The Rise of the Digital Threshold
By Peter George, CEO, Evolv Technology
The New Normal
Throughout this global pandemic period I’ve had many conversations with leaders responsible for people screening at live sports and entertainment venues, workplaces, schools, houses of worship, and outdoor theme parks across America. We’ve all felt a pandemic anxiety. Along with our heroic first responders, few feel it more acutely than these men and women responsible for helping people safely gather in a time when the act of gathering itself has become a mortal threat. Their entire world was shut down and is now in the process of reformatting and rebooting.
Most of the security leaders I am talking with are struggling with how to reopen safely, attract visitors, and stay open indefinitely. One thing I know for sure: there will be no going back to the old screening procedures. Why? Because three waves of change are combining to crest and crash down on the thresholds of their venues at the same time. The future of people screening will be quite different indeed, but it will be much, much better—at least for those who learn to adapt.
So, what are these three waves of change? They are the Normalization of Pandemics, Armed Anxiety, and the Digital Transformation of Physical Security. Let’s look at each in detail.
Wave 1: Normalization of Pandemics
Pandemic viruses turn unwitting visitors into weapons. COVID-19 has weaponized people in a way never seen before. Everyone now knows that packed crowds and human contact multiply the danger. Visitors and employees are looking at every venue and workplace with new eyes and formulating an internal risk score based on what they see. They are highly sensitized and are looking for evidence that the operators “get it” and have taken action. They don’t always know what they should expect, but they absolutely will expect security screening to be visibly different. COVID-19 has changed the risk profile of gatherings forever. A pandemic-aware security posture is the new normal.
Traditional high-touch entry screening is obsolete. Helping visitors feel safe in the new environment while delivering a financially sustainable entry throughput is just not possible with old metal detectors, manual bag inspections, and the resulting crowds. Along with new regulations and mandated protocols that venues must abide by, visitors and employees now also want to see a very orderly, safe, and socially-distanced people flow. A touchless visitor experience is part of the new normal.
A pandemic-aware security posture is not some passing fad. There have been six serious pandemics in just the last two decades: SARS, MERS, avian flu, swine flu, Ebola, and now COVID-19. Will there be more? Absolutely. Every physical security team must now develop the ability to adapt to future pandemics that are certainly on the way. Ongoing pandemic readiness is part of the new normal.
Evolv Technology customers, such as Six Flags and Hersheypark, have adapted to the pandemic by rolling out a new comprehensive health and safety plan for reopening their amusement parks. In the case of Six Flags, they’ve added thermal imaging for identifying guests with elevated body temperature and Evolv’s touchless security screening as part of their social-distancing procedures. We believe this is the beginning of a new trend of multi-threat screening that is changing venues and guest experiences forever.
Wave 2: Armed Anxiety
Research shows that there are as many as 393 million privately owned guns in circulation in the United States. The recent pandemic has spurred a new surge in gun purchases. More guns were sold in the first eight months of 2020 than were sold in all of last year. While most crime has significantly declined during the pandemic, shootings and killings remain at pre-pandemic levels.
Soon after pandemic lockdown orders started to lift, there was a venue-targeted active shooting incident in Arizona, and other active shooter incidents in Kansas and Texas. In 2020 the U.S. is on track to have an all-time record year for mass shootings, having reached the 2019 total of 417 on September 2, with four months still left to go.
The fact that shooting incidents persist amid the pandemic is unsurprising when we consider the historic levels of depression and anxiety that people are experiencing right now. The CDC reports that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic—with the prevalence of anxiety being three times higher and depression four times higher than the same period last year.
The combination of an unprecedented number of weapons and unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression creates an unprecedented danger. We are living in an era of armed anxiety. Even though people are not gathering at scale today, that will change someday soon. Any gathering or workplace could be the next target. Any employee or visitor could suddenly erupt into the next violent threat. It could happen anywhere at any time.
Wave 3: The Digital Transformation of Physical Security
Outside the physical security world, businesses in every industry are unlocking efficiency and value by digitizing old manual and analog processes. They are re-imagining their organizations and operations in a future defined by software, data, sensors, mobility, networks, machine learning, automation, and analytics. It isn’t change for the sake of change; it’s change to allow the business to perform better in the modern world and be ready to respond more quickly to change in the future.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is using machine learning to help bars create more accurate orders, resulting in better customer satisfaction. Walmart is using shelf-scanning robots to optimize inventory performance. Black & Decker is using networked sensors to track the movement of materials in factories to increase labor efficiency and quality.
Is digital transformation worth the effort? Yes, with the greatest rewards going to those who start early and do it right. Across all industries, digital leaders clearly outperform the laggards in their industry in both growth and profitability according to recent Bain & Company research:
After comparing financial results for five categories of companies based on their degree of digital maturity, Bain found that revenues for the digital leaders grew 14 percent over the past three years, more than doubling the performance of the digital laggards in their industries. Profitability followed a similar pattern—83 percent of the leaders increased margins over that period while less than half of the industry laggards did so.
Unfortunately, physical security stands out as a laggard in digital transformation—especially when compared to the modern cybersecurity best practices that I am used to. Consider the findings of Accenture and Microsoft in their recent survey of physical security leaders:
“We found that although security leaders see the opportunity to enhance risk management with digital capabilities, the industry is at various levels of maturity, and at worst is a decade behind. Respondents identified “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decision-making based on subjectivity” as the two leading challenges facing physical security operations today. These challenges—operating reactively and improving decision-making—make it difficult to be proactive. This puts your people, brand and reputation at risk.”
It’s not surprising that physical security managers are worried about “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decisions” when their security screening technology hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1920s and is completely devoid of digital data. Old analog metal detectors, hand wands, and manual bag inspections are artifacts of a pre-digital age. Weapons screening sometimes feels like the land that time forgot.
Today’s lack of modern technology in physical security operations has created an undue reliance on security staff. The security officers are burdened with an ever-growing list of tasks: watch out for bad behavior, answer guest’s questions, handle minor incidents, and clean up the physical space, in addition to the core screening role of manually checking everybody entering for prohibited items. There are simply too many things for any one security guard to manage.
