Transforming Human Security and Saving Lives

Evolv Earns Edison Award for Completely Reinventing Threat Detection

Last week I had the distinct honor of accepting, on behalf of everyone at Evolv Technology, the Edison Award we won last year for the “game-changing innovation” that our Evolv Express® system and Evolv Cortex AI™ software platform represent. We got word of the award last spring, but there was no public event at which to actually receive it – so while I participated in this year’s ceremony from afar, it was gratifying to virtually bring the award home.

That’s because the Edison Award is one you want to display proudly for all to see.  It’s one of the few awards that truly recognizes significant technical innovation in products that solve actual problems in the real world, as opposed to in a lab. And herein lies our story.

As the original announcement said, the award goes to companies that are “changing the world with their incredible vision, their commitment to innovation, and the introduction of new products and services that will make consumers’ lives safer, healthier and more sustainable.” 

Our second-generation product, Evolv Express, for which we earned this award, is a game-changing weapons detection system. With its’ ability to scan up to 3,600 people an hour and the intelligence to differentiate between weapons and personal items – without forcing people to empty pockets and bags or break stride – it’s improving security at the speed and scale required in this post-pandemic world. 

Evolv Technology is leading the digital transformation of physical security, one that is touchless and addresses today’s threat of pandemic viruses as well as concealed weapons. By harnessing our technical innovations in sensors and AI to overcome the widely recognized deficiencies of outdated security screening products, Evolv’s technology enables ticketed venues, workplaces and schools to vastly improve their ability to keep their customers, employees, guests, students and staff safe all while rapidly and more naturally enter these venues.  And, it’s all done in a way that integrates with the way people want to live, and more importantly, the way they deserve to live.

 

Edison, Bell and Early Metal Detectors

The Edison Award, of course, is named after Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, and holder of some 1,093 U.S. patents. Evolv Express is an entirely new approach to metal detection technology first created by another renowned inventor and Edison contemporary, Alexander Graham Bell.

While Bell is best known as the inventor of the telephone, he was also experimenting with a metal detection device around the time in 1881 when President James Garfield was shot by a disgruntled diplomat. The bullet was lodged in the president’s chest and for weeks physicians attempted to find and extract the bullet.

Bell had successfully used his device to detect bullets in sides of beef and shrapnel in Civil War veterans, so he thought it may be of use in Garfield’s case. But the device failed for a simple reason: unbeknownst to Bell at the time, underneath the horse-hair mattress on which the president was lying was another made of steel wires. Those wires interfered with Bell’s metal detector, which was based on electrical inductors, rendering him unable to find the bullet. In other words, the technology couldn’t separate the signal from the noise – we’ll come back to this technical challenge

By the 1920s, metal detectors using radio frequency (RF) waves began to come on the scene. While they have been refined over time, the metal detectors we all pass through today are based on that same 100-year-old technology.  

Interference: An Age-old Issue

And that technology still suffers from the same challenges that rendered Bell’s detector unable to help President Garfield….interference. As we all know, anytime you pass through a metal detector, you are asked to empty your pockets and remove any metal – keys, phones, wallets and so on, and pass through in single file. In effect, all those personal items are interfering with the detector’s ability to detect the real threat: weapons. Legacy technology and an outdated approach certainly don’t integrate with the way people live today.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

In 2013, after the Sandy Hook school shooting and Boston Marathon bombing and amid terrorists shifting targets to nightclubs and stadiums around the globe, we founded Evolv with the singular goal of keeping people safe by finding a way to detect weapons at places that aren’t mandated to do so – like nightclubs, schools, workplaces, sports and concert venues.

These kinds of venues, companies and schools need security that does not disrupt the public gathering experience and avoids the problems that come with traditional security approaches such as crowds, single-file lines, bag checks, wands and invasive pat downs.

We knew there was a hurdle to get over. If the detection device presents too much hassle and creates lines, people won’t embrace it.  It needed to be seamless, accurate and fit within venue operations.  It had to balance the desire to improve safety with the need to maintain or even improve the visitor entrance experience.

Evolv has a Singular Goal

Starting out with a small team of colleagues who are world-class in understanding detection challenges, we had the idea to combine state-of-the-art sensors with smart software and machine learning algorithms to solve this problem. After refinement and iteration, we’ve delivered on our goal: detection technology that is all at once accurate and frictionless. And can perform reliably under real world conditions.

