The Transformation of Security Screening and a Touchless Customer Journey. Hear lessons learned from two experienced safety and guest experience executives.

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Reimagining Recreation

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:

  1. Go slow, have a plan AND a back-up plan
  2. Embrace the “now normal” and use all available tools and resources
  3. 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:

  1. What’s the intensity of the interaction?  Can I limit the number of people?
  2. Can I control the number of interactions? Is it possible to social distance? Am I able to enforce crowd control?
  3. 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.

Paperless Ticketing

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.

Temperature Screening

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

Spaced Seating

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.

Source: How COVID-19 Could Impact Theatre Design

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.

Touchless Concessions

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.

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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?

Police

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.

Drone Surveillance

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.

Facial Recognition

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.

Artificial Intelligence

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

Conference Room Table

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.

Figure 1: Identifies the differences between One-Size-Fits-All Security vs. Risk Based Security

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.

Figure 1: Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

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”:

Pipe Mail Bomb
Figure 3: This Image obtained by CNN shows a suspected explosive device received at the CNN bureau in New York City on October 24, 2018.
  • 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.
Evolv Edge
Figure 4: Evolv Edge®, the only high-speed smart checkpoint system that detects a wide range weapons, and metallic or non-metallic items of interest.
  • 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.

Neil Sandhoff Presents @ IAVM

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:

  • Speed 

    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.
  • Accuracy 

    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.”
  • Flexibility

    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

Haystack close up

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.

Source: Vox Media
Source: Vox Media

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.

Gray Backpack

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

Security Camera

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

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.

Why I Started Evolv: A Q+A with Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Ellenbogen

Mike Ellenbogen

By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –

I recently sat down with Mike Ellenbogen, our CEO and co-founder. We discussed his career path, what’s to come in the security industry in 2019 and Mike’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. See what Mike had to say.

Melissa Cohen: Mike, you have a lot of experience launching new companies and building something from the ground up based on a new idea. You did this with both Evolv and your previous company. Can you tell us about an accomplishment that shaped your career?

Mike Ellenbogen: Absolutely. I love building things and always have. I had a eureka moment that triggered the inception of my first company, Reveal Imaging. After new legislative requirements for airport security screening were put in place following September 11, I realized it made sense to employ smaller, less expensive systems and connect them together via a network of PCs. We rethought the way checked baggage was screened in the U.S., considering the total cost of the systems as opposed to just the cost of the technology. Ultimately, Reveal Imaging was acquired by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in August 2010. I’m immensely proud of the work that team did and grateful for the experience – it’s really helped shape who I am today and is what motivated me to keep going and start Evolv.

MC: Based on your extensive experience in the security business, what do you think makes a good CEO in the industry?

ME: There needs to be an inclination to push beyond the conservative approach that is so common in the security industry. There are plenty of businesses out there with the “same old” security technology that’s been around for decades. I like to push the envelop and ensure that my company is offering something that solves a problem while also surprising and delighting. I think it’s important that a security industry CEO sees the world that can be rather than replicating what’s already out there or being happy with the status quo.

MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building either of these businesses and how did you overcome it?

ME: The core technology at both companies was/is really complicated – millimeter wave imaging is a challenging field, so is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Of course, you have to have technology that works in order to have repeatable and reliable customers that you can pursue. Leading an emerging technology company and inventing fundamentally new technology, there’s inherently a lot of pieces you have to glue together. It’s daunting and the success of the company is reliant on a deep understanding of the physics of the real world and how to appropriately push the boundaries of electronics and processing.

With any new technology or applications, there is also a steep learning curve among your teams. An engineer may be familiar with the technology, but not with the application. On that note, another challenge is finding the kind of people that can help move the physical security technology industry forward. We look for people with credibility, who have energy and creativity, and can also help move the needle.

MC: What are some of the biggest trends and themes you’ll be watching for in the security industry in 2019?

ME: We’ll definitely see further integration of AI and facial recognition into more security technologies and applications. Disparate AI capabilities will need to be packaged in a way that is more useful for customers in 2019. We’ll also see an increase in compute power at the edge, for example, more compute power within security cameras rather than via a central/integrated service. And, I know people have been saying this outside of the security industry for years, but we’re going to see expanded use of the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) within security technologies. While this has already started, some major shifts in this space are coming.

MC: Let’s do some rapid-fire, fun questions. How would you describe your leadership style?

