect while keeping the user experience intact.
To learn more about how to balance security and visitor experience, click here.