5 Minutes with Peter George – The Rise of Physical Security Screening Technology.

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5 minutes with Peter George – The rise of physical security screening technology

By: Maria Henriquez at Security Magazine

The pandemic has made one thing clear for security professionals across the globe, there is no going back to the old analog, invasive security screening methods we’ve used for decades such as metal detectors, hand wands and pat downs.

Evolv Technology CEO, Peter George, recently talked with Security Magazine where he called upon his decades-long track record in the cybersecurity industry to discuss how physical security is entering that same digital transformation.

In this interview, you’ll hear Peter discuss why the future of people screening must be touchless and digital in order to deal with the realities of today’s threats from weapons and viruses, and, while it’s impossible to specifically predict every new threat, digital technology makes it possible to reduce the window of exposure and minimize disruption. That’s what Evolv’s Digital Threshold vision could deliver, creating Agile Readiness.

Read the full interview.

The Rise of the Digital Threshold

The Rise of the Digital Threshold

By Peter George, CEO, Evolv Technology

The New Normal

Throughout this global pandemic period I’ve had many conversations with leaders responsible for people screening at live sports and entertainment venues, workplaces, schools, houses of worship, and outdoor theme parks across America. We’ve all felt a pandemic anxiety. Along with our heroic first responders, few feel it more acutely than these men and women responsible for helping people safely gather in a time when the act of gathering itself has become a mortal threat. Their entire world was shut down and is now in the process of reformatting and rebooting.

Most of the security leaders I am talking with are struggling with how to reopen safely, attract visitors, and stay open indefinitely. One thing I know for sure: there will be no going back to the old screening procedures. Why? Because three waves of change are combining to crest and crash down on the thresholds of their venues at the same time. The future of people screening will be quite different indeed, but it will be much, much better—at least for those who learn to adapt.

So, what are these three waves of change? They are the Normalization of Pandemics, Armed Anxiety, and the Digital Transformation of Physical Security. Let’s look at each in detail.

Wave 1: Normalization of Pandemics

Pandemic viruses turn unwitting visitors into weapons. COVID-19 has weaponized people in a way never seen before. Everyone now knows that packed crowds and human contact multiply the danger. Visitors and employees are looking at every venue and workplace with new eyes and formulating an internal risk score based on what they see. They are highly sensitized and are looking for evidence that the operators “get it” and have taken action. They don’t always know what they should expect, but they absolutely will expect security screening to be visibly different. COVID-19 has changed the risk profile of gatherings forever. A pandemic-aware security posture is the new normal.

Traditional high-touch entry screening is obsolete. Helping visitors feel safe in the new environment while delivering a financially sustainable entry throughput is just not possible with old metal detectors, manual bag inspections, and the resulting crowds. Along with new regulations and mandated protocols that venues must abide by, visitors and employees now also want to see a very orderly, safe, and socially-distanced people flow. A touchless visitor experience is part of the new normal.

A pandemic-aware security posture is not some passing fad. There have been six serious pandemics in just the last two decades: SARS, MERS, avian flu, swine flu, Ebola, and now COVID-19. Will there be more? Absolutely. Every physical security team must now develop the ability to adapt to future pandemics that are certainly on the way. Ongoing pandemic readiness is part of the new normal.

Evolv Technology customers, such as Six Flags and Hersheypark, have adapted to the pandemic by rolling out a new comprehensive health and safety plan for reopening their amusement parks. In the case of Six Flags, they’ve added thermal imaging for identifying guests with elevated body temperature and Evolv’s touchless security screening as part of their social-distancing procedures. We believe this is the beginning of a new trend of multi-threat screening that is changing venues and guest experiences forever.

Wave 2: Armed Anxiety

Research shows that there are as many as 393 million privately owned guns in circulation in the United States. The recent pandemic has spurred a new surge in gun purchases. More guns were sold in the first eight months of 2020 than were sold in all of last year. While most crime has significantly declined during the pandemic, shootings and killings remain at pre-pandemic levels.