Things could not be more different in the cybersecurity part of the business. Because cybersecurity was born inherently digital, cybersecurity professionals are immersed in oceans of digital data and refined pattern recognition based on cutting edge artificial intelligence. They have deep and meaningful analytics and real-time threat intelligence that help them adapt to new threats, in real time, and continuously tighten their perimeter.
The Rise of the Digital Threshold
How long will it be until we close the gap between the digital haves in cyber and the digital have-nots in physical security? It’s already happening. A new vision and technology architecture are emerging. We call this vision the Digital Threshold. The Digital Threshold vision applies the proven patterns of digital transformation and cybersecurity to everything that happens in the space people cross as they enter and exit modern venues and facilities.
Within the Digital Threshold vision, venues and facilities can intelligently use data to create a frictionless experience for guests and employees. The result is an entry process that enhances the overall experience instead of diminishing it as it so often does today.
Making weapons screening faster and more precise is part of the Digital Threshold vision, but it’s just the beginning. What if the entry experience could also seamlessly integrate digital health screening and health credential processing into the screening process? What if electronic ticketing, VIP identification, and BOLO alerts could also be part of the same seamless flow? And what if the Digital Threshold generated useful analytics that enable data-driven decisions about system adjustments and people flows? All of this is part of the Digital Threshold vision that not only addresses the current environment, but also creates the ability to adapt and flex to handle future needs as necessary.
The Digital Threshold as a Technology Architecture
The Digital Threshold is more than just a vision for frictionless entry experiences—it’s a digital technology architecture of components that work together to realize the vision. These components include Sensors, Analytics, and Actions, all on top of the AI Platform.
In the Digital Threshold vision, sensors work together to spot multiple threats and to supply useful insights about visitors. Each sensor fills in a different part of the picture. Data from magnetic field sensors make it possible to see the difference between a gun and a smartphone. Thermal imaging cameras provide the raw data that makes it possible to spot people with elevated body temperature—a sign of potential infection. Visible light cameras could gather the imagery needed to count visitors, estimate visitor demographics, and identify visitors as employees, VIP season pass holders, or known threats. Microphones, biometric and credential readers, and other types of sensors could supply added insights about who and what is coming through the Digital Threshold.
As threats evolve and new sensors emerge, the Digital Threshold sensor array can expand as needed. Rather than sending visitors through an obstacle course of standalone technologies, the Digital Threshold allows venues to touchlessly screen for multiple threats in a single concept of operation (CONOP).
AI Software Platform
Digital Threshold sensors produce a flood of raw digital data that must be stored, organized, and turned into meaningful information. That’s where the AI software platform comes in. It’s the brains of the Digital Threshold vision.
AI uses machine learning to spot complex patterns in data. More data and more kinds of data make machine learning models more precise over time. Having multiple digital sensors makes it possible to bring everything together in a way that increases situational awareness.
The core value of the Digital Threshold vision is embodied in software. The hardware is almost incidental and will someday come in many different forms. Instead of installing new hardware to improve accuracy, the machine learning models could be upgraded just like the software on smartphones. This completely changes the game of system upgrades. As the Digital Threshold gets smarter over time, rolling out new capabilities becomes a matter of clicks, not forklifts.
At Evolv, we call our AI software platform the Evolv Cortex AI™. From the beginning we designed Cortex AI to be upgradable and extensible across a wide variety of threats. It’s the brain of all our products and an early expression of the Digital Threshold vision.
When the AI software platform identifies a problem, imagine if the Digital Threshold action flow engine could spring into action to orchestrate the appropriate response. It’s about much more than beeps and alarms. Imagine if visitors could see a temporary “Slow Down” message when sensors detect crowding that violates social distancing requirements. If a potential weapon is spotted, the visitor might be visually directed to a weapon screening resolution station on the left, while a person with elevated body temperature could be directed to a health screening station on the right. Season ticket holders might be greeted with a “Welcome Back!” display.
Whatever the situation, the Digital Threshold could guide visitors and guard staff with a suitable programmed response. The key word is programmed. Because it would be a software workflow engine, actions could be changed and customized over time without a hardware upgrade. It’s software-defined physical security that could prove to be just as revolutionary as software-defined networking.
Because the Digital Threshold feeds on digital data, it could become possible to generate an ever-growing number of useful analytics to help plan and execute a frictionless experience. For example, based on the type of event, day of the week, forecast weather, and current tour of a specific performer, a Digital Threshold-equipped venue manager could potentially answer questions like the following:
- What time did the arrival rate peak before last week’s event?
- What is the mix of families and demographics of individuals coming through different entrances?
- Is entrance throughput consistent with our social distancing guidelines?
- Which doors seem to attract the most VIPs?
- What are the demographic characteristics of our visitors by entrance?
- What is the alarm rate at each entrance?
- What are the top threats detected at each entrance?
Once the data is in an analytics platform, there is almost no end to the questions we might answer. Remember the Accenture and Microsoft research finding that physical security managers were worried about “intuition-led decisions?” Having powerful analytics could be a huge step down the path to data-driven decision-making. These analytic insights not only keep people safely moving based on their risk profile but also allow for venues to monetize the visitor experience more effectively.
Toward Agile Readiness
These four components of the Digital Threshold come together to transform the screening process to both block today’s known threats and quickly adapt to future threats as they emerge. I call this the state of “Agile Readiness.” Modern venues with agile readiness can quickly flex and surge into whatever comes next.
While it is impossible to specifically predict every new threat, digital technology makes it possible to reduce the window of exposure and minimize disruption. It’s about generating, harnessing, and trusting data to make the most important decisions about safety instantaneously. It’s about maintaining a security posture that engenders trust and confidence among employees and visitors. It’s security that is obvious but low-profile, strong but not invasive, fast but not cumbersome. That’s what the Digital Threshold vision could deliver, creating Agile Readiness.
Software Eats the World of Physical Security
Web pioneer Marc Andreessen has famously claimed that “software is eating the world” and I completely agree with him. The most interesting thing about cars these days is the software that makes them more efficient and safer. The most interesting thing about a watch these days is the software that makes it a fitness and health tracker and an extension of my phone rather than just a timepiece. The hardware of modern technology is still important, but more often only as a vessel for the innovative software it contains.
At Evolv, we are bringing the “software eats the world” phenomenon to security screening, and it’s already creating incredible value for our customers. Our early implementation of the Digital Threshold vision is successfully devouring the old security screening technologies, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s also empowering security teams to do an even better job of keeping people safe while optimizing financial and staff resources.