Now, About that Signal to Noise Problem

When I say accurate, I mean we can reliably differentiate a weapon from a phone and the other objects we all carry on a daily basis, and we’ve accounted for variables such as wind and vibration that may throw off other forms of RF-based sensors. And by frictionless, I mean you no longer have to empty pockets, go through screening single-file, or even slow down your normal walking speed.

Security Can Only be Effective if it Works in the Real World

Innovation in our space has to address often competing requirements: balance the physics of detection, address the realities of the all the stuff we carry, and support the operational needs of the customer.  And it has to satisfy all three in a way that achieves high throughput, quickly and more securely.

That, I would argue – and the Edison Award folks apparently agree – is game-changing technology. And it certainly helps to make us all safer.

So, I proudly accepted the Edison Award last week on behalf of all the smart, dedicated people on the Evolv team who helped develop this technology, refine it in the lab, and bring it out into the field, where it can solve real-world problems. I hope both Edison and Bell would be impressed.

The Future of Security After Mass Reopenings

Using AI to Stay Safe

On April 21, 2021, Evolv Technology CEO, Peter George, joined Bloomberg Quicktake Anchor, Tim Stenovec, to discuss Evolv Technology’s touchless AI-based security screening technology.

Transcript

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Well, this week, a leader in AI touchless security screening announced an update to let customers comprehensively review, analyze, and collect valuable data on their security checkpoints. Evolv Technology says it’s screened more than 50 million people, second only to the TSA in screening people in the US. The company recently announced plans to go public using a SPAC merger with New Hold Investments. Joining me now is evolve technology CEO, Peter George. Hey Peter, thanks so much for taking the time and joining us on Quicktake this afternoon. Where would people have interacted with Evolv Technologies products without even knowing about it?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Well, they would know about it because they’d walked through our venues, Tim, places like stadiums, performing arts venue, schools. What would be different about walking into that venue through our system is that they’d walk into the venue and not break stride, no lines, nobody would touch their stuff, and we be able to screen for threats without them breaking stride and without them divesting of the things that they normally carry.

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
And that is a transformative experience.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Yeah. I mean, I’m looking at the website right now, and I know that I’ve certainly walked through these machines at museums and venues. I wonder, though, what it’s fair to call these, right? Are these metal detectors? Not really, right?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
No. Their threat detection security screening devices, advanced sensors powered by artificial intelligence. So we can find the needle in the haystack and the needle is the weapon amongst all the things that people are carrying.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Right.

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
And the magic is the ability to discriminate between a phone and a firearm. And that’s really, really hard. We’re all carrying phones and keys and things that are metal. Metal detectors are really good at finding all metal, but they’re really bad at finding weapons, and we find weapons really well.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
How do you do it? What’s the technology that you use?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Sure. So we’ve combined very, very advanced sensors. As you know, there’s been a lot of advancements in sensor technology and cameras, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. We fuse those all together. And we, as I said, could find the needle in the haystack. So as people walk through the venue, we’re creating different kinds of telemetry, the fragmentation of the metallic composition, the shape. Oftentimes, we’re looking for the barrel of a gun and when we find it, we can make a quick determination. But if it’s anything else that’s either metal or anything else they’re carrying, they can walk in without it. And so the ability to find a weapon on people while they’re moving without them taking their things out of their pockets is really, really important. You can imagine it completely transforms the entry into venues, where there are lots of people. We basically make lines go away and make the people in the venues on the other side super safe.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Okay. This sounds pretty great. I got to tell you, I haven’t been in an airport in a long time, but I know that the last time I was in an airport at TSA, this is not the technology they were using. There was a long line. Why doesn’t TSA use Evolv Technology?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Sure. So we’re going to let the TSA worry about the sterile environment and the sterile environment is making sure nothing gets on a plane with 500 people and goes 10,000 feet in the air. The founders of this company actually had spent a lot of time in aviation and recognize that there was a big need for safety outside of aviation, where people were gathering, stadiums, performing arts venues, theme parks, and using traditional technology like metal detectors, which by the way, Tim, was invented 90 years ago, to solve that problem just didn’t make any sense.

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
So it’s a really hard problem to solve, which is to find weapons on people that the weapons are concealed while they’re moving, and we solved the problem. It took us five years to do it and about a hundred million dollars. And so we’re in a great position now to democratize security and bring security to all those other venues, not like airports, that when people come back from this pandemic, they want to gather safely and we can allow that to happen.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
I want to understand though about why it wouldn’t be in an airport right now and why TSA wouldn’t use it. Is it because the technology isn’t as sensitive as a metal detector? You use the term a sterile environment.

