The Digital Threshold, where venues and facilities can intelligently use data to create a frictionless experience for guests and employees.

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The Rise of the Digital Threshold

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Traditional high-touch entry screening is obsolete.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.

Sensors

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.

Actions

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.

Analytics

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. The first episode airs October 1.

Details are below. Register today.

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.

 

Click here to read more about Evolv Express, or fill out this form to schedule a meeting and be on your way to creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

Touchless Security Solutions to Make Venues Safe and the Process Easy

Anil Chitkara discusses touchless security solutions for today’s entertainment venues.

By Daniel Litwin – MarketScale – August 3, 2020

Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and Head of Corporate Development for Evolv Technology, started his company with one goal: to keep people safe from harm at events or other venues and locations where threats could exist.

For most of Evolv’s existence, those threats were violent, either from potential terrorist attacks or an active shooter situation. But COVID-19 shined a light on a different risk to the health of the public at large. When considering entertainment spaces, security checkpoints now have a new consideration: how to make the venue safe from a deadly disease.

Chitkara discussed these scenarios and how Evolv’s touchless security solutions can help.

“We’ve all been through airports. We know what airport screening is like,” Chitkara said. “We looked at all these other places where people are and [asked], ‘How can we help the security professionals in those areas maintain a safe venue or environment?’”

Theaters, performing arts centers, concert arenas, sports venues, theme parks and amphitheaters are all focuses of Evolv’s technology solutions. The company’s goal is to take a slow and manual security process and make it faster and more comfortable for the guest to enter the venue.

The security process for many entertainment venues today is not a friendly experience, and Chitkara wants to change that.

“Not only is it not what the customer entering into the venue wants, but it also is not what the band and the concert venue want,” Chitkara said. “They want their customer to be excited from the day they purchase their ticket up to the moment they walk up to the arena. The biggest pain point of the guest experience is that security screening. There hasn’t been a great solution up to now.”

Rethinking the whole approach to security through technology and doing it in a fan-friendly way is Chitkara’s mission. Evolv’s touchless security approach makes entry easier for the patron.

And, during this time of healthcare concerns, the less security needs to come into physical contact with someone entering the venue, the lower the risk of spreading viruses.

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Interview: Evolv powers Six Flags’ new touch-less way to go through theme park security

REPOST: MAY 29, 2020 BY SETH KUBERSKY, ATTRACTIONS MAGAZINE

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.

Anil Chitkara, founder of Evolv Technology

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Express-vs-WTMD-800-ppl-per-hr-1024x476.png

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.

Relying on 100-Year-Old Technology is Not the Answer to Stop Today’s Active Shooter

Metal Detector Lines

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO

One of the indelible lessons seared into our consciousness over the last 20 years is that every public gathering and event is now a soft target. From concerts to prayers – there are few places that would be considered sanctuary against the evils perpetrated by mass shooters.

According to the Gun Violence archive, there were more than 340 mass shootings in the U.S. alone in 2018 – nearly one a day. While there remains disagreement on a legislative solution to the mass shooting problem, one thing has become clear – facilities that have a high degree of visible security measures are less likely to become a target.

Visual deterrents, like metal detectors, can be incredibly effective in preventing attacks from occurring, but the technology has had minimal improvement since the walkthrough metal detector was invented more than 90 years ago.

Doesn’t our modern problem deserve a more modern solution? It should be possible to deter and prevent mass casualty events like what happened in Las Vegas without requiring every single person to take off their belt and take out their keys before entering a building?

According to a recent report, organizations will spend more than $1.5 Billion on metal detectors in the next five years. This doesn’t even account for the massive labor costs required to adequately staff these devices to ensure heightened security. Nor does it account for the impact on visitor experience – at some point, your patrons will grow tired of having to wait in line to then strip down and hold their hands in the air to show that their phone isn’t a weapon.

Metal detectors represent the security approach of the past – the future of prevention is a combination of better sensors, AI and biometrics that helps immediately identify all manner of threats without compromising visitor convenience.

As today’s threats grow more menacing, the technologies preventing the next tragedy need to evolve as well. Here are four primary ways that the we can improve upon the metal detector:

Superior Detection at the Speed of Life

Metal detectors are pretty descriptive – they detect metal objects.  Determining whether the objects present a threat requires additional layers of screening – and more importantly, they don’t account for newer threats that have emerged in recent years, including explosives, plastic weapons, and more.

Using a combination of active millimeter wave and electromagnetic sensors, solutions such as the Evolv Edge are able to detect both weapons and explosives, while avoiding the nuisance alarms that make lines slow down so people can remove keys from their pockets.