Soon after pandemic lockdown orders started to lift, there was a venue-targeted active shooting incident in Arizona, and other active shooter incidents in Kansas and Texas. In 2020 the U.S. is on track to have an all-time record year for mass shootings, having reached the 2019 total of 417 on September 2, with four months still left to go.

The fact that shooting incidents persist amid the pandemic is unsurprising when we consider the historic levels of depression and anxiety that people are experiencing right now. The CDC reports that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic—with the prevalence of anxiety being three times higher and depression four times higher than the same period last year.

The combination of an unprecedented number of weapons and unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression creates an unprecedented danger. We are living in an era of armed anxiety. Even though people are not gathering at scale today, that will change someday soon. Any gathering or workplace could be the next target. Any employee or visitor could suddenly erupt into the next violent threat. It could happen anywhere at any time.

Wave 3: The Digital Transformation of Physical Security

Outside the physical security world, businesses in every industry are unlocking efficiency and value by digitizing old manual and analog processes. They are re-imagining their organizations and operations in a future defined by software, data, sensors, mobility, networks, machine learning, automation, and analytics. It isn’t change for the sake of change; it’s change to allow the business to perform better in the modern world and be ready to respond more quickly to change in the future.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is using machine learning to help bars create more accurate orders, resulting in better customer satisfaction. Walmart is using shelf-scanning robots to optimize inventory performance. Black & Decker is using networked sensors to track the movement of materials in factories to increase labor efficiency and quality.

Is digital transformation worth the effort? Yes, with the greatest rewards going to those who start early and do it right. Across all industries, digital leaders clearly outperform the laggards in their industry in both growth and profitability according to recent Bain & Company research:

After comparing financial results for five categories of companies based on their degree of digital maturity, Bain found that revenues for the digital leaders grew 14 percent over the past three years, more than doubling the performance of the digital laggards in their industries. Profitability followed a similar pattern—83 percent of the leaders increased margins over that period while less than half of the industry laggards did so.

Unfortunately, physical security stands out as a laggard in digital transformation—especially when compared to the modern cybersecurity best practices that I am used to. Consider the findings of Accenture and Microsoft in their recent survey of physical security leaders:

“We found that although security leaders see the opportunity to enhance risk management with digital capabilities, the industry is at various levels of maturity, and at worst is a decade behind. Respondents identified “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decision-making based on subjectivity” as the two leading challenges facing physical security operations today. These challenges—operating reactively and improving decision-making—make it difficult to be proactive. This puts your people, brand and reputation at risk.”

It’s not surprising that physical security managers are worried about “reactive threat management” and “intuition-led decisions” when their security screening technology hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1920s and is completely devoid of digital data. Old analog metal detectors, hand wands, and manual bag inspections are artifacts of a pre-digital age. Weapons screening sometimes feels like the land that time forgot.

Today’s lack of modern technology in physical security operations has created an undue reliance on security staff. The security officers are burdened with an ever-growing list of tasks: watch out for bad behavior, answer guest’s questions, handle minor incidents, and clean up the physical space, in addition to the core screening role of manually checking everybody entering for prohibited items. There are simply too many things for any one security guard to manage.

Things could not be more different in the cybersecurity part of the business. Because cybersecurity was born inherently digital, cybersecurity professionals are immersed in oceans of digital data and refined pattern recognition based on cutting edge artificial intelligence. They have deep and meaningful analytics and real-time threat intelligence that help them adapt to new threats, in real time, and continuously tighten their perimeter.

The Rise of the Digital Threshold

How long will it be until we close the gap between the digital haves in cyber and the digital have-nots in physical security? It’s already happening. A new vision and technology architecture are emerging. We call this vision the Digital Threshold. The Digital Threshold vision applies the proven patterns of digital transformation and cybersecurity to everything that happens in the space people cross as they enter and exit modern venues and facilities.

Within the Digital Threshold vision, venues and facilities can intelligently use data to create a frictionless experience for guests and employees. The result is an entry process that enhances the overall experience instead of diminishing it as it so often does today.