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Yeah. So we are in some airports today. In fact, seven of them. People are using our technology for employee screening.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Okay.

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
So people could use it in their airport, but most of our focus is in the $20 billion TAM, which is non-aviation TAM, non-regulated.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
You say TAM, total addressable market?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
What about this SPAC here? There was a surge in SPACs over the last few months. We saw a real dip in the most recent time period. Why is SPAC the right way to go public?

Peter George (Evolv Technology CEO):
Yeah. So look, we knew we were going to raise money and/or go public in the next couple of years. Their both certainty to close, and then timeframe, time to the capital we thought was super important. And the SPAC vehicle provided us that in a really a terrific way. As you know, we’re helping reopen America. And now’s the moment for people to understand who we are and how we can help them. So we felt by fully capitalizing the company, we can take advantage of the accelerated growth that we have in the market and help customers reopen safely. So we’re thrilled about this. Our plan is to become a public company sometime in Q2, probably in June. We’re really excited about that and working very closely with all kinds of venues today helping them open up.

Tim Stenovec (Quicktake Anchor):
Yeah, well, it’s certainly cool technology and I hope to be back in museums and concert venues soon as well. Evolv Technology CEO, Peter George. Hey Peter, thanks so much for taking the time, and for joining us on Quicktake.

Living the Mission Every Day

I grew up in Paterson, N.J. where my dad served as a police officer for 25 years. At a very young age I decided to follow in his footsteps and set my sights on becoming a police officer. After graduating from high school, I was too young to apply for police work and honestly still had some growing up to do so I enlisted in the Navy. Upon being discharged, I returned to my hometown in New Jersey and focused on finding a job in law enforcement. While participating in the hiring process for several agencies, I was routinely asked why I wanted to be in law enforcement and my standard answer was that I wanted to help people and keep them safe. I know this sounds so stereotypical, but I truly believed this and carried this commitment with me throughout my twenty-eight-year career and still to this day in my current role.

I was successful in finding a career opportunity in law enforcement and started my career as a corrections officer working in a county jail, I later transferred to the courts as a sheriff’s deputy but still had a longing to be a patrol officer and moved with my family to the Seattle, Washington area where I served as a patrol officer with a city police department south of Seattle. While with this agency I worked in several positions in patrol, but my favorite assignment was in the community policing unit where I was very active in working with the community on crime prevention matters and also with an elementary school where I worked closely with the school staff and students delivering classes to them on personal safety and crime prevention.

In early 2002 I transferred to the Port of Seattle Police Department, which is responsible for policing Port owned properties on the Seattle waterfront and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Immediately after joining the Port, I became deeply involved in the community, volunteering in schools, conducting crime prevention training sessions, implementing block watch programs and educating people about safety.

In 2017, after serving 28 years in law enforcement I retired and joined a technology company that was implementing a security/safety program to enhance a mobile platform offering which moved me to the Tampa, Florida area. A few months later I was on my way to the gym when I heard the news report regarding the active shooter incident at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. I have to admit, it hit me really hard, I pulled off to the side of the road and listened to the report and felt this overwhelming need to help out, unfortunately I was far from the area and retired for a few months already so there wasn’t much I could do. I thought back of my years in law enforcement and what my former peers might be doing to work with their communities to assure everyone was safe but that was as much as I could do. I realized in that moment that I really missed being active in a job where my primary focus was to keep people safe.

Throughout my law enforcement career, I had committed an immense amount of time to personal safety training which included active shooter training for both the community such as Run, Hide, Fight principles and as the Training Unit Commander we implemented active shooter response programs for our officers. Additionally, I had the opportunity to serve as the Executive Producer for a video called Airport Active Shooter which came about after the active shooter incident at the Los Angeles World Airport (LAWA).

Several months later, while attending a conference in New Orleans I ran into Chris McLaughlin who was a VP of Global Solutions with Evolv who I had previously met when I was with the Port Police. I was really impressed with the company’s offering and upon researching the company further, I felt connected to the Evolv mission: To make places safe and keep people safe. That aligned with my life’s mission, the core belief in which I had always taken enormous pride, it seemed like a match made in heaven and it was!

A Common Purpose with Our Customers

At Evolv, I get to live my mission every day. A few weeks ago, I heard about the shooting at the Sarasota County Fair which is practically in my backyard. It really bothered me. It so happened we had an Evolv Express® system in the area because we were conducting a proof-of-concept pilot for a potential customer in the Tampa area. The system was available, and I immediately thought: “We can help.”

