Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Worker Well-being in Large Facilities
By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder
Workers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.
While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers at large workplaces, a recent Harris Poll survey we commissioned indicates concern over physical threats are just as or even more concerning. And the survey makes clear that, while workers welcome screening measures to promote safety, if such measures create lines and crowding, they simply won’t be acceptable in the COVID era.
New research by The Harris Poll, conducted in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, surveyed more than 500 people who work in a factory, warehouse or distribution center that typically houses at least 100 workers. The survey covered workers in manufacturing, wholesale/retail, and transportation/utilities industries. These are the folks who are moving essential goods and services through our economy, including the pharmaceutical and food industries as well as other essential goods and services.
Concern over crime eclipses COVID
Results show workers are certainly concerned about contracting COVID-19, with 78% saying they are somewhat or very concerned. But an equal 78% are concerned about mass shootings. Other forms are violence are likewise quite concerning:
- Street crime: 79% somewhat or very concerned
- Protest-related civil unrest and violence: 71%
- Terrorism: 70%
78% of workers are concerned about contracting COVID-19, the same percentage who are concerned about mass shootings.
More than 4 in 5 respondents (83%) think crime has increased over the past year and 77% say the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago.
Those concerns extend to the workplace, with well over a third – 39% – saying they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work. Fearing for your safety is no way to go through your work day.
It’s not surprising, then, that workers do appreciate steps their employers take to keep them safe, with 92% reporting the safety measures at their workplace make them feel “mostly” or “very safe.” However, the majority of that group, 56%, was in the “mostly safe” camp, along with 8% who report feeling mostly or very unsafe.
More than a third of workers report they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work.
Part of the problem may be the type of security measures in place, with ID cards and swipe access being the most common, reported by 75% of workers. Only about a third have security or threat awareness training or a staffed gatehouse, and fewer yet have metal detectors (27%) or bag checks (25%). Clearly, there’s room for improvement.
Protecting the workplace
In terms of what measures would help workers feel safer, when it comes to COVID they include simple measures such as hand sanitizer stations as well as less common ones such as walk-through body temperature measurements (see Figure 1).
For physical security, nearly four out of five workers (79%) think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces. A majority agree such screening provides important benefits, namely:
- The ability to detect obvious threats: 74%
- Providing a sense of safety: 73%
- Acting as a deterrent: 57%
Nearly 4 out of 5 workers think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces.
Traditional metal detector screening involves emptying bags and pockets and potentially being subject to a pat-down. Even in the COVID era, such measures induce more positive feelings than negative – but the negatives are significant. Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 69% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 72% said it would make them “satisfied,” again 32% said it would make them “irritated.” Sixteen percent went so far as to say such screening would make them “fearful.”
It’s clear that COVID-19 is driving up levels of fear and anxiousness. Asked how COVID-19 made them feel about traditional screening methods, respondents reported feeling:
- Less calm: 33%
- Less confident: 28%
- Less satisfied: 30%
- More anxious: 34%
- More fearful: 28%
- More irritated: 33%
Workers report having a number of specific concerns about traditional metal detector screening, including long lines, the touching of their belongings and violation of social distancing guidelines (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of workers cite issues such as the possibility for human error, too many false positives (such as a metal detector alerting on a harmless object) and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.
Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When workers were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, more than half (55%) said they would not join the line.
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, [workers 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 respondents (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 screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost 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 advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.
New workplace requirements
The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for workers, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep workers safe and secure.
Workers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, as 83% agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a workplace makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (77%) 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 ensure employees you value their safety, making them more at ease at work – and, likely, more productive. Click here to learn more.
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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 Rise of the Digital Threshold
By Peter George, CEO, Evolv Technology
The New Normal
Throughout this global pandemic period I’ve had many conversations with leaders responsible for people screening at live sports and entertainment venues, workplaces, schools, houses of worship, and outdoor theme parks across America. We’ve all felt a pandemic anxiety. Along with our heroic first responders, few feel it more acutely than these men and women responsible for helping people safely gather in a time when the act of gathering itself has become a mortal threat. Their entire world was shut down and is now in the process of reformatting and rebooting.