Making weapons screening faster and more precise is part of the Digital Threshold vision, but it’s just the beginning. What if the entry experience could also seamlessly integrate digital health screening and health credential processing into the screening process? What if electronic ticketing, VIP identification, and BOLO alerts could also be part of the same seamless flow? And what if the Digital Threshold generated useful analytics that enable data-driven decisions about system adjustments and people flows? All of this is part of the Digital Threshold vision that not only addresses the current environment, but also creates the ability to adapt and flex to handle future needs as necessary.

The Digital Threshold as a Technology Architecture

The Digital Threshold is more than just a vision for frictionless entry experiences—it’s a digital technology architecture of components that work together to realize the vision. These components include Sensors, Analytics, and Actions, all on top of the AI Platform.

Sensors

In the Digital Threshold vision, sensors work together to spot multiple threats and to supply useful insights about visitors. Each sensor fills in a different part of the picture. Data from magnetic field sensors make it possible to see the difference between a gun and a smartphone. Thermal imaging cameras provide the raw data that makes it possible to spot people with elevated body temperature—a sign of potential infection. Visible light cameras could gather the imagery needed to count visitors, estimate visitor demographics, and identify visitors as employees, VIP season pass holders, or known threats. Microphones, biometric and credential readers, and other types of sensors could supply added insights about who and what is coming through the Digital Threshold.

As threats evolve and new sensors emerge, the Digital Threshold sensor array can expand as needed. Rather than sending visitors through an obstacle course of standalone technologies, the Digital Threshold allows venues to touchlessly screen for multiple threats in a single concept of operation (CONOP).

AI Software Platform

Digital Threshold sensors produce a flood of raw digital data that must be stored, organized, and turned into meaningful information. That’s where the AI software platform comes in. It’s the brains of the Digital Threshold vision.

AI uses machine learning to spot complex patterns in data. More data and more kinds of data make machine learning models more precise over time. Having multiple digital sensors makes it possible to bring everything together in a way that increases situational awareness.

The core value of the Digital Threshold vision is embodied in software. The hardware is almost incidental and will someday come in many different forms. Instead of installing new hardware to improve accuracy, the machine learning models could be upgraded just like the software on smartphones. This completely changes the game of system upgrades. As the Digital Threshold gets smarter over time, rolling out new capabilities becomes a matter of clicks, not forklifts.

At Evolv, we call our AI software platform the Evolv Cortex AI™. From the beginning we designed Cortex AI to be upgradable and extensible across a wide variety of threats. It’s the brain of all our products and an early expression of the Digital Threshold vision.

Actions

When the AI software platform identifies a problem, imagine if the Digital Threshold action flow engine could spring into action to orchestrate the appropriate response. It’s about much more than beeps and alarms. Imagine if visitors could see a temporary “Slow Down” message when sensors detect crowding that violates social distancing requirements. If a potential weapon is spotted, the visitor might be visually directed to a weapon screening resolution station on the left, while a person with elevated body temperature could be directed to a health screening station on the right. Season ticket holders might be greeted with a “Welcome Back!” display.

Whatever the situation, the Digital Threshold could guide visitors and guard staff with a suitable programmed response. The key word is programmed. Because it would be a software workflow engine, actions could be changed and customized over time without a hardware upgrade. It’s software-defined physical security that could prove to be just as revolutionary as software-defined networking.

Analytics

Because the Digital Threshold feeds on digital data, it could become possible to generate an ever-growing number of useful analytics to help plan and execute a frictionless experience. For example, based on the type of event, day of the week, forecast weather, and current tour of a specific performer, a Digital Threshold-equipped venue manager could potentially answer questions like the following:

  • What time did the arrival rate peak before last week’s event?
  • What is the mix of families and demographics of individuals coming through different entrances?
  • Is entrance throughput consistent with our social distancing guidelines?
  • Which doors seem to attract the most VIPs?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of our visitors by entrance?
  • What is the alarm rate at each entrance?
  • What are the top threats detected at each entrance?