I reached out to our internal team and leadership all of which were supportive, so I called the Fair and spoke with their CEO and offered to help them. Our offer was to let them use an Express system free of charge for the remaining week of the fair to screen guests for weapons. They were thrilled. Seeing the Fair had an immediate need to keep people safe we stepped up and got an Express up and running to help solve a problem, just like my days as a police officer, focused on solving problems. We had great results at the Fair and the entire Fair Executive Team were very impressed with the Express and even more impressed with our Company for our willingness to step up and help keep people safe!

I really enjoy my role with Evolv, it affords me an opportunity to develop close relationships—friendships—with many of our customers. A big part of that is the fact that we share a common mission to keep people safe.

One example is the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando where keeping people safe was at the forefront of their “Front yard Festival” concept.  In order to provide patrons with a safe way to be entertained during the pandemic they pivoted and created an outdoor venue. Their front yard became their performance space and with a mix of new programming, they are reigniting the greater Orlando community – all within a safe perimeter where they leveraged the Evolv Express touchless approach to weapons screening as part of their reopening plan.

Another example is the Florence County School District in South Carolina. We all are too familiar with the shooting incidents that have occurred at our schools and the Florence County Schools are committed to preventing these types of incidents from occurring in their schools and implemented the Evolv Express to assist them in keeping staff and students safe.

Florence had metal detectors, but the superintendent, school board and security director wanted to use a more innovative way to prevent weapons from entering the schools. Despite the additional cost of the Express, they were focused on protecting their students and staff and made the investment in Evolv. After assuring we were the right fit for their environment, we worked with their team to deploy the Express and enhance the overall process of screening for weapons replacing the walk-through metal detectors which had more of a prison feel than that of a learning environment.

Safety First, Always

From the time I talked with Chris McLaughlin in New Orleans, one of the things that has been consistent is that we are always up front and honest with our customers—and with ourselves. We tell customers exactly what our systems can and can’t do and work with the customer to develop an overall process to address their screening needs. If we get asked a hard question, we always give the honest answer. Having been on the receiving end of many sales pitches over the years I can honestly say that was not my experience with many other companies. I truly appreciate that Evolv is honest in our approach to solving a very serious problem of gun violence and works hard at improving our technology to assure we meet our mission of keeping people and places safe.

When I left law enforcement, I couldn’t be sure I would ever find a job in the private sector that would give me the same sense of satisfaction I had and fulfill the need I have inside to help people. But Evolv is a truly mission-driven company. To me, that’s the beauty of the company. We all feel that way, from the junior levels of the company to the very top; doing what is right for the customer, keeping places safe, keeping people safe.

Digital Threshold News: A Conversation on Innovation, Ideation and Data

Where is the pace of innovation, ideation and data heading? It’s a substantial question with multiple answers. Technology and those behind it are at their crux problem-solvers, and the world still has plenty of problems to solve.

In looking at technology’s future, Evolv started the year utilizing its next episode of Digital Threshold Live to talk about innovation, the art of the possible, tech trends that are emerging and what’s next.

Host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, invited Bilal Zuberi, Partner at Lux Capital and Evolv Advisor, to the show. Lux Capital focuses on “investing in people inventing the future.” Zuberi has a passion for startups that solve big, practical problems. His insight and experience brought lots of hot topics to the surface during the conversation. 

Zuberi’s Story

Zuberi is a Pakistani immigrant that came to the U.S. for school whose father joked he should learn to make toothpaste.

“My dad told me to learn how to make toothpaste, because it was expensive, but they don’t teach you that studying chemistry,” he said.

What he did learn would fuel his American dream story. After earning his Ph.D. from MIT, he went from academia to industry.

“I wanted to make an impact on a greater number of people,” Zuberi said.

And he has by investing in companies that bring a greater value to society through technology that helps all and pushes humans to the next frontier. 

The Source of Innovation Has Shifted

Zuberi also spoke about the major changes with innovation. The patent system began the invention economy, but innovation was top-down until the past few decades, starting with the military, then commercial, then the consumer. 

The consumer technology evolution turned this around, as risk capital became available on the basis of an idea. Zuberi cites the iPhone is a great example. The touchscreen was a consumer product before it moved to other applications. That paradigm shift sets up where the world is now on innovation.

Tech Trends and Themes

So, how does Zuberi make investment decisions? Many times, it’s a process that starts with one company and plots a path. 

“We invested in a company that made satellite antennas, and they told us about a company producing nanosatellites, and then that led to a company using machine learning and AI to process satellite imagery. Then it was a cloud company to hold the data,” he said.