Most of the security leaders I am talking with are struggling with how to reopen safely, attract visitors, and stay open indefinitely. One thing I know for sure: there will be no going back to the old screening procedures. Why? Because three waves of change are combining to crest and crash down on the thresholds of their venues at the same time. The future of people screening will be quite different indeed, but it will be much, much better—at least for those who learn to adapt.
So, what are these three waves of change? They are the Normalization of Pandemics, Armed Anxiety, and the Digital Transformation of Physical Security. Let’s look at each in detail.
Wave 1: Normalization of Pandemics
Pandemic viruses turn unwitting visitors into weapons. COVID-19 has weaponized people in a way never seen before. Everyone now knows that packed crowds and human contact multiply the danger. Visitors and employees are looking at every venue and workplace with new eyes and formulating an internal risk score based on what they see. They are highly sensitized and are looking for evidence that the operators “get it” and have taken action. They don’t always know what they should expect, but they absolutely will expect security screening to be visibly different. COVID-19 has changed the risk profile of gatherings forever. A pandemic-aware security posture is the new normal.
Traditional high-touch entry screening is obsolete. Helping visitors feel safe in the new environment while delivering a financially sustainable entry throughput is just not possible with old metal detectors, manual bag inspections, and the resulting crowds. Along with new regulations and mandated protocols that venues must abide by, visitors and employees now also want to see a very orderly, safe, and socially-distanced people flow. A touchless visitor experience is part of the new normal.
A pandemic-aware security posture is not some passing fad. There have been six serious pandemics in just the last two decades: SARS, MERS, avian flu, swine flu, Ebola, and now COVID-19. Will there be more? Absolutely. Every physical security team must now develop the ability to adapt to future pandemics that are certainly on the way. Ongoing pandemic readiness is part of the new normal.
Evolv Technology customers, such as Six Flags and Hersheypark, have adapted to the pandemic by rolling out a new comprehensive health and safety plan for reopening their amusement parks. In the case of Six Flags, they’ve added thermal imaging for identifying guests with elevated body temperature and Evolv’s touchless security screening as part of their social-distancing procedures. We believe this is the beginning of a new trend of multi-threat screening that is changing venues and guest experiences forever.
Wave 2: Armed Anxiety
Research shows that there are as many as 393 million privately owned guns in circulation in the United States. The recent pandemic has spurred a new surge in gun purchases. More guns were sold in the first eight months of 2020 than were sold in all of last year. While most crime has significantly declined during the pandemic, shootings and killings remain at pre-pandemic levels.
Soon after pandemic lockdown orders started to lift, there was a venue-targeted active shooting incident in Arizona, and other active shooter incidents in Kansas and Texas. In 2020 the U.S. is on track to have an all-time record year for mass shootings, having reached the 2019 total of 417 on September 2, with four months still left to go.
The fact that shooting incidents persist amid the pandemic is unsurprising when we consider the historic levels of depression and anxiety that people are experiencing right now. The CDC reports that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic—with the prevalence of anxiety being three times higher and depression four times higher than the same period last year.
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. It could happen anywhere at any time.
Wave 3: The Digital Transformation of Physical Security
Outside the physical security world, businesses in every industry are unlocking efficiency and value by digitizing old manual and analog processes. They are re-imagining their organizations and operations in a future defined by software, data, sensors, mobility, networks, machine learning, automation, and analytics. It isn’t change for the sake of change; it’s change to allow the business to perform better in the modern world and be ready to respond more quickly to change in the future.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is using machine learning to help bars create more accurate orders, resulting in better customer satisfaction. Walmart is using shelf-scanning robots to optimize inventory performance. Black & Decker is using networked sensors to track the movement of materials in factories to increase labor efficiency and quality.
Is digital transformation worth the effort? Yes, with the greatest rewards going to those who start early and do it right. Across all industries, digital leaders clearly outperform the laggards in their industry in both growth and profitability according to recent Bain & Company research:
After comparing financial results for five categories of companies based on their degree of digital maturity, Bain found that revenues for the digital leaders grew 14 percent over the past three years, more than doubling the performance of the digital laggards in their industries. Profitability followed a similar pattern—83 percent of the leaders increased margins over that period while less than half of the industry laggards did so.