People and Bags; Bags and People

While security and prevention should stand alone, the reality is that each needs to be balanced with customer convenience. Stringent requirements to enter a public facility may increase security, but if the approach is too onerous, there may not be an event to protect as the customers stay at home.

Metal detectors are often accompanied by ancillary screening measures – like X-Rays or even hand searches – to account for bags and other items.  We want a facility to allow people to be people – so they can walk through the checkpoint at a regular pace without pausing, stopping or posing.  They can even walk through with their bags and are not required to remove materials from bags or their person.

Individual Screening – Eliminating Single File Requirements 

One of the biggest detriments of the walk through metal detector is that crowds need to line up and filter through in single file. If the person in front of you triggers an alert, then the entire line slows down as that person receives secondary screening.

It needs to be possible to screen individuals within crowds, pinpointing individual threats within a free-flow environment. This allows for screening on a more natural basis for crowds entering a facility, improving customer satisfaction while ensuring that everyone is vetted for weapons of all kinds.

Improving Guard Effectiveness 

As we discussed above, the walk through metal detector requires significant human intervention – each alert requires physical intervention for additional screening.  Whether it’s a pat down, or the use of wand technology guards need to manually vet persons of interest after each alert.

Solutions exist that are designed to help guards do their job more effectively – which is protect the customers of the facility they’re guarding. Potential threats are identified with a picture of the person who set off the alert, as well as a clear indication of where the threat exists on the body. This expedites secondary searches, while providing guards with actionable intelligence that could be the difference in preventing a mass casualty event.

The technologies used to try to detect and prevent the next mass casualty event are outdated.  Metal detectors were not designed to handle modern facilities or crowds. Security investment needs to be focused on more capable security systems that allow for fluid detection and a better visitor experience.

Learn more about Evolv Edge here.

Bulletproof backpacks, #2 pencils and iPads – Preparing for Back-to-School Season in the Era of Active Shooters

School Bus Stop

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO at Evolv Technology

The impending Labor Day celebration not only signifies the end of summer but also the start of the back-to-school season. Whether school buses are already making their daily routes through your neighborhood or you’re still chasing your kids to finish those final pages in their assigned summer reading, there is a dark cloud lingering above the back-to-school season: active shooter prevention and protection.

In past years, those of us who are parents have become accustomed to the run-of-the-mill back-to-school shopping list. However, as we enter the 2018-2019 school year, we are facing purchase decisions we never thought we would have to make. The list we’re armed with doesn’t feel quite as light in our hands.

Bulletproof backpacks, clear backpacks and TuffyPacks. These are now the items that fill back-to-school shopping carts.

The active shooter incidents that targeted schools last year created a ripple effect that was felt around the country. With reports of Parkland still ringing in our ears, school boards, superintendents and principals spent the summer brainstorming and hypothesizing about potential solutions. While parents have been tracking down bulletproof school supplies, teachers have been immersed in active shooter training programs while school districts are spending millions installing bulletproof windows.

Undeniably, this is an issue that needs to be solved particularly as soft targets and large places where individuals gather continue to be targets for attackers. Today, attackers are looking to inflict as much pain and damage as possible with one attack. What’s more, in the U.S. in particular, the access to guns has made it easy for anyone with a grievance to act on it in a way that can affect hundreds of lives.

As school districts, local officials, parents and students rally together to put forth a solution, it’s difficult to get a grasp on where to start or what even qualifies as a good solution. Some schools are already equipped with metal detectors – should others follow suit? Are metal detectors practical for a school environment? What about AI, facial recognition and other innovative technologies? When is it an invasion of privacy?

As the need for solutions to combat active shooters in schools continues to grow, the security industry is responding two-fold on both the consulting side and the technology side. Organizations of all sizes have been motivated to deliver technology that will help make school a safer place. As a result, the number of solutions and innovations available to us seem endless.

Technology can help us do incredible things. It can analyze thousands of data points in seconds. It can help you see things from miles away. It can identify an object as something specific based on pre-programmed characteristics. Leveraging technology – whether it be cameras or sensors – and applying it to physical security, particularly as it relates to schools, can significantly improve the safety of the environment without creating a prison-like atmosphere.

One technology that cannot be ignored when discussing this topic is face recognition. Today many schools require students to carry photo ID badges which allow them to get onto campus and also enter various buildings on school property. The face recognition most schools rely on today is based on staff using their eyes to detect someone or something that’s “just not right”.  This is inconsistent, inherently fallible, and biased.  Automated face recognition technology doesn’t blink – it’s always on, it’s consistent and objective, rather than relying on human memory and attention. Face recognition can be instrumental in helping to enhance a school’s security posture by automatically identifying individuals who shouldn’t be on the premises, or others that pose a potential threat based on input from local law enforcement, teachers or school administration.

