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Traditional high-touch entry screening is obsolete.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.
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.
Touchless Security Solutions to Make Venues Safe and the Process Easy
Anil Chitkara discusses touchless security solutions for today’s entertainment venues.
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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By: Julie Zomar & Sandi Marcus
In late May, Evolv hosted the “Adaptive Recovery” Webinar with Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette spoke about crisis management using her Adaptive Recovery Framework for managing an organization’s reopening and recovery across a variety of different sectors of the economy. At that time, planning was underway for schools to eventually reopen and for workplaces and recreation entities to reopen. This blog post has been excerpted from Juliette’s discussion on the webinar and expanded on.
Click here or on the image below to download the full webinar.
A month has now gone by, and while many organizations have put their plans into action, others continue to prepare for their reopening in the coming weeks and months. Many states have begun to lighten their restrictions, allowing restaurants, businesses and stores to reopen. And, even some theme parks and aquariums are opening their doors. Regardless of where you are on your reopening timeline, Juliette’s sage advice is worthy of embrace:
- Go slow, have a plan AND a back-up plan
- Embrace the “now normal” and use all available tools and resources
- When integrating technology, opt for ones with longevity and flexibility
Here’s What We Learned for the Recreation Sector.
The bad news is while the virus is new, crisis management isn’t. The good news is we have expertise and experience in crisis management. This pandemic is nothing if not a crisis.
First things first …. don’t think about opening up as a moment in time or a threshold to cross; think of it as an organic process. Here’s why. In times of crises, like hurricanes or tornadoes, there is a moment of “boom” and the enemy is gone, response and recovery begin – a specific moment or crossing a threshold if you will. In this crisis, the enemy isn’t gone and in fact and unfortunately, will be around for a while – – this is a “rolling boom” hence the need to continually adapt.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself.
As security, operations and guest experience managers, the reality is we’ll have to continue to adapt to the virus in real-time and over time. That means planning, re-planning, embracing new governmental requirements, responding to new outbreaks and eventually, hopefully, administering a vaccine.
But the common thread through the multitude of plans is risk reduction, a balancing act based on three elements:
- What’s the intensity of the interaction? Can I limit the number of people?
- Can I control the number of interactions? Is it possible to social distance? Am I able to enforce crowd control?
- What is my ability to mitigate? Can the cleaning protocols be modified? Is detection possible? Do I have access to testing capabilities?
Where Does this Leave Us?
Two things we know for certain: social distancing and touchless security/venue features will allow you to come back more quickly and ensure patron safety.
Specifically, for entertainment and recreation entities, here are a number of areas you can focus on as you plan your reopening, or continue to adjust over time. We’ve outlined changes based on your customer’s journey, from the time the individual approaches your venue or facility until they are inside and enjoying themselves!
Communication & Planning Prior to Arrival
Planning their Visit
One of the best ways to provide peace of mind, entice visitors to your venue and ensure they are well informed is by providing clear communication to them in advance. Use your website, create a video, use social media accounts, e-newsletters and email reminders to communicate the importance you have put on the cleanliness of the venue and the care around staff interaction with guests, as well as the considerations you ask of your guests to adhere to guidelines for the safety of all. And, don’t forget your employees. Consider implementing an employee health survey they take before arrival to work.
Go Mobile. When possible, implement paperless ticketing utilizing an app or email to provide patrons/guests with a scannable QR code or barcode for entry. A significant reduction in the use of paper tickets will eliminate surfaces from which germs can be spread. Don’t forget, additional benefits to implementing paperless ticketing is guests will no longer forget their tickets at home or have to stand in will-call lines. And, there is less fear of stolen tickets.
Stagger Arrival Times
If possible, a great way to help avoid crowds in the parking lot, on the trams or buses to the park entrances and at the park or venue front gates is to stagger arrival times. Just like the airlines provide boarding zones, and golf courses are now staggering tee times, you could implement entrance times or zones in advance to help keep the flow moving at a steady pace instead of bottlenecking anywhere on premise.