The themes he’s currently most excited about are biocomputation and simulations. Simulations allow you to model the physics of the space then throw in many different variations of what could happen. This type of application is very conducive to security in venues.

“With scenario modeling to plan, then real-time responses improve, [it’s about] turning data into how to respond, not just what’s happening,” Zuberi explained. 

Simulation can lead to better decision-making and making people and places safer. While the technology used in such an application isn’t unique, as it could be replicated, the differentiator is the speed of innovation.

What Did CES Show the World about Innovation?

To cap the conversation, Zuberi and Chitkara spoke about this year’s virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Trends that Zuberi picked up on relate to our current world.

“We’ve brought things outside of the home to the inside—education, healthcare, work, food, which leads to new problems and new technology,” he said. 

Business models for technology are also evolving. First, it was sell something, then sell something better in two years. Then it was sell the hardware and the software. Now, the hardware is free, but the subscription is the revenue generator.

Other key topics included automation and specificity – the idea of a solution that’s smarter and more targeted, not simply automated, trends in sanitization, the infrastructure our world will need to better accommodate innovative technology solutions, and more.

The service is what matters now, Zuberi believes. He also noted that there’s a quote of “software eating the world.” The answer? Data and simulation can fill it back up. The trick is to use the data deliver better solutions and experiences.

Watch the Entire Conversation

To view our OnDemand version of Episode 6, click here or the video below:

Too busy to sit in front of your laptop and watch these webcasts? We also offer these as a podcast. The Digital Threshold Podcast series is available on Apple, Google or Spotify.

 

Digital Threshold Live Episode 4 Blog – Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters

The continued acceleration of the digital transformation has unleashed seemingly limitless possibilities for technological applications, from the widespread global standpoint all the way down to the personal level. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) presents incredible opportunities in many arenas, including the practical application of physical security.

Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and host of Digital Threshold Live, was joined by Mahesh Saptharishi during episode No. 4 to discuss the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI. Saptharishi is the CTO of Motorola Solutions and leads innovation of mission-critical communications, as well as video and command center software.

Saptharishi provided a detailed and thorough perspective on the synergies of machine learning, AI, big data and analytics and how each plays a necessary part in the digital threshold and the creation of state-of-the-art physical security systems.

“Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” Saptharishi said. With regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”

Episode 4 Highlights and Provides Insights on the Security Threshold

Saptharishi explained that AI has come a long way in the past 10 years as computing power and speed have taken major strides – in large part due to the evolution of gaming GPUs. 

“I think storage becoming cheaper, network bandwidth becoming cheaper, the ability to collect data becoming more practical – that acted as a fuel that powered all these algorithms to develop further and actually reach their performance potential and become practical through the processor technology that has come out,“ Saptharishi said.

This has been instrumental in AI development. One such real world application is AI understanding audio and speech patterns, as well as analyzing video. Utilizing improved GPU technology, these computations can now be done in real time. What once was done with multiple computers can now be done from your phone.

Chitkara asked about the human impacts of AI and whether this technology is replacing people or helping them.

To a degree, AI can replace or augment existing jobs done by humans. 

“But, that said, humans are not static entities in terms of how we apply our intelligence,” Saptharishi said. When AI replaces certain tasks, people can focus on other areas where AI does not apply presently or perhaps cannot perform in the same way a human would. 

For example, AI can assist law enforcement by helping search for people on video or by calling the attention of the officer to a particular situation that would require human judgement on whether or not intervention is applicable.

Saptharishi also explained the process of developing AI for particular applications. It starts by identifying the human factor opportunities. By shadowing individuals as they progress through their normal tasks, the development team can determine tasks that can be automated or assisted through technology. 

This can greatly increase the productivity of the individual. With the automation of sensory actions, people can do things earlier, faster and also allow for more response time to particular situations, as technology has assisted in collecting information in an expedited manner.

In terms of security and technology, Saptharishi noted some key trends that have emerged.  One trend is the combination of sensing modalities to create more powerful solutions. Other trends are the increased utilization of cloud connectivity and the integration of public safety, private security and enterprise security.

Chitkara and Saptharishi also discussed the security threshold and the factors that make AI successful for this application.

“Along with this notion that you need a high throughput solution, the threshold cannot become a bottleneck,” Saptharishi said. 

The technology threshold needs to be as seamless as possible and not become an overwhelming burden to the flow of people. Secondly, the threshold needs to identify a person along with the right context. Is this person permitted to enter? Along with that identity permission, is this person bringing along something that is not permitted, such as a weapon or an illness?