Unfortunately, physical security stands out as a laggard in digital transformation—especially when compared to the modern cybersecurity best practices that I am used to. Consider the findings of Accenture and Microsoft in their recent survey of physical security leaders:
“We found that although security leaders see the opportunity to enhance risk management with digital capabilities, the industry is at various levels of maturity, and at worst is a decade behind. Respondents identified “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decision-making based on subjectivity” as the two leading challenges facing physical security operations today. These challenges—operating reactively and improving decision-making—make it difficult to be proactive. This puts your people, brand and reputation at risk.”
It’s not surprising that physical security managers are worried about “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decisions” when their security screening technology hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1920s and is completely devoid of digital data. Old analog metal detectors, hand wands, and manual bag inspections are artifacts of a pre-digital age. Weapons screening sometimes feels like the land that time forgot.
Today’s lack of modern technology in physical security operations has created an undue reliance on security staff. The security officers are burdened with an ever-growing list of tasks: watch out for bad behavior, answer guest’s questions, handle minor incidents, and clean up the physical space, in addition to the core screening role of manually checking everybody entering for prohibited items. There are simply too many things for any one security guard to manage.
Things could not be more different in the cybersecurity part of the business. Because cybersecurity was born inherently digital, cybersecurity professionals are immersed in oceans of digital data and refined pattern recognition based on cutting edge artificial intelligence. They have deep and meaningful analytics and real-time threat intelligence that help them adapt to new threats, in real time, and continuously tighten their perimeter.
The Rise of the Digital Threshold
How long will it be until we close the gap between the digital haves in cyber and the digital have-nots in physical security? It’s already happening. A new vision and technology architecture are emerging. We call this vision the Digital Threshold. The Digital Threshold vision applies the proven patterns of digital transformation and cybersecurity to everything that happens in the space people cross as they enter and exit modern venues and facilities.
Within the Digital Threshold vision, venues and facilities can intelligently use data to create a frictionless experience for guests and employees. The result is an entry process that enhances the overall experience instead of diminishing it as it so often does today.
Making weapons screening faster and more precise is part of the Digital Threshold vision, but it’s just the beginning. What if the entry experience could also seamlessly integrate digital health screening and health credential processing into the screening process? What if electronic ticketing, VIP identification, and BOLO alerts could also be part of the same seamless flow? And what if the Digital Threshold generated useful analytics that enable data-driven decisions about system adjustments and people flows? All of this is part of the Digital Threshold vision that not only addresses the current environment, but also creates the ability to adapt and flex to handle future needs as necessary.
The Digital Threshold as a Technology Architecture
The Digital Threshold is more than just a vision for frictionless entry experiences—it’s a digital technology architecture of components that work together to realize the vision. These components include Sensors, Analytics, and Actions, all on top of the AI Platform.
In the Digital Threshold vision, sensors work together to spot multiple threats and to supply useful insights about visitors. Each sensor fills in a different part of the picture. Data from magnetic field sensors make it possible to see the difference between a gun and a smartphone. Thermal imaging cameras provide the raw data that makes it possible to spot people with elevated body temperature—a sign of potential infection. Visible light cameras could gather the imagery needed to count visitors, estimate visitor demographics, and identify visitors as employees, VIP season pass holders, or known threats. Microphones, biometric and credential readers, and other types of sensors could supply added insights about who and what is coming through the Digital Threshold.
As threats evolve and new sensors emerge, the Digital Threshold sensor array can expand as needed. Rather than sending visitors through an obstacle course of standalone technologies, the Digital Threshold allows venues to touchlessly screen for multiple threats in a single concept of operation (CONOP).
AI Software Platform
Digital Threshold sensors produce a flood of raw digital data that must be stored, organized, and turned into meaningful information. That’s where the AI software platform comes in. It’s the brains of the Digital Threshold vision.
AI uses machine learning to spot complex patterns in data. More data and more kinds of data make machine learning models more precise over time. Having multiple digital sensors makes it possible to bring everything together in a way that increases situational awareness.
The core value of the Digital Threshold vision is embodied in software. The hardware is almost incidental and will someday come in many different forms. Instead of installing new hardware to improve accuracy, the machine learning models could be upgraded just like the software on smartphones. This completely changes the game of system upgrades. As the Digital Threshold gets smarter over time, rolling out new capabilities becomes a matter of clicks, not forklifts.