Contactless Guest Screening at Arrival
Ensuring the safety and health of guests and staff has required a number of measures to be put in place. These include asking patrons and guests to assess the risk they have coronavirus and could infect others, screening for elevated body temperature, and screening to detect and prevent weapons from entering.
How might you institute temperature screening to mitigate risk of allowing someone with a high fever with potential contagions into your venue? Will you use handheld temperature reading devices or larger touchless ones? Who will be overseeing the thermal read-outs and making the judgement calls on whether the numbers are accurate? Do you need to hire dedicated medical staff to manage this function?
What will you do when someone is found with an elevated temperature? It will be extremely important to have a policy and procedure in place and have properly trained your staff on how to react. You’ll also want to consider including language in your Venue Guidelines document or website that addresses what happens if a person is found with an elevated temperature, especially as it pertains to refunds and what to do with the rest of their party.
Touchless Weapons Screening
Many of you already had weapons screening in place to safeguard your venue, but prior to COVID-19 did they create long lines and force contact between guards and fans or guests? We have now entered a new phase of venue security where both weapons and health screening is important, meaning the systems used “yesterday” such as traditional metal detectors, pat downs and manual bag checks will no longer be the systems capable of screening for threats of “today” or “tomorrow”.
Consider a touchless security screening solution that can screen people and their belongings in real-time as they walk through your doors without long lines, and without invasive search procedures. You should look to technology that will grow with you over time, adapting to new threats and allowing you to add-on additional features and sensors for cost savings and increased security in the future.
Social Distancing & Hygiene Once Inside
Being able to boast that you sold out every seat will be a thing of the past for a while. It’s time to get creative. What can you do to change your seating structure to reduce the intensity of interaction and limit number of interactions? Can you sell every other or every third ticket? Do you have sections for parties of 6 to make it easier for groups to stick together without having to readjust your entire new seating chart? There are plenty of diagrams you can consider and put in place depending on attendance levels and venue layout.
If you’re an outdoor venue with “lawn seating”, you might want to put up ropes or mark off seats with tape or chalk to help enforce distancing.
For theme parks and attractions, it will be easy to manage seating positions of park guests on rides by training staff to control the seating placement, and the IAAPA has identified some guidelines to help you think about capacities that allow for physical distancing.
Across the country restaurants have had to reinvent themselves. In many states, eating in a restaurant is still prohibited, so restaurants have had to think outside the box on how to serve customers and keep revenue flowing. Some have opened up outdoor dining sections taking over parking lots, lawns, city streets and sidewalks, and many now offer take-out or delivery to ensure people can have their favorite gourmet food but eat in the comfort of their own home. For some restaurants, that means they are now accepting credit cards, PayPal or Venmo for the first time ever; some are offering a contactless self-ordering system and table service; others are having patrons scan a QR code for their food or drinks menu, make reservations or even connect to a restaurants payment tool. And, once self-serve, salad bars in restaurants and grocery stores are now open again with one distinct change, employees are now dishing out the patrons’ selections.
You can use some or all of these lessons learned from restaurants across the country to update your concession stands. Start with how to limit or erase lines. Do you allow certain sections to go to certain concession stands? Do you add more pop-up food stations to create more places to purchase food? Or better yet, do you launch/create an app for virtual queuing where the fan or guest selects the concession stand they’d like to purchase from and add themselves to that line, when it’s their turn, they are signaled to walk over to the concession? Or best of all, why not use an app in combination with waiters/waitresses; the fan or park guest downloads the app, orders their food and pays online, a waiter/waitress brings the food right to their seat.
Next, make sure you go touchless. Bring those condiment carts behind the counter and have your staff serve them. And, don’t forget about menus. If you usually hand out laminated menus reused with each guest, it’s time to throw them out unless you plan to sanitize them after every use. Although some venues have opted to print one-time-use paper menus, the cost to you and the environment will add up. Think about implementing an app or QR codes for ordering.