Technology however, is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s more than just leveraging the technology available today to solve this problem – it’s about fostering a conversation. While it is promising to see school districts around the country spring into action ahead of the coming school year, there is a need for much closer, tighter coordination between all involved parties.

Only when we take an integrated, holistic approach – that marries technology and the broader discussion – will we find ourselves with a proactive plan to combat this problem. At Evolv, we look forward to continuing to cultivate those partnerships and foster those much-needed conversations as we work to identify a solution to this ever-pressing problem.

Corporate Offices Deserve More Than the Same Old Thing in Security

Office Building Security

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO, Evolv Technology –

In April, Nasim Najafi Aghdam walked onto YouTube Inc.’s Silicon Valley headquarters and shot three employees before killing herself, because she was angry about company policies she felt limited views of her videos. A few days later, Jimmy Lam walked into a United Parcel Service office in San Francisco and killed three and wounded two more before killing himself. In June, Jarrod Ramos killed five staffers of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis over a long-running dispute with the newspaper.

These are just three tragic signs of the growing scourge of mass shootings in corporate offices. While horrific school shootings have understandably dominated the news in recent years, workplace attacks have been more common. According to the FBI, 43 percent of mass shootings in the U.S. between 2000 and 2016 (the most recent data available) occurred in workplaces and other commercial buildings, compared to 22 percent in schools and on campuses.

Given the wide availability of guns and little chance of meaningful gun control, it’s safe to assume the frequency of such tragedies will continue to increase. Yet the tools available to companies that want to take proactive action remain unchanged: invest in metal detectors, and in the security staffers to operate them. While better than nothing, this combination of investments will never deliver the effective, affordable and operationally viable security systems companies deserve. Having been in the weapons detection business for over twenty years, here’s why I say this:

Metal Detectors:  Before I tear it down, I want to give this 90-year-old technology its due. If you want to find a small Saturday night special or box cutter, even a middle-of-the-road metal detector will find it. And metal detectors definitely deliver an effective deterrent. If one would-be killer decides to scrap his plan after seeing the metal detector at the front door of your company, the investment was worth it.

Screening with metal detectors is slow and cumbersome, they don’t provide security designed for the pace of life.

That said, metal detectors on the market today were not designed for the modern corporation. Most remain optimized for detecting small bits of metal, even if it causes long delays as workers queue up to empty their purses, pockets, backpacks and briefcases to be screened. With increasingly mobile, fluid workforces that include a high percentage of contractors and part-time workers, companies cannot afford the level of acuity that is required at an airport or other “hardened” facilities.

We took a very different approach. Along with optimizing for detection, we optimized for throughput and operational efficiency – in other words, a better visitor experience. Systems need to focus on actual threats, not every coin or key—and do so without requiring people to empty their pockets and purses, take off their shoes or remove laptops from their briefcases.

For today’s offices, embracing a risk-based security approach that recognizes the difference between low risk items like pen knives and actual threats, along with deploying high throughput screening systems is necessary to create lasting and effective security.

Screening with metal detectors is labor intensive and the units themselves are uninviting.

Staffing Up: Having more people working at checkpoints doesn’t necessarily make your environment safer, but it will make your company somewhat poorer. Capital cost—the price tag for the metal detection systems—is not the problem. According to the Department of Justice, a middle-of-the-line metal detector will cost around $3,500. The problem is that it typically takes at least three people to man each system — one to make sure individuals divested of anything metallic that might create a false alarm, another person to check the bags, and a third person to do secondary searches in the case of an alarm – legitimate or otherwise.

Venues, airports and office buildings need to consider technology that does the heavy lifting with fewer guards required. One that can differentiate between everyday objects and possible threats, where there’s no divestment required. A screening system that is powered by software results in more than an unspecified alarm. Instead, the location of the suspicious object is highlighted to facilitate faster, less guard intensive, and less intrusive alarm resolution.

Screening with metal detectors does not ready you for tomorrow’s threat.

And finally, there’s the question of future-proofing. I believe that any piece of equipment that operates as a stand-alone piece of hardware will have limited utility in the future. As of now, this describes nearly every metal detector on the market. Effective inspection systems today and in the future will need to be software-based, networked and have enough on-board computing power to watch out for a wider array of threats.

Read more here about six ways to prevent soft target attacks.