At Evolv, we call our AI software platform the Evolv Cortex AI™. From the beginning we designed Cortex AI to be upgradable and extensible across a wide variety of threats. It’s the brain of all our products and an early expression of the Digital Threshold vision.
When the AI software platform identifies a problem, imagine if the Digital Threshold action flow engine could spring into action to orchestrate the appropriate response. It’s about much more than beeps and alarms. Imagine if visitors could see a temporary “Slow Down” message when sensors detect crowding that violates social distancing requirements. If a potential weapon is spotted, the visitor might be visually directed to a weapon screening resolution station on the left, while a person with elevated body temperature could be directed to a health screening station on the right. Season ticket holders might be greeted with a “Welcome Back!” display.
Whatever the situation, the Digital Threshold could guide visitors and guard staff with a suitable programmed response. The key word is programmed. Because it would be a software workflow engine, actions could be changed and customized over time without a hardware upgrade. It’s software-defined physical security that could prove to be just as revolutionary as software-defined networking.
Because the Digital Threshold feeds on digital data, it could become possible to generate an ever-growing number of useful analytics to help plan and execute a frictionless experience. For example, based on the type of event, day of the week, forecast weather, and current tour of a specific performer, a Digital Threshold-equipped venue manager could potentially answer questions like the following:
- What time did the arrival rate peak before last week’s event?
- What is the mix of families and demographics of individuals coming through different entrances?
- Is entrance throughput consistent with our social distancing guidelines?
- Which doors seem to attract the most VIPs?
- What are the demographic characteristics of our visitors by entrance?
- What is the alarm rate at each entrance?
- What are the top threats detected at each entrance?
Once the data is in an analytics platform, there is almost no end to the questions we might answer. Remember the Accenture and Microsoft research finding that physical security managers were worried about “intuition-led decisions?” Having powerful analytics could be a huge step down the path to data-driven decision-making. These analytic insights not only keep people safely moving based on their risk profile but also allow for venues to monetize the visitor experience more effectively.
Toward Agile Readiness
These four components of the Digital Threshold come together to transform the screening process to both block today’s known threats and quickly adapt to future threats as they emerge. I call this the state of “Agile Readiness.” Modern venues with agile readiness can quickly flex and surge into whatever comes next.
While it is impossible to specifically predict every new threat, digital technology makes it possible to reduce the window of exposure and minimize disruption. It’s about generating, harnessing, and trusting data to make the most important decisions about safety instantaneously. It’s about maintaining a security posture that engenders trust and confidence among employees and visitors. It’s security that is obvious but low-profile, strong but not invasive, fast but not cumbersome. That’s what the Digital Threshold vision could deliver, creating Agile Readiness.
Software Eats the World of Physical Security
Web pioneer Marc Andreessen has famously claimed that “software is eating the world” and I completely agree with him. The most interesting thing about cars these days is the software that makes them more efficient and safer. The most interesting thing about a watch these days is the software that makes it a fitness and health tracker and an extension of my phone rather than just a timepiece. The hardware of modern technology is still important, but more often only as a vessel for the innovative software it contains.
At Evolv, we are bringing the “software eats the world” phenomenon to security screening, and it’s already creating incredible value for our customers. Our early implementation of the Digital Threshold vision is successfully devouring the old security screening technologies, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s also empowering security teams to do an even better job of keeping people safe while optimizing financial and staff resources.
The software platform supplies the brain and connective tissue to integrate capabilities of new emerging technologies that transform the new visitor or fan experience. It becomes the security platform to seamlessly integrate biometrics, video analytics, crowd intelligence, health posture data, electronic ticketing, and on-demand liability wavers to allow for a frictionless visitor, employee, and fan experience in a post COVID-19 world.
We have made substantial progress in realizing the Digital Threshold vision in the Evolv product line. Customers are telling us we have it right, but in many ways, we are just getting started. There’s a lot of room left to apply artificial intelligence to physical security, including new types of sensors to consider and analytics to create. It’s an extremely exciting time.