Hygiene Stations & Touchless Amenities
Keeping areas clean is paramount to stopping the spread of germs. Have you asked yourself how often railings, door handles, counters and bathrooms should be cleaned? Do you need to hire additional janitorial staff to ensure these areas are maintained? Do you have pop-up handwashing and/or hand-sanitizing stations throughout your venue or park? Do you remove all drinking fountains and install water bottle refill stations that are managed by staff and sanitized between each use?
What about your faucets, toilets and paper towel dispensers…are they automatic, or do they involve the turning of a handle? While some of these would be costly renovations after already losing revenue these last few months, you can choose a variety of ways to make your venue or facility cleaner and keep the presence and spread of germs to a bare minimum.
The Moral of this Story…
No matter how much you prepare in advance of reopening, one thing is for certain – you will need to watch, measure, evaluate and be ready to make adjustments as necessary.
Adhere to your local government guidelines and embrace the physical and technical adaptations you can make, to build confidence among your returning visitors, patrons and fans and ensure a safe and fun time for all.
Additional reopening trends, guidance and guidelines can be found on our COVID-19 Reopening Resources page.
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.
Security Teams: Best Practices to Prevent Active Shooters in the Workplace
By: Neil Sandhoff
As the number of mass shootings continues to grow, the number of potential ‘soft targets’ seemingly grows as well. One of the latest target of such violence was the workplace, where a mass shooting occurred at the municipal center in Virginia Beach, claiming the lives of 12 people. This latest attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since November.
The shooter was a disgruntled employee, who previously had given little indication of the potential threat he posed to his colleagues. But the incident hammers home our sad new reality: the threat of an active shooter can touch us in almost every facet of our lives.
Violence in the workplace is not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing concern. Security professionals, business leaders, human resource workers, and venue operators need to proactively plan for these worst-case scenarios to protect employees. And, the best way to protect employees = PREVENTION!
Based on recent events and our years of experience in helping organizations provide greater physical security, here are some best practices to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.
A One-size-fits-all Approach to Security No Longer Fits
Security experts generally agree the use of a venue specific Risk Based Security (RBS) approach is preferable to “one-size-fits-all” solutions. RBS balances security, visitor experience, operational efficiency, and cost considerations. This will help you plan for high-pressure, emotional situations in the workplace, such as terminations or layoffs.
Interested in learning more about Risk Based Venue Security? Download the white paper authored by leading security experts, John Pistole and Mark Sullivan.
Know Your Facility
One of the first things any organization should do is perform an exterior physical security threat assessment. Walk the perimeter and identify all entry and exit points for your facility. Determine if you’re able to lock down the facility, and if so, identify what it will take to quickly make that happen without letting unwanted persons in, or a person of interest to escape.
Upon performing your perimeter check and identifying gaps, work with local law enforcement to make them familiar with your facility. They will also be able to provide additional preventative measures you and your staff can take to secure your facility and reduce your threat risk.
Your People and Policy Power
Your organization should focus on developing and communicating strong policy that clearly outlines what to do to prevent workplace violence. Departments and individuals, such as HR, Security, facilities managers and executives need to work together to define the high-risk incidents and acts of violence most likely to impact their organization. They should proactively put together multi-layered security plans for these scenarios to prevent workplace violence.
One critical example of this planning scenario is how to deal with employees upon termination or resignation. Your policy group needs to determine when it’s appropriate to have Security escort terminated employees from the building, and how to handle an employee when they have given their notice. There needs to be clear lines of communication to ensure that IT and Security immediately revoke computer and building access upon termination so that former employees can’t return to the premises, or access company files remotely. Once your multi-layered security plan is in place, educating employees on a regular basis is critical.
Visible Security = Deterrence
The National Institute of Building Science recently released a study showing that proactive building security design can reduce the risk of an active shooter incident.
Maintaining a strong security presence can not only deter attacks from taking place in your workplace, but simultaneously show employees they’re being protected.