ME: I like to think I present a vision of what could be to get people behind that vision – you need people to believe in the vision to engage them in getting there. Considering I’m focused on solving problems in a new way, I also recognize that it’s important for me to surround myself with people who are optimistic but real.

MC: What is your top productivity hack?

ME: I live my life multi-threaded, which I think is just another way of saying that I’m always trying to be efficient. I do a lot of different things in parallel. For example, I turn the coffee pot on before I get ready for work so that it’s ready when I leave. I take pride in maximizing my time like this.

MC: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

ME: I always wanted to run a company and invent something – this desire was within me from a very young age. I would tell myself you need time to see the opportunities in the market, so find an industry you really love, make it your own, and word incredibly hard at it.

MC: What motivates you?

ME: Every day I’m motivated by the vision that the technology we’re working on is important and helping to save lives. As I mentioned before, I also love building new things and, in doing so, helping to bring success to the people around me.

MC: What best practices can you share for future leaders who are looking to start a business?

ME: It’s all about the people. Whatever your path, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the trenches with them, so you better like them. And of course, expect the unexpected!

International Security Expo 2018: The Changing Demographics of the Security Industry

London Eye

By Bob Falk, Managing Director of Evolv Technology –

For years, going to the United Kingdom Security Expo in London has felt like going to a get-together with members of a fairly tight-knit club. Everyone was involved in the business of selling, buying and deploying high-powered security screening gear for airports, government buildings and other hardened locations.

This year, the vibe was noticeably different, with many new faces, from different industries, and with different priorities—emphasis on the word “many.” With the awful increase in mass casualty attacks on soft-targets such as schools, corporate offices and houses of worship, registrations for the show rose 38 percent from the previous year. This includes corporate security managers, hoteliers, government regulators and municipal law enforcement officials from around the world.

The show organizers clearly saw this change coming. Besides renaming the show—as of this year, it’s the International Security Expo–they set off a sizeable part of the show floor for the dozens of drone (and counter-drone!) security products on the market. The centerpiece exhibit was the football field-sized “Protecting Urban Spaces Demonstrator,” where visitors could get a sense of the user experience of various futuristic products in a simulated city, right down to a smart man-hole cover that looks out for wanted criminals while it also monitors the water and gas levels around it.

We definitely saw the broadening demographics of the security business at the Evolv booth. We had visits from multiple soccer clubs and other professional sports teams, all looking for ways to lower the odds of an attack in their stadium without taking any fun out of a night at the game. We spoke with police departments, who wanted to boost security at police stations and potentially at crime scenes. Large event planning companies kicked the tires, as well.

As a rule, these people had little interest in speeds and feeds, and most probably couldn’t tell you the meaning of the acronym AVSec (Answer: Aviation Security). They wanted to talk more about use cases, and how to create fluid, non-aggravating screening processes that wouldn’t feel like lining up in an airport security queue. Rather than create impenetrable perimeters to find every last pen-knife, many wanted the ability to quickly stand-up a “pop-up” checkpoint—say, for the night when a dignitary comes to a restaurant or if a municipal alert goes out about a violent criminal on the loose.

I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these newcomers to the show found their way to our booth. Evolv set out in 2013 to create solutions for the growing soft-target threat. More than 200 of our Edge systems are already deployed, in everything from corporate headquarters to concert halls. We’re not the only company targeting these applications, but I’d have no problem betting that we have the most experience helping customers in real-world applications.

In terms of the amount of real business that got done at the show, it no doubt took place at the booths and suites of those aviation security companies. With the European Commission mandating a shift from traditional X-ray-based technology to systems based on CT-scanners, there’s a lot of money to be made or lost in that huge market.

But I took the stream of new faces at our booth and the show as a solid leading indicator of expanding demand for a new generation of security screening equipment. It’s an unfortunate statement on the level of violence in our society today that schools, businesses and sports teams need to think about the safety of their visitors. But it’s also a positive sign that these companies and institutions are thinking about responding rather than accepting it as the new normal.

Check out Six Ways to Prevent Soft Targets from Terrorist Attacks to learn more about options to combating today’s security threats.

Physical Security in 2019: What Can We Expect?

Lit Up 2019

By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President of Evolv Technology –

With 2018 coming to close, Evolv is intently focused on the year ahead and how we can bring a truly unique product that keeps venues, events and people safe. This year alone we saw more than 300 mass shooting incidents that targeted venues across the United States. 2018 also brought the first publicly available downloads for printing 3-D weapons in the U.S.; in the first four days, more than 1,000 people downloaded plans for 3-D printed AR-15 rifles. Attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued around the globe, with deadly threats occurring in Ghazni, Kabul and the Gercüş district of the Batman Province in Turkey. Security teams at commercial venues and transportation hubs continued to deploy technology to keep their facilities and people safe.