The software platform supplies the brain and connective tissue to integrate capabilities of new emerging technologies that transform the new visitor or fan experience. It becomes the security platform to seamlessly integrate biometrics, video analytics, crowd intelligence, health posture data, electronic ticketing, and on-demand liability wavers to allow for a frictionless visitor, employee, and fan experience in a post COVID-19 world.
We have made substantial progress in realizing the Digital Threshold vision in the Evolv product line. Customers are telling us we have it right, but in many ways, we are just getting started. There’s a lot of room left to apply artificial intelligence to physical security, including new types of sensors to consider and analytics to create. It’s an extremely exciting time.
Addressing the realities of pandemics and armed anxiety while also developing the potential of digital transformation will require a new approach. We must reimagine these challenges and opportunities in a whole new light, unbound by legacy technologies or preconceived, outdated ideas. Armies of people using old ways of working simply cannot keep the public safe. The old solutions don’t scale wide enough or deep enough to address these threats everywhere they can appear. Much like we’ve seen in other industries, technology can fundamentally bend the curve back in our favor and return peace of mind. And peace of mind is what we all want and deserve, now more than ever.
One Chance to Get it Right
I believe that the realization of the Digital Threshold vision is inevitable, and the time to get started is now. I also believe that the transition will create winners and losers. Facilities that embrace and adapt to the digital future will earn lasting trust and long-term viability and loyalty. Facilities that are slow to adapt may never recover from the resulting loss of business and trust.
If you’d like to join us on the journey toward the Digital Threshold, consider attending our new Digital Threshold Live webcast series. We’ll be speaking with leading experts to explore the business drivers, technologies, and human dimensions of the Digital Threshold vision.
A Look at Touchless Security Screening
New security screening requirements in a post-pandemic world
Pre-pandemic, venue screening procedures relied on metal detectors, hand wands, and invasive bag inspections. While it was evident those methods were inefficient, frustrating and intrusive, in the pandemic-sensitive world, they are far too slow and manual and will result in unsafe crowding and dangerous physical contact.
The days of putting our phones and bags in containers handled by security guards are over
At Evolv, we are solving the security screening problems of today with the most innovative technology and thinking, making it possible for venues of all kinds to keep visitors and employees safe from concealed weapons and pandemic health threats.
In the wake of COVID-19, a fundamentally new approach to security screening is necessary for venues to safely reopen. To help people visualize what this screening looks like, we’ve produced a new video highlighting Evolv Express™ in action at several customer locations.
It’s security screening that is touchless, respectful and efficient.
Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging
By: Steve Morandi,
VP of Product Management
Let’s take a moment and ponder several numbers…. 15,300, 775 and 2,581,230.
Bold enough to imagine the next number in the sequence?
Careful – these are not prime numbers; not the number of stars in some distant galaxy; they have no higher order relation to each other, nor a discernable pattern. Given the lack of information, venturing a guess at a fourth number in the sequence is a fool’s errand.
In fact, what they do represent are the number of 2019 non-suicide gun-related deaths in the United States; the number of 2003 SARS global deaths, and the YTD number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. All unpredictable, crossing time/global /threat boundaries, and somewhat random. Even with the daily non-stop drum-beat coverage of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the “experts” are no closer to estimating what the final tally will be for 2020 US cases or the economic impact it will impart.
The broader observation is that we live in a world of uncertainty with a variety of threat vectors. Some are known, while others are lurking behind a future unsuspecting corner.
The Coronavirus caught the world off-guard and it continues to affect every part of our lives. After months of the most substantially reduced business, education and social activities we’ve ever seen, we’re reemerging into a ‘new normal’, or quite possibly, the ‘now normal’.
Against this backdrop, safety is the top focus. For individuals and organizations alike, risk of exposure to the virus and defending against its spread are paramount. We’re all trying to come up with game plans and calling line of scrimmage audibles as we go. Recently, we hosted Evolv Advisor and Crisis Response Expert, Juliette Kayyem, in our “Adaptive Recovery” Webinar, where she provided guidance and insight as she walked through her Adaptive Recovery Framework to discuss reimagining recreation, education and the workplace.
Evolv has always been about keeping people safe as they live, work, learn and play. Our touchless security screening systems have redefined what’s required in modern physical security and have protected more than 50M people from guns, knives and bombs.
Today, COVID-19 is the biggest threat on virtually everyone’s mind. It “weaponizes” people. By doing so, it’s changing the very fabric of our society and challenging our social norms.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a surge of interest for thermal imaging as a front line of defense. Screening people for elevated temperature to identify potential carriers of the virus seems like one of several logical steps. There is a range of technologies and products available from multiple providers. In fact, I recently heard a reference to more than 150. Suffice to say, there is no shortage from which to pick.
Given the proliferation of options and “entrepreneurs”, it is critical to understand what thermal imaging can provide…and what it can’t. It can be a valuable component to a multi-layer security screening approach, but it’s not a silver bullet. Here are some insights to help your organization as you consider deploying thermal imaging.
- Almost all solutions are measuring a visitor’s skin temperature as a proxy for the person’s body temperature. It is a preliminary screening and should be paired with a more comprehensive health screening station (venue defined) for “alerted” individuals.
- It is important to vet the claims about accuracy and detection capability.
- Familiarize yourself with the comprehensive guidelines issued by the FDA this year to ensure solution alignment.
Later this month, Evolv TempCheck™, part of our new optional thermal imaging package for Evolv Express™, will become generally available. You might ask “Why Evolv?”
This optional package represents another proof point for our ability to quickly and easily provide customers with new capabilities to address the threats we face today and to move quickly to address those we’ll face in the future. It creates an enduring product, one that is flexible enough to grow with you over time, instead of becoming obsolete, where you tuck it away in a corner or closet.
Here is a sneak peak of what you can expect…a physically integrated capability that’s a powerful add-on option to the Evolv Express touchless security screening system. One that’s mindfully integrated into the Evolv Express concept-of-operations (conop) to enhance the touchless visitor experience while optimizing venue footprint requirements and security staff resources.