“The days of somebody sitting in front of a security operations center, watching a video wall, hoping that they can detect something that is potentially suspicious or requires attention – I think those days are starting to reduce,” Saptharishi said.

Watch the full episode OnDemand now:

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Watch Previous Digital Threshold Live Episodes OnDemand.

Reimagining Recreation

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.

A Citizen’s Guide to Stopping the Next Active Shooter

It’s getting to be holiday season, a time for Thanksgiving Day parades, New Year’s Eve celebrations and other big public events. Given the almost weekly news of another mass shooting, many people—particularly parents—are no doubt thinking more about whether to just stay home given this year’s horrific events.

As a career security professional and the mother of three school-age kids, I understand the impulse. But we can’t go there. The truth is that we can’t hide our way to solving this problem. For starters, the costs are unacceptably high. Hunkering down reduces the richness of our lives as individuals and weakens the cultural fabric that holds our society together—at a time when it needs some serious strengthening. If anything, we should be making an extra effort to participate in the communal celebrations that bond us together in our open, free way of life.

I’m not suggesting we throw caution to wind, and seek out large crowds in vulnerable “soft-target” locations, in a reckless attempt to “not let the bad guys win.” On the contrary, I’m suggesting we each adopt a smarter, more engaged attitude about our role in protecting ourselves and others. We’ve been fortunate in this country to be able to consider our safety a right—something we expect our world-class law enforcement institutions, from the local cops to the Department of Homeland Security, to provide. Now is the time to admit that this right comes with responsibilities. We can debate gun control, mental illness treatment and other contributing factors of mass shootings forever (and probably will). But anyone who is serious about preventing the next mass casualty attack can best start by changing his or her own daily behavior.

Here are some guidelines:

“See something, say something” is not a marketing campaign. Barring the most obvious threats, most of us are conditioned to err on the side of inaction—either out of embarrassment, respect for other people’s privacy or, if we’re honest, in the hope that someone else will notify law enforcement of suspicious activity. This needs to change. Think of all the cases in which disconcerting actions or behaviors by a shooter were known to the community around him.  The truth is that a vigilant citizenry is one of the most effective ways to identify potential shooters before they act, and to prevent or quickly respond to attacks in the critical moments when they occur.

Talk to your kids. We all want to protect our kids from life’s dangers and evils. But they are probably already scared. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America report, more than 75 percent of people between 15 and 21 say fear of mass shootings was a “significant source of stress”. So, take the time to make a family safety plan before attending an event, and talk about the best ways to protect oneself if the unthinkable does occur, such as what they should do in an active shooter situation or if anyone sees something suspicious. This way, you’re making it clear that you’re not sending them blindly into a potentially dangerous world. You’re empowering them. Just as teaching our kids to wear seatbelts and bike helmets doesn’t keep them out of cars or off bikes, educating them on active shooter risks will allow them to worry less and enjoy themselves more.

Encourage, rather than complain, about the need for common-sense security measures – I hear lots of parents bemoan the fact that our kids live in a world where active shooter drills at school are a fact of life. But that’s where we are. Encourage your kids to pay close attention during drills, and talk to them about the experience. If it sounds like the exercise was ineffective, say something to school officials. The same goes for security checkpoints, whether at airports or in corporate offices.

Help organizers keep events safe – Our job as citizens at public celebrations is to enjoy ourselves. But we can also educate ourselves as to the proper protocols for event security, so we can notify event organizers if we see gaps. At parades or marathons, for example, the gathering place and the area beyond the finish line should be secured from the general public. Only people with badges, tags or some other authorization should be admitted. There should be a reasonable number of boots on the ground along the route, in terms of law enforcement at the event.

Keep your head – The active shooter problem is by no means trivial. More than 339 people have been killed and another 1,251 have been injured so far this year. And yet, the odds that you or a loved one will become one of these statistics is infinitesimal. Seventeen years after 9/11, I know couples who insist on flying separately on family vacations so the kids could not be orphaned by a terrorist attack. This is not necessary.

Do have fun. Our family likes a parade and a party as much as anyone, and we will be attending as many as possible this holiday season. The same goes for the people at Evolv. For too long, our society — and our industry — has thought about security as a wall to separate us from potential threats. Evolv’s goal is not to scare you, but to create technologies that allow us to gather as we like, with peace of mind. By following a few simple rules, each of us can also do our part to staying safe.

Read more about Examining Today’s Threat Vectors to Address Tomorrow’s Security Threats.