Addressing the realities of pandemics and armed anxiety while also developing the potential of digital transformation will require a new approach. We must reimagine these challenges and opportunities in a whole new light, unbound by legacy technologies or preconceived, outdated ideas. Armies of people using old ways of working simply cannot keep the public safe. The old solutions don’t scale wide enough or deep enough to address these threats everywhere they can appear. Much like we’ve seen in other industries, technology can fundamentally bend the curve back in our favor and return peace of mind. And peace of mind is what we all want and deserve, now more than ever.
One Chance to Get it Right
I believe that the realization of the Digital Threshold vision is inevitable, and the time to get started is now. I also believe that the transition will create winners and losers. Facilities that embrace and adapt to the digital future will earn lasting trust and long-term viability and loyalty. Facilities that are slow to adapt may never recover from the resulting loss of business and trust.
If you’d like to join us on the journey toward the Digital Threshold, consider attending our new Digital Threshold Live webcast series. We’ll be speaking with leading experts to explore the business drivers, technologies, and human dimensions of the Digital Threshold vision.
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.
Airport Security: When it Comes to Employees, Metal Detectors Are the Problem
By: Bill McAteer
The aviation security community has always been proactive and innovative with the introduction of new security technologies, policies and strategies. Whether its revamping screening processes for carry-on bags or drones for perimeter security, adoption rates for new technology aimed at thwarting threats has always been a consistent focus the aviation community. Yet there is one area of airport security that remains unsolved – insider employee threats.
While the vast majority of airport employees are not threats, out of the estimated 1 million employees working in airports nationwide, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the need to protect against the insider threat. Especially with the steady uptick in insider threat incidents in recent years, A few examples include a baggage handler for Hartsfield-Jackson that was sentenced for gun smuggling, nine Dallas airport employees that admitted they plotted to smuggle drugs, weapons and plastic explosives, and a Horizon Air worker who stole and flew a commercial aircraft over the Seattle area.
Employees and Passengers Are Not the Same
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as applying the passenger screening process to employees. While passengers plan to arrive hours before their flight to account for the expected airport security lines, it is unfair to expect the same scenario out of employees.
When shift changes occur, hundreds and in some cases, thousands of airport workers enter the airport at once. Forcing those individuals to undergo the slow-moving and single-file screening process that is required of passengers would inevitably prevent employees from getting to their posts at their scheduled start time, thus causing flight delays, which can negatively impact passenger satisfaction and airline finances.
Metal Detectors Are Part of the Problem
These differences in screening scenarios shine light on the severe limitations of using metal detectors in the screening process.
The technology in metal detectors is designed to detect only metal and is unable to differentiate between other everyday metallic items, such as cell phones or belt buckles. Because of this, individuals are asked to stop and divest of personal belongings, which inevitably creates delays and long lines. 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.
Despite this being the norm for passenger screening, this process cannot keep up with the demands of employee screening.
Revamping the Employee Screening Process
With these significant limitations and challenges in mind, consider looking to replace antiquated screening solutions with more advanced technologies that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI), and utilize advanced scanners, or even biometric capabilities.
If you do choose to onboard new technologies, ensure they meet the following capabilities to best protect against insider threats and improve the employee screening process:
Because airport shift changes can include up to thousands of employees at once, it’s important that your next screening solution quickly and efficiently move individuals through without sacrificing security.
To do this, look for screening solutions that don’t require individuals to pause, pose, or divest of personal items. Technology that allows individuals to walk through with ease will best prevent bottlenecks, and ensure employees get to their stations on time.
Today’s threats extend far beyond the limits of metal, with bombs and other non-metallic weapons increasing in popularity every day.
To ensure modern threats do not go unnoticed, your next screening solution should be able to identify several types of weapons, as well as differentiate between a gun, toy, or cell phone. With advanced intelligent detection capabilities, security guards are better-informed of potential threats and can take quicker and more precise action to deter an attack to stay “left of bang.”
Implementing a rigid and predictable screening process can unfortunately create opportunities for people to use it against the venue that’s trying to stay protected.
The ability to deploy screening solutions anywhere at any time creates an element of surprise and significantly limits the insider threat. Airports should look for flexible solutions that are self-contained and easy to move so that security checkpoints can be deployed on a whim.