Each visitor can be screened for elevated skin temperature in an average of 2-3 seconds, followed by immediate, frictionless, and touchless weapons screening. With this optional add-on package, venues are now provided an integrated health and weapons screening touchless conop, and the ability to screen 800-1300 people per hour per dual-lane Express, optimizing facility space and resources.
As noted earlier in this blog, the threat vectors are varied, complex and unpredictable. Evolv’s unique multi-sensor, software-centric platform allows us to add additional sensors and AI-driven applications to respond to this expanding threat landscape and assist our customers as their world and operational requirements change.
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By: Julie Zomar & Sandi Marcus
In late May, Evolv hosted the “Adaptive Recovery” Webinar with Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette spoke about crisis management using her Adaptive Recovery Framework for managing an organization’s reopening and recovery across a variety of different sectors of the economy. At that time, planning was underway for schools to eventually reopen and for workplaces and recreation entities to reopen. This blog post has been excerpted from Juliette’s discussion on the webinar and expanded on.
Click here or on the image below to download the full webinar.
A month has now gone by, and while many organizations have put their plans into action, others continue to prepare for their reopening in the coming weeks and months. Many states have begun to lighten their restrictions, allowing restaurants, businesses and stores to reopen. And, even some theme parks and aquariums are opening their doors. Regardless of where you are on your reopening timeline, Juliette’s sage advice is worthy of embrace:
- Go slow, have a plan AND a back-up plan
- Embrace the “now normal” and use all available tools and resources
- When integrating technology, opt for ones with longevity and flexibility
Here’s What We Learned for the Recreation Sector.
The bad news is while the virus is new, crisis management isn’t. The good news is we have expertise and experience in crisis management. This pandemic is nothing if not a crisis.
First things first …. don’t think about opening up as a moment in time or a threshold to cross; think of it as an organic process. Here’s why. In times of crises, like hurricanes or tornadoes, there is a moment of “boom” and the enemy is gone, response and recovery begin – a specific moment or crossing a threshold if you will. In this crisis, the enemy isn’t gone and in fact and unfortunately, will be around for a while – – this is a “rolling boom” hence the need to continually adapt.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself.
As security, operations and guest experience managers, the reality is we’ll have to continue to adapt to the virus in real-time and over time. That means planning, re-planning, embracing new governmental requirements, responding to new outbreaks and eventually, hopefully, administering a vaccine.
But the common thread through the multitude of plans is risk reduction, a balancing act based on three elements:
- What’s the intensity of the interaction? Can I limit the number of people?
- Can I control the number of interactions? Is it possible to social distance? Am I able to enforce crowd control?
- What is my ability to mitigate? Can the cleaning protocols be modified? Is detection possible? Do I have access to testing capabilities?
Where Does this Leave Us?
Two things we know for certain: social distancing and touchless security/venue features will allow you to come back more quickly and ensure patron safety.
Specifically, for entertainment and recreation entities, here are a number of areas you can focus on as you plan your reopening, or continue to adjust over time. We’ve outlined changes based on your customer’s journey, from the time the individual approaches your venue or facility until they are inside and enjoying themselves!
Communication & Planning Prior to Arrival
Planning their Visit
One of the best ways to provide peace of mind, entice visitors to your venue and ensure they are well informed is by providing clear communication to them in advance. Use your website, create a video, use social media accounts, e-newsletters and email reminders to communicate the importance you have put on the cleanliness of the venue and the care around staff interaction with guests, as well as the considerations you ask of your guests to adhere to guidelines for the safety of all. And, don’t forget your employees. Consider implementing an employee health survey they take before arrival to work.
Go Mobile. When possible, implement paperless ticketing utilizing an app or email to provide patrons/guests with a scannable QR code or barcode for entry. A significant reduction in the use of paper tickets will eliminate surfaces from which germs can be spread. Don’t forget, additional benefits to implementing paperless ticketing is guests will no longer forget their tickets at home or have to stand in will-call lines. And, there is less fear of stolen tickets.
Stagger Arrival Times
If possible, a great way to help avoid crowds in the parking lot, on the trams or buses to the park entrances and at the park or venue front gates is to stagger arrival times. Just like the airlines provide boarding zones, and golf courses are now staggering tee times, you could implement entrance times or zones in advance to help keep the flow moving at a steady pace instead of bottlenecking anywhere on premise.
Contactless Guest Screening at Arrival
Ensuring the safety and health of guests and staff has required a number of measures to be put in place. These include asking patrons and guests to assess the risk they have coronavirus and could infect others, screening for elevated body temperature, and screening to detect and prevent weapons from entering.
How might you institute temperature screening to mitigate risk of allowing someone with a high fever with potential contagions into your venue? Will you use handheld temperature reading devices or larger touchless ones? Who will be overseeing the thermal read-outs and making the judgement calls on whether the numbers are accurate? Do you need to hire dedicated medical staff to manage this function?
What will you do when someone is found with an elevated temperature? It will be extremely important to have a policy and procedure in place and have properly trained your staff on how to react. You’ll also want to consider including language in your Venue Guidelines document or website that addresses what happens if a person is found with an elevated temperature, especially as it pertains to refunds and what to do with the rest of their party.
Touchless Weapons Screening
Many of you already had weapons screening in place to safeguard your venue, but prior to COVID-19 did they create long lines and force contact between guards and fans or guests? We have now entered a new phase of venue security where both weapons and health screening is important, meaning the systems used “yesterday” such as traditional metal detectors, pat downs and manual bag checks will no longer be the systems capable of screening for threats of “today” or “tomorrow”.
Consider a touchless security screening solution that can screen people and their belongings in real-time as they walk through your doors without long lines, and without invasive search procedures. You should look to technology that will grow with you over time, adapting to new threats and allowing you to add-on additional features and sensors for cost savings and increased security in the future.
Social Distancing & Hygiene Once Inside
Being able to boast that you sold out every seat will be a thing of the past for a while. It’s time to get creative. What can you do to change your seating structure to reduce the intensity of interaction and limit number of interactions? Can you sell every other or every third ticket? Do you have sections for parties of 6 to make it easier for groups to stick together without having to readjust your entire new seating chart? There are plenty of diagrams you can consider and put in place depending on attendance levels and venue layout.
If you’re an outdoor venue with “lawn seating”, you might want to put up ropes or mark off seats with tape or chalk to help enforce distancing.