Once the data is in an analytics platform, there is almost no end to the questions we might answer. Remember the Accenture and Microsoft research finding that physical security managers were worried about “intuition-led decisions?” Having powerful analytics could be a huge step down the path to data-driven decision-making. These analytic insights not only keep people safely moving based on their risk profile but also allow for venues to monetize the visitor experience more effectively.

Toward Agile Readiness

These four components of the Digital Threshold come together to transform the screening process to both block today’s known threats and quickly adapt to future threats as they emerge. I call this the state of “Agile Readiness.” Modern venues with agile readiness can quickly flex and surge into whatever comes next.

While it is impossible to specifically predict every new threat, digital technology makes it possible to reduce the window of exposure and minimize disruption. It’s about generating, harnessing, and trusting data to make the most important decisions about safety instantaneously. It’s about maintaining a security posture that engenders trust and confidence among employees and visitors. It’s security that is obvious but low-profile, strong but not invasive, fast but not cumbersome. That’s what the Digital Threshold vision could deliver, creating Agile Readiness.

Software Eats the World of Physical Security

Web pioneer Marc Andreessen has famously claimed that “software is eating the world” and I completely agree with him. The most interesting thing about cars these days is the software that makes them more efficient and safer. The most interesting thing about a watch these days is the software that makes it a fitness and health tracker and an extension of my phone rather than just a timepiece. The hardware of modern technology is still important, but more often only as a vessel for the innovative software it contains.

At Evolv, we are bringing the “software eats the world” phenomenon to security screening, and it’s already creating incredible value for our customers. Our early implementation of the Digital Threshold vision is successfully devouring the old security screening technologies, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s also empowering security teams to do an even better job of keeping people safe while optimizing financial and staff resources.

The software platform supplies the brain and connective tissue to integrate capabilities of new emerging technologies that transform the new visitor or fan experience. It becomes the security platform to seamlessly integrate biometrics, video analytics, crowd intelligence, health posture data, electronic ticketing, and on-demand liability wavers to allow for a frictionless visitor, employee, and fan experience in a post COVID-19 world.

We have made substantial progress in realizing the Digital Threshold vision in the Evolv product line. Customers are telling us we have it right, but in many ways, we are just getting started. There’s a lot of room left to apply artificial intelligence to physical security, including new types of sensors to consider and analytics to create. It’s an extremely exciting time.

Addressing the realities of pandemics and armed anxiety while also developing the potential of digital transformation will require a new approach. We must reimagine these challenges and opportunities in a whole new light, unbound by legacy technologies or preconceived, outdated ideas. Armies of people using old ways of working simply cannot keep the public safe. The old solutions don’t scale wide enough or deep enough to address these threats everywhere they can appear. Much like we’ve seen in other industries, technology can fundamentally bend the curve back in our favor and return peace of mind. And peace of mind is what we all want and deserve, now more than ever.

One Chance to Get it Right

I believe that the realization of the Digital Threshold vision is inevitable, and the time to get started is now. I also believe that the transition will create winners and losers. Facilities that embrace and adapt to the digital future will earn lasting trust and long-term viability and loyalty. Facilities that are slow to adapt may never recover from the resulting loss of business and trust.

If you’d like to join us on the journey toward the Digital Threshold, consider attending our new Digital Threshold Live webcast series. We’ll be speaking with leading experts to explore the business drivers, technologies, and human dimensions of the Digital Threshold vision.

A Look at Touchless Security Screening

New security screening requirements in a post-pandemic world

Pre-pandemic, venue screening procedures relied on metal detectors, hand wands, and invasive bag inspections. While it was evident those methods were inefficient, frustrating and intrusive, in the pandemic-sensitive world, they are far too slow and manual and will result in unsafe crowding and dangerous physical contact.

The days of putting our phones and bags in containers handled by security guards are over

At Evolv, we are solving the security screening problems