Adding tighter security measures, like security guards and video surveillance technology, can help protect employees and customers, while actively dissuading potential shooters from entering the premises.
Screen for Weapons Without Using a Metal Detector
The reality is, only a select few entering a facility pose a threat, which poses the question: how do you treat the majority of individuals as the non-threatening people they are, while pulling out those very few for additional scrutiny?
Increasing security measures to protect employees should not create additional hassles on the way into work or make anyone feel like a suspect. To ensure you mitigate risks, while maximizing throughput, think “out with the old, in with the new”:
- Avoid Outdated Technologies
In the past, walk-through metal detectors (WTMD) were our best option to discover metal weapons prior to an individual bringing them into a venue. However, they were simply not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats.
Developed in the late 1900s, the WTMD technology has seen virtually no improvement and requires employees to stop and empty their pockets and bags. They also cannot distinguish between a computer or phone and a gun. This slow-moving, single-file security procedure creates long lines and frustrations for everyone involved, along with a soft target in and of itself.
- The Next Generation in Security: New Advancements in Weapons Screening
As the threats against our safety and security continue to evolve and become increasingly unpredictable, security systems must advance with them.
Look to incorporate innovative solutions that can mitigate risks while maximizing employee throughput. New technology, such as advanced sensors and AI, are being leveraged for modern weapons-sensing physical security solutions specifically made for today’s threats.
Screening solutions that detect guns and other weapons can help businesses better detect active shooters before they enter the building. These types of solutions ensure that security guards are better-informed of potential threats and can take quicker and more precise action to deter an attack from starting in the first place.
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.
The Mass Shooting Epidemic: Find the Needle, Leave the Straw
By Anil Chitkara, President, Evolv Technology, Inc.
I spent the last month traveling from East to West Coast of the U.S., meeting with security professionals and venue operators to discuss their perspectives on threats to their people and facilities. I met with people representing a wide range of venues including hospitals, casinos, entertainment venues, banks, office buildings, religious institutions, and professional sports teams. The discussions were illuminating.
The primary perceived threat is someone using a firearm to perpetrate a mass shooting. Given the prevalence of active shooters in the U.S., this concern is not surprising. There have been 2,040 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, according to Vox Gun Stats. The locations of these shootings are difficult to predict – they can happen anywhere. In the past 14 days alone, the news was filled with stories about the shootings at the Chabad of Poway in California, UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, and STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado.
The security community is well aware of the problem. Millions of dollars have been spent implementing “right of bang” detection solutions. Once the gunshots begin, what are the measures to minimize casualties, neutralize the threat, and tend to the injured? Automated door locks, bulletproof windows, and run/hide/fight drills are among the typical “right of bang” solutions. This week I got an email solicitation for a backpack with an NIJ Level III-A bulletproof protective panel. Nothing against the National Institute of Justice, but I don’t want to look for their certification when buying school supplies. The refrain I hear again and again is that there has to be a better solution.
We need to invest in “left of bang” solutions to prevent the bullets from flying in the first place. As I discussed this with security professionals, it was clear that the current solutions simply don’t work for most visitor-focused venues. Walk-through metal detectors are very good at detecting metal. They detect not only guns and knives, but belt buckles, keys, coins, and cell phones as well. Unfortunately, most venues are not at all interested detecting people’s phones and belt buckles. Metal detection of such small, innocuous nuisance items slows down the process and impedes both flow and visitor experience.
What I heard loud and clear was that the majority of venues do not want traditional checkpoints. No white bowls. No guards with latex gloves. No long lines. They recognize that the vast majority of people who are coming to their facilities are coming to work, play, pray, eat, sleep, or visit. They pose no threat to the venue or others inside. Security teams know there are only a select few who may pose a threat; these are the small number of visitors at whom venue operators want to take a “closer look.” And therein lies the dilemma: how do you treat the vast majority of visitors as the non-threatening people they are while pulling out those very few for additional scrutiny?