For theme parks and attractions, it will be easy to manage seating positions of park guests on rides by training staff to control the seating placement, and the IAAPA has identified some guidelines to help you think about capacities that allow for physical distancing.
Across the country restaurants have had to reinvent themselves. In many states, eating in a restaurant is still prohibited, so restaurants have had to think outside the box on how to serve customers and keep revenue flowing. Some have opened up outdoor dining sections taking over parking lots, lawns, city streets and sidewalks, and many now offer take-out or delivery to ensure people can have their favorite gourmet food but eat in the comfort of their own home. For some restaurants, that means they are now accepting credit cards, PayPal or Venmo for the first time ever; some are offering a contactless self-ordering system and table service; others are having patrons scan a QR code for their food or drinks menu, make reservations or even connect to a restaurants payment tool. And, once self-serve, salad bars in restaurants and grocery stores are now open again with one distinct change, employees are now dishing out the patrons’ selections.
You can use some or all of these lessons learned from restaurants across the country to update your concession stands. Start with how to limit or erase lines. Do you allow certain sections to go to certain concession stands? Do you add more pop-up food stations to create more places to purchase food? Or better yet, do you launch/create an app for virtual queuing where the fan or guest selects the concession stand they’d like to purchase from and add themselves to that line, when it’s their turn, they are signaled to walk over to the concession? Or best of all, why not use an app in combination with waiters/waitresses; the fan or park guest downloads the app, orders their food and pays online, a waiter/waitress brings the food right to their seat.
Next, make sure you go touchless. Bring those condiment carts behind the counter and have your staff serve them. And, don’t forget about menus. If you usually hand out laminated menus reused with each guest, it’s time to throw them out unless you plan to sanitize them after every use. Although some venues have opted to print one-time-use paper menus, the cost to you and the environment will add up. Think about implementing an app or QR codes for ordering.
Hygiene Stations & Touchless Amenities
Keeping areas clean is paramount to stopping the spread of germs. Have you asked yourself how often railings, door handles, counters and bathrooms should be cleaned? Do you need to hire additional janitorial staff to ensure these areas are maintained? Do you have pop-up handwashing and/or hand-sanitizing stations throughout your venue or park? Do you remove all drinking fountains and install water bottle refill stations that are managed by staff and sanitized between each use?
What about your faucets, toilets and paper towel dispensers…are they automatic, or do they involve the turning of a handle? While some of these would be costly renovations after already losing revenue these last few months, you can choose a variety of ways to make your venue or facility cleaner and keep the presence and spread of germs to a bare minimum.
The Moral of this Story…
No matter how much you prepare in advance of reopening, one thing is for certain – you will need to watch, measure, evaluate and be ready to make adjustments as necessary.
Adhere to your local government guidelines and embrace the physical and technical adaptations you can make, to build confidence among your returning visitors, patrons and fans and ensure a safe and fun time for all.
Additional reopening trends, guidance and guidelines can be found on our COVID-19 Reopening Resources page.
The Active Shooter Epidemic: One Major Preventive Measure Launching Today
By: Anil Chitkara, President & Co-Founder, Evolv Technology
Too many mass shootings.
Too many venues without security checkpoints.
Too few technology solutions identifying the individuals who require a closer look.
Too many conversations with security professionals and venue operators asking for something better.
At Evolv, we have had enough. The “new normal,” as some have called it, is unacceptable. We’ve dedicated ourselves to keeping people safe by using technology to stop active shooters. The safer world we envision should be something that everyone simply expects without having to think about it.
Six years ago, Mike Ellenbogen and I started Evolv Technology with a mission to save lives.
Prior to the founding of Evolv, we spent more than two years conducting research. We met with security professionals across the globe and developed a deep understanding of modern threats and what security professionals need to prevent mass casualty events. We visited university labs and small tech companies to understand the latest innovations in sensors, data synthesis, image reconstruction, machine learning, and design thinking. Then, leveraging our combined 40+ years of experience using technology to solve critical, complex problems, we started Evolv.
At Evolv, we set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look. It’s a simple problem statement, but a difficult question to answer.
Our First Product: Evolv Edge
We launched the Evolv Edge system in 2017, after about 3 ½ years of research and development. Evolv Edge is one of a kind. It’s the first product in the industry to screen people and their belongings at high speed without requiring them to stop or remove items from their pockets and bags. From a technology perspective, Edge’s combination of sensors, signal processing, detection algorithms, and user-centered design is like nothing else on the market. Gone are the white bowls for your keys, coins, wallets, belts and cell phones; gone is the need to stop and put your hands in the air. There is no need to place your bag on a table for a guard to search prior to walking through the Edge. With the Edge, you just walk through.
Since its launch, the Edge has screened more than 25 million people around the world, primarily at entertainment venues, sports stadiums, tourist locations, workplaces, hospitals, and houses of worship. In that time, the Edge has detected more than 5,000 weapons. Prior to selecting the Edge, many of these venues tried walk through metal detectors, but found the experience for their visitors to be too slow and cumbersome. These outdated pieces of equipment also resulted in long lines, creating a potentially new security target and concern.
Feedback on the Evolv Edge has been very positive. We’ve seen first-hand the reactions of visitors going through the system and guards operating it. The most common question we are asked is “Why don’t they have these everywhere?”
What We’ve Learned
As we deployed the Edge and spoke to thousands of security professionals and venue operators, we again asked how we could advance screening technology to make many more venues even safer, while continuing to deliver a positive visitor experience. These conversations were enlightening. We heard significant concern about several different scenarios:
- Workplace Violence Prevention:
One of the biggest areas of concern was the proliferation of workplace violence. People should not be concerned for their safety while at work. Many employers, however, are not willing to put a traditional checkpoint in place. They are looking for a system that screens people with little-to-no inconvenience.
- Event Screening:
Another scenario we heard was about screening large crowds for events. The shootings in Las Vegas, Gilroy and Jacksonville Landing highlight the need to screen large numbers of people at special events.
- Tourist Screening:
The third scenario we continued to hear was around screening at tourist locations. Many of these locations, whether an observation deck, museum, or landmark, carry their own unique complexities. Many visitors are carrying food, clothing, cameras, and a host of other personal items for a day’s outing. Often there are international visitors speaking a range of languages.