We can expect to see the insider threat problem proliferate across U.S. airports and beyond. To get ahead of this growing problem, consider reevaluating your employee screening process, educating yourself on the problem and identifying innovative solutions to address the ever-growing insider threat. An added benefit? Creating a no-hassle screening process for your employees can significantly impact job satisfaction and ultimately help with retaining employees.
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
Combating Insider Threats at Airports
By Chris McLaughlin, Vice President, Global Solutions, Evolv Technology –
The shift in the threat landscape has impacted multiple industries from entertainment to education. Today millions of people are vulnerable in places where, in the past, they could freely gather. For airports, which already require several security procedures and screening processes, the shift has resulted in the need to further secure non-traditional areas of the facility.
This need is partially being driven by the uptick in insider threat incidents that have taken place at airports in recent years. With new insider threats like a baggage handler smuggling several handguns onto flights, and an avionics technician showing a willingness to transport explosives to a secure part of the airport, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport authorities, and airlines are installing more physical security protocols to protect the vulnerable areas of the airport.
Let’s explore what we need to address insider threats at airports, the current processes that exist and how new, innovative technologies are addressing that need.
Security that Considers the Pace of Commerce
The Current Process: For decades, airport insiders have been given extensive access to almost all parts of the airport with identity verification serving as the primary tool for screening employees.To remain operational, employees need this level of access; however, it makes implementing new screening processes difficult as employees encounter dozens of access points daily.
The New Solution: When considering new employee screening processes, an important question to ask is, “will this process unduly slow employees down and make it difficult to do their jobs?” If the answer is yes, then you will want to consider another option. To help, look for options that do not require employees to empty their pockets or take off their shoes and belt.
Automating the Employee Screening Process
The Current Process: In addition to ID checks, there are currently a number of different processes being used for employee screening at airports. In a few cases, airports use traditional x-ray systems and magnetometers, which are costly to operate and invasive for all employees. At the other extreme, airports use physical pat downs, which while more cost effective, are much more invasive for selected employees.
The New Solution: As an alternative, airport managers should look for automated systems. These systems offer a variety of benefits. For example, instead of manual processes like bag searches and metal detectors, guards can maintain focus on the employees coming to work, responding to threats only when they present themselves.
Leveraging Innovative Technologies to Take a Proactive Approach to Security
The Current Process: Today, the screening systems have limited capabilities. For example, they cannot analyze data quickly and are not technologically advanced enough to perform consistently.
The New Solution: Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors offer airport managers a number of benefits. AI has the power to analyze data quickly and identify patterns in real-time. In a screening scenario, this application eliminates the need for full hand wanding or physical full-body pat downs as the technology itself alerts guards if someone is carrying an item of interest and tells them where to search.
Scalable Solutions for Pop-Up Deployment
The Current Process: Not all airport budgets support a 100 percent screening model. While we applaud those that can commit the resources, there is strong evidence that supports random, unpredictable employee screening models as well.
The New Solution: Random, unpredictable screening stations are not only effective but also offer flexibility as conditions change. Solutions that are designed for pop-up deployment allow airport managers to set-up employee screening stations at different access points throughout the airport for various amounts of time.
Flexible Solutions to Meet Specific Needs
The Current Process: This is a complicated process and often times, identifying where, and how, to start can be the biggest challenge. Because of this we see airports choosing NOT to strengthen security in lieu of reverting to a costly and cumbersome “one size fits all” solution that is expensive.
The New Solution: Each airport needs its own flexible solution that can be adjusted based on their specific needs, budget and risk factors. There is no perfect security solution; however, those that that strategically balance security, access, usability, and cost can ultimately provide the best long-term protection against an evolving adversary.
Airport operations are extraordinarily complex. At their most basic level, if security measures make it impossible for employees to get to work on time, airplanes won’t get off the ground on schedule. To incorporate additional layers of security that improve the employee screening process, airport managers should look to maximize their resources. In today’s new world paradigm, it is the combination of identity and physical security that will enable airports and airport managers to successfully protect against insider threats.
Check out this case study to learn more about how Oakland International Airport is leveraging innovative technology to enhance its employee screening process.