Much progress has been made in the world of sensors and software. As evidenced by our cell phones, sensors have become smaller, faster, better, and cheaper. Software has greatly improved to capture, move, and process massive amounts of data. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have allowed us to gain meaningful insights from data quickly and with relatively high precision. How can we leverage these technological advances to improve security?
The security professionals with whom I met are looking for security technology that allows people to easily go about their normal pace of life, while identifying those few individuals for a closer look. CCTV cameras can help with this approach but they are primarily focused as right of bang solutions. For the past three years, we’ve been working with organizations to deploy solutions that detect potential threats without impeding the flow of people entering a venue. In the past 18 months alone, ten million people have passed through our security systems; of these, a small fraction have been identified as carrying a concealed threat.
Tech’s Next Imperative: Physical Security
The following is an excerpt from a Forbes article penned by Evolv board member Alan Cohen. You can read the full article here.
The active shooter problem is one of the scariest and most intractable facets of public life. While mass killings represent but a fraction of total gun deaths, they tear apart the fabric of our open society — transforming entertainment venues, airports, houses of worship, office buildings, and schools into potentially instant war zones.
Why haven’t new methods or new technologies been driven to the forefront of protecting society and our “soft targets”?
Our safety technology must evolve.
In 1925, Gerhard Fischer was granted the first patent for a portable metal detector. For the most part, variants of metal detector technology have been the primary scanning security for venues and transit points worldwide for decades.
What metal detectors provide is a robust ability to find guns and knives at checkpoints (airports, government buildings, etc.) by comprehensively scanning every piece of metal, no matter how small or non-threatening.
Anyone who goes to an NFL game knows it can take 20 minutes or longer to get into a stadium before kickoff. And we have to go back through the detector if we forget to take our keys out, requiring us to empty our pockets into frequently dirty bins and allow a stranger to run a scanning wand across our bodies before we can pass.
We agree to this social contract in order to protect our safety inside of venues, and we put up with the time requirements. If there is no alternative, it is the only answer.
It’s time to leverage technology for advancing how we approach public safety.
The time to revisit this situation is at hand. There is a range of proven new physical safety technology capabilities from companies such as Evolv Technology (a company for which I serve on the board of directors), security video analytics from companies such as IBM, and new building access control from companies such as Johnson Controls.
These innovative technologies can help reestablish the balance between security and freedom of movement, keeping schools, houses of worship, entertainment and shopping venues welcoming and safe.
New scanning technologies, for instance, are built on radar instead of metal detection. They can find the worst threats — including guns and bombs — and distinguish an iPhone from a baby Glock with high accuracy. This clarity not only makes us safer but also restores personal privacy and dignity to security scanning checkpoints. The systems are more intelligent and can be connected to building systems, police, and others for more rapid response in the case of an incident.
Furthermore, hundreds or thousands of people can rapidly and securely enter one of these checkpoints in an hour, versus the small fraction who can pass through a metal detector in the same timeframe. We can walk normally through open gateways without emptying our pockets or bags and expect the same level of security. So, why haven’t more venues implemented these new technologies? The answer, simply, is cost and mindset.
New scanning technologies are more expensive than low-cost, half-century-old metal detector technologies. Most venue owners or managers either do not know these new technologies exist or may not see or fully understand the time value of shifting the inconvenience from their patrons (who pay in time) to themselves (who can offer a more efficient and welcoming experience).
Venue managers and owners care deeply about patron experience but often have an under-evolved position on the investments and technology around the first experience people have when entering their facilities. As a personal security technology company, you have one time to make a first impression.
The emphasis should be placed on addressing the business and customer experience drivers, not only the technological aspects. This will also require new kinds of partnerships and business models — physical-security-as-a-service — to make these new technologies easier to consume and to pay for.
If we continue on the current path of limited and inconvenient security scanning, clinging to the “punch card” era of physical security technology and practices, how can we expect change? The well-known saying from the 1800s, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, rings true: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
The full article is available here.
Relying on 100-Year-Old Technology is Not the Answer to Stop Today’s Active Shooter
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.