These three scenarios were just a few of the many that were highlighted.
In many cases, security teams had tried traditional checkpoints with walk through metal detectors and found them to be unsustainable solutions. Traditional screening created massive lines, frustrating visitors or employees, and resulted in an unacceptable overall experience. These stories, which we continue to hear on a daily basis, inspired the design for our newest product.
Introducing Evolv Express
We’re now launching our second product, Evolv Express™. Whereas the Edge screens individuals one-at-a-time as they pass through the system for venues who want a control point, Express screens large groups of people at a time with no stopping, no emptying of pockets or removing bags. After eighteen months of development, we’re now releasing Express, the fastest threat screening product on the market that ensures every individual and their belongings are screened as they pass through without even breaking stride. We have incorporated the latest high-speed sensors that move data in real time to a detection algorithm that renders a decision as people pass through; with Express, 60 people can be screened every minute, that’s 3,600 per hour. The system screened more than 250,000 individuals during our pilot testing this spring and summer. As with the Edge, Express detects those individuals who require a closer look, and automatically alerts guards and security personnel to confirm those individuals are not a threat.
How Express Works
Evolv Express combines the latest technologies and user-driven design principles to provide this high throughput, truly frictionless approach to screening thousands of people per hour. It all starts with the brains of our system, the Evolv Cortex AI Software Platform™. This is a machine learning-based AI system that uses data sets we have generated from the system to train the algorithm. The training is conducted on a methodical basis, starting with a designated threat set, such as firearms. A range of threats is scanned, and classifiers are developed, refined, tested, tuned, and hardened to detect the threat set. Similarly, a range of non-threatening items such as cell phones is scanned through the system. A similar approach is undertaken to create classifiers. As the range of threats and non-threats are analyzed by our development team, the algorithm is continually refined. Over time, as new threats emerge and data is collected, the algorithm will continue to be refined. This process is done in our labs in a controlled manner. Once we are confident in the performance of each new algorithm, it will be released and upgraded to Express systems operating at customer sites.
A key Express component is the sensors that collect data to drive the algorithm. These sensors were designed by Evolv to optimize the separation of the signals for both threat and non-threat items. After scanning millions of people with the Evolv Edge system, we had developed a tremendous body of knowledge regarding sensors as well as the typical items that are carried by visitors through our systems. This body of data informed the design for the Express sensor set.
We have also optimized the data flow through our system. For each individual screened, the Edge system moves nearly 1 million data points to the algorithm, with a resulting red light / green light decision as the person exits. For Express, this ultra-high speed data-processing engine has been further optimized to render a decision in less than one second from the time a person starts walking through.
A significant amount of time was spent on the Express user experience. The UX has a number of components: the industrial design of the system, the interaction with visitors being screened, the operator’s interaction with the system, and the people moving and setting up the system. Each of these elements has been carefully thought through and tested with the respective user group.
- Industrial Design:
The Edge was a significant step forward in designing a system that is welcoming to people passing through it. We have taken some of those key design elements and made improvements to streamline the look even further. Additionally, we recognize these systems need to visually fit into the environment, so we added the ability for users to add custom branding or signage on a key component of the system.
- Visitor Experience:
We widened the overall design to make it easier for people to pass through with minimal disruption.
- Operator Experience:
Our focus on the operator experience has resulted in a system that is easy to operate as thousands of people pass through each hour. There are a mix of audio and visual cues for the operator. If an individual alarms, there is a picture of the person alarming, with the alarm location clearly outlined for further evaluation.
- Ease of Deployment:
Finally, a key element of the system is the ability to move it around to enable screening at different locations. The system has built-in mobility capability, for easy breakdown, movement, and set-up. When the system is powered on, an automatic software calibration routine runs through diagnostics, resulting in the system being up and operational in two minutes.
We are starting a roadshow to preview the Express to security professionals around the U.S. Next week we will be unveiling at the ASIS GSX Security Show in Chicago. After that, we will be in major cities around the U.S. And, you will start to see the Express working at venues around the country keeping people safe.
We set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look; how do you improve public security without disrupting the public? Over the past 6 years we’ve dedicated our resources and our expertise to answering these questions.
We’re humbled to have the opportunity to ‘make our dent’ in the universe and couldn’t be more excited to launch Evolv Express.
The Active Shooter Epidemic: Prevention is Possible
By: Anil Chitkara
Co-Founder & President, Evolv Technology
As I was traveling last week, two magazine covers caught my attention. They describe the epidemic that is taking lives, traumatizing families, and devastating communities across this country. In August alone, 53 people died in mass shootings; many more lives were forever changed. In the days after each event, news coverage follows a familiar arc: understand the event and the shooter, report heart wrenching stories about the victims, then engage in discussion about preventing this type of event from happening again. Inevitably, whether due to politics, disagreement on the right course of action, availability of funding, or some other reason, weeks will pass, and we will revert to the status quo. Another event will occur, and the cycle will begin anew, with more lives senselessly lost and many others permanently altered.
Despite this paralysis at the federal level, there is real, measurable action happening at the local level. My own children have been doing ALICE drills in their elementary, middle and high schools to prepare for active shooters for as long as I can remember. Think about that: reading, writing, arithmetic, and active shooter training. Bullet proof backpack sales have soared this summer. Sensors have been placed throughout buildings to detect shots fired and locate the source to help police respond. In the past twelve months, more than 500,000 people have been trained in bleeding control techniques and more than 14,000 stop-the-bleed kits have been sold. These are all important measures that help in the response after the shooting has started.
Mike Ellenbogen and I have spent the last eight years searching for different technologies that would detect an active shooter before he or she enters a facility. We have developed technology that is designed specifically to recognize that while most people entering a venue pose no threat, there may be a few individuals who require closer evaluation. Advances in technology finally make it possible. We use the best sensors and machine learning algorithms packaged in a welcoming design, allowing thousands of people to pass through while automatically detecting those few who may be of concern. Virtually everyone walks through with a cell phone in their pocket. The technology instantly differentiates that phone from a weapon, alerting guards to those few visitors who require a closer look. Over nearly two years, our first product has screened more than 25 million people. Thousands of weapons have been detected with numerous examples of deterrence when people saw the system and decided not to enter. Our newest product is launching this month.