As we look to 2019, we see a number of developments in the physical security industry.

Increased use of multi-layered security plans

Organizations are using more layers of security as part of their overall security plan. This includes overt measures such as visible guards, police details, closed circuit tv (CCTV), turnstiles, bollards and personnel screening equipment, and less obvious measures such as increased use of intelligence, coordination with local, state and federal law enforcement, and social media analysis to identify local threats. The TSA has long used this multi-layer approach, which has influenced other organizations to follow suit. These plans will create layers of security that address and protect along four different capabilities: people, technology, intelligence, and process/protocols.

Technology as a force multiplier for guards

Security guards are the backbone of most physical security plans; however, it can get expensive as the guard force grows. Turnover among security guards is high and many new guards have a basic level of training and limited experience. Technology can be used to augment the guard force and provide them with tools that can increase their effectiveness. Instead of providing guards with more sophisticated training on how to operate equipment, there is a move to make equipment more ‘red light / green light’ to let guards know when they need to look more closely. Today, solutions also provide them with more specific, directive guidance to help them resolve an issue or alert that comes in. This augments guard capability and allows them to be more effective in what they do and more focused on areas of potential concern.

Value of deterrence more widely recognized

There are many examples where visible security served as a deterrence, shifting an attack to a different location. The Pulse Nightclub was Omar Mateen’s third stop that night, after there was a visible security presence at the previous two locations.  Countless security directors attest to the cache of knives found outside designated security checkpoints, and of people diverting before entering a screening point to lock their firearm elsewhere. Visible security and screening are effective both in the weapons they detect and in those that never coming through in the first place.

Increased reliance on third-party validation

With the infusion of innovation comes a surge of new devices, solutions, and systems. As more technologies and solutions are released onto the market, security teams will increasingly rely on third party validation as proof to identify which solutions are operationally sound. These third-party validations can come from industry peers or official designations such as the U.S. Department of Homeland SAFETY Act Designation and third-party testing organizations such as Safe Skies.

AI and biometrics go mainstream

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be all the rage. It shows up on product material, at trade shows and in your vendor’s sales pitches. We see the effective use of AI in specific products or solutions for specific industry applications. For example, using AI to review and learn from scores of medical radiology images to identify potentially cancerous anomalies that may be less visible to the human eye.  In 2019, vendors will find more practical applications for AI and deep learning models that add value.

Biometrics applications will also move into the mainstream and will expand beyond traditional applications. Not only will the application of biometrics expand beyond airports or highly secure facilities, it will also start to be used for non-security applications, such as customer service.  For example, the use of facial recognition technology to verify VIP guests at a sports stadium, ultimately improving the overall security screening experience for guests.

Interoperability to improve security effectiveness

As additional security layers are deployed, organizations are seeking to make them operate together as an integrated security infrastructure. This will allow the security team to quickly have a more complete picture of a security issue to execute its response. Additionally, it will allow more effective use of all equipment. For example, connecting security screening equipment with CCTV for monitoring and access control equipment will allow the team to see if a person of interest enters the facility, where they are, and if they are acting in a suspicious manner.

Increased blend of the cyber and physical security domains

The cyber and physical security domains are coming closer and closer together. In many organizations the responsibility to understand and mitigate these risks come under different groups. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) are now called on to work more closely together to keep the entire organization safe from a range of ever-changing threats.

Benefits of security technology expands beyond cost and risk mitigation

When it comes to physical security, one thing has become clear: there is a balance between a fully locked down, highly secure environment and an open and inviting space. Security directors and management teams are broadening how they look at the benefits of new security technologies and procedures by considering the impact on their physical space, visitor experience and overall mission. Traditionally, cost and risk mitigation have served as the primary factors when deciding which solutions to invest in, and while these are still paramount, we will start to see other factors driving decisions as organizations continue to deploy tailored approaches in 2019.

2018 was an important year for the physical security industry that demonstrated the significant role technology plays in addressing the evolving threat landscape. As we transition our thoughts to the year ahead, we will take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them as we continue to work towards creating solutions that keep people safe.

Read more from our Advisor, Mark Sullivan, former U.S. secret service director, on security screening in the 21st century.