Our mission is to prevent active shooter incidents. Regardless of the outcome of mental health and gun safety initiatives, something can be done today. Our technology is preventing weapons from entering facilities. We are saving lives. We work closely with the broader community of security professionals and technology companies to keep people safe. It takes people, process and technology to address this problem. Our technology is a foundational piece that we hope may reduce these senseless tragedies.
Something can be done today to curtail this epidemic.
Security Teams: Best Practices to Prevent Active Shooters in the Workplace
By: Neil Sandhoff
As the number of mass shootings continues to grow, the number of potential ‘soft targets’ seemingly grows as well. One of the latest target of such violence was the workplace, where a mass shooting occurred at the municipal center in Virginia Beach, claiming the lives of 12 people. This latest attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since November.
The shooter was a disgruntled employee, who previously had given little indication of the potential threat he posed to his colleagues. But the incident hammers home our sad new reality: the threat of an active shooter can touch us in almost every facet of our lives.
Violence in the workplace is not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing concern. Security professionals, business leaders, human resource workers, and venue operators need to proactively plan for these worst-case scenarios to protect employees. And, the best way to protect employees = PREVENTION!
Based on recent events and our years of experience in helping organizations provide greater physical security, here are some best practices to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.
A One-size-fits-all Approach to Security No Longer Fits
Security experts generally agree the use of a venue specific Risk Based Security (RBS) approach is preferable to “one-size-fits-all” solutions. RBS balances security, visitor experience, operational efficiency, and cost considerations. This will help you plan for high-pressure, emotional situations in the workplace, such as terminations or layoffs.
Interested in learning more about Risk Based Venue Security? Download the white paper authored by leading security experts, John Pistole and Mark Sullivan.
Know Your Facility
One of the first things any organization should do is perform an exterior physical security threat assessment. Walk the perimeter and identify all entry and exit points for your facility. Determine if you’re able to lock down the facility, and if so, identify what it will take to quickly make that happen without letting unwanted persons in, or a person of interest to escape.
Upon performing your perimeter check and identifying gaps, work with local law enforcement to make them familiar with your facility. They will also be able to provide additional preventative measures you and your staff can take to secure your facility and reduce your threat risk.
Your People and Policy Power
Your organization should focus on developing and communicating strong policy that clearly outlines what to do to prevent workplace violence. Departments and individuals, such as HR, Security, facilities managers and executives need to work together to define the high-risk incidents and acts of violence most likely to impact their organization. They should proactively put together multi-layered security plans for these scenarios to prevent workplace violence.
One critical example of this planning scenario is how to deal with employees upon termination or resignation. Your policy group needs to determine when it’s appropriate to have Security escort terminated employees from the building, and how to handle an employee when they have given their notice. There needs to be clear lines of communication to ensure that IT and Security immediately revoke computer and building access upon termination so that former employees can’t return to the premises, or access company files remotely. Once your multi-layered security plan is in place, educating employees on a regular basis is critical.
Visible Security = Deterrence
The National Institute of Building Science recently released a study showing that proactive building security design can reduce the risk of an active shooter incident.
Maintaining a strong security presence can not only deter attacks from taking place in your workplace, but simultaneously show employees they’re being protected.
Adding tighter security measures, like security guards and video surveillance technology, can help protect employees and customers, while actively dissuading potential shooters from entering the premises.
Screen for Weapons Without Using a Metal Detector
The reality is, only a select few entering a facility pose a threat, which poses the question: how do you treat the majority of individuals as the non-threatening people they are, while pulling out those very few for additional scrutiny?
Increasing security measures to protect employees should not create additional hassles on the way into work or make anyone feel like a suspect. To ensure you mitigate risks, while maximizing throughput, think “out with the old, in with the new”:
- Avoid Outdated Technologies
In the past, walk-through metal detectors (WTMD) were our best option to discover metal weapons prior to an individual bringing them into a venue. However, they were simply not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats.
Developed in the late 1900s, the WTMD technology has seen virtually no improvement and requires employees to stop and empty their pockets and bags. They also cannot distinguish between a computer or phone and a gun. This slow-moving, single-file security procedure creates long lines and frustrations for everyone involved, along with a soft target in and of itself.
- The Next Generation in Security: New Advancements in Weapons Screening
As the threats against our safety and security continue to evolve and become increasingly unpredictable, security systems must advance with them.
Look to incorporate innovative solutions that can mitigate risks while maximizing employee throughput. New technology, such as advanced sensors and AI, are being leveraged for modern weapons-sensing physical security solutions specifically made for today’s threats.
Screening solutions that detect guns and other weapons can help businesses better detect active shooters before they enter the building. These types of solutions ensure that security guards are better-informed of potential threats and can take quicker and more precise action to deter an attack from starting in the first place.
Airport Security: When it Comes to Employees, Metal Detectors Are the Problem
By: Bill McAteer
The aviation security community has always been proactive and innovative with the introduction of new security technologies, policies and strategies. Whether its revamping screening processes for carry-on bags or drones for perimeter security, adoption rates for new technology aimed at thwarting threats has always been a consistent focus the aviation community. Yet there is one area of airport security that remains unsolved – insider employee threats.
While the vast majority of airport employees are not threats, out of the estimated 1 million employees working in airports nationwide, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the need to protect against the insider threat. Especially with the steady uptick in insider threat incidents in recent years, A few examples include a baggage handler for Hartsfield-Jackson that was sentenced for gun smuggling, nine Dallas airport employees that admitted they plotted to smuggle drugs, weapons and plastic explosives, and a Horizon Air worker who stole and flew a commercial aircraft over the Seattle area.
Employees and Passengers Are Not the Same
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as applying the passenger screening process to employees. While passengers plan to arrive hours before their flight to account for the expected airport security lines, it is unfair to expect the same scenario out of employees.
When shift changes occur, hundreds and in some cases, thousands of airport workers enter the airport at once. Forcing those individuals to undergo the slow-moving and single-file screening process that is required of passengers would inevitably prevent employees from getting to their posts at their scheduled start time, thus causing flight delays, which can negatively impact passenger satisfaction and airline finances.
Metal Detectors Are Part of the Problem
These differences in screening scenarios shine light on the severe limitations of using metal detectors in the screening process.
The technology in metal detectors is designed to detect only metal and is unable to differentiate between other everyday metallic items, such as cell phones or belt buckles. Because of this, individuals are asked to stop and divest of personal belongings, which inevitably creates delays and long lines. Further, when guards repeatedly find that the detectors’ alarms are due to those everyday items and not weapons, they become desensitized and inadvertently less effective in the screening process.
Despite this being the norm for passenger screening, this process cannot keep up with the demands of employee screening.
Revamping the Employee Screening Process
With these significant limitations and challenges in mind, consider looking to replace antiquated screening solutions with more advanced technologies that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI), and utilize advanced scanners, or even biometric capabilities.
If you do choose to onboard new technologies, ensure they meet the following capabilities to best protect against insider threats and improve the employee screening process:
Because airport shift changes can include up to thousands of employees at once, it’s important that your next screening solution quickly and efficiently move individuals through without sacrificing security.
To do this, look for screening solutions that don’t require individuals to pause, pose, or divest of personal items. Technology that allows individuals to walk through with ease will best prevent bottlenecks, and ensure employees get to their stations on time.
Today’s threats extend far beyond the limits of metal, with bombs and other non-metallic weapons increasing in popularity every day.
To ensure modern threats do not go unnoticed, your next screening solution should be able to identify several types of weapons, as well as differentiate between a gun, toy, or cell phone. With advanced intelligent detection capabilities, security guards are better-informed of potential threats and can take quicker and more precise action to deter an attack to stay “left of bang.”
Implementing a rigid and predictable screening process can unfortunately create opportunities for people to use it against the venue that’s trying to stay protected.
The ability to deploy screening solutions anywhere at any time creates an element of surprise and significantly limits the insider threat. Airports should look for flexible solutions that are self-contained and easy to move so that security checkpoints can be deployed on a whim.
We can expect to see the insider threat problem proliferate across U.S. airports and beyond. To get ahead of this growing problem, consider reevaluating your employee screening process, educating yourself on the problem and identifying innovative solutions to address the ever-growing insider threat. An added benefit? Creating a no-hassle screening process for your employees can significantly impact job satisfaction and ultimately help with retaining employees.
Three Trends Impacting Entertainment Security
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America at Evolv Technology –
In past blog posts, we’ve discussed the need for weapons screening and how to improve security at performing arts venues. In taking a look at the broader entertainment industry as a whole, the conversation around security looks different.
At large concert venues and sports arenas, we often find that security is already a defined and established practice. These venues typically have a dedicated security team, led by a veteran security chief and supported by a series of technologies and procedures. In contrast, we find that many performing arts venues – primarily those that are not located in big cities – are usually at the beginning of their security journey.
While security and the practice of people screening is not new to the entertainment industry, there have been significant developments in the past five years that have impacted how security directors approach securing these venues. As patron experience, speed and increased detection continue to remain paramount in screening, security directors at these venues are starting to ask themselves what they can be doing better.
With that, let’s explore three ways entertainment security has changed and how these venues are looking beyond traditional security processes and procedures to improve security screening and create a more welcoming visitor experience.
Access to Artists Draws Attention to Stalkers
Weeks after wrapping her worldwide Reputation tour, it was revealed that Taylor Swift’s team was using facial recognition technology to scan for potential stalkers at her shows. Unbeknownst to her concert goers who stopped at kiosks to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her rehearsals, the system was secretly recording their faces and immediately sending the data to a “command post” in Nashville that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers. While Swift has started to receive some backlash over the use of the technology, it represents a growing trend in entertainment security: the need to control stalkers.
To-date, the majority of entertainment venues have taken the same standard approach to security – screening the entire general fan population via a manual bag search and metal detectors. However, as celebrities, athletes and artists provide more access to their fans – think paying $200 extra for a meet-and-greet ahead of the show – security directors are beginning to look beyond traditional screening methods to prevent known assailants from getting close to talent. While Swift’s team is one of the first to come out and acknowledge the use of facial recognition technology to spot and identify stalkers, they are not the first and will certainly not be the last. In the coming years, I expect we will see facial recognition technology leveraged more frequently to identify stalkers. In addition, the use of advanced sensors such as millimeter wave technology will be used to identify any concealed weapons, particularly non-metallic ones, that fans might be attempting to bring in.
Monetizing the Security Experience
Two headlines from earlier this year that really caught my eye when thinking about entertainment security, at sports venues in particular: “Nobody’s Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care,” and “College football attendance sees second-largest decline in history.” As ticket prices rise, and as temperatures continue to drop in some regions, a noticeable trend in sports and entertainment is that people simply aren’t going to as many games as they used to. Instead, they are choosing to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes from one of their many devices, often via streaming services.
Because of this shift, heads of these facilities are beginning to explore how they can create more value for the fan experience. Think about what Disney was able to achieve with the introduction of the FASTPASS – pay extra on top of a standard ticket price to spend less time waiting in lines for popular attractions. What if this same concept could be applied to security at concerts and sports games? An improved security experience, whether it be less invasive or a faster process, is one way venues are working to get fans back into seats – and they’re looking at how technology can help them do this.
Protecting Against Insider Threats
Unlike employees who work at airports or office buildings, many of the employees who work at entertainment venues are subcontractors who only work during games or when events are happening. There is a level of employee screening that is happening; however, it varies from venue to venue. For example, if a venue is home to a national sports league team – such as the Boston Bruins – the venue itself needs to meet the NHL standards for security. Employee screening is a component of meeting this standard. Because these venues already have standards in place for games, they tend to follow these standards for all events. However, venues that are not the “home” for a national team do not have a standard set of security practices in place for screening employees that they follow all the time.
The recent shifts in the entertainment landscape means that everyone from C-level executives to security directors at entertainment venues are tackling new security challenges every day. Whether they are hosting the AFC East Championship Game or night two of an artist’s summer tour – fan experience, detection capabilities and the overall speed of security will continue to dictate security processes throughout the entertainment industry. As the industry itself has shifted, we will start to see more of these facilities leveraging new, innovative technologies such biometrics and facial recognition technologies to combat today’s threats.
To learn more about what is ahead for physical security in 2019, check out our recent blog post.
Photo Credit: Jeff Egnaczyk
International Security Expo 2018: The Changing Demographics of the Security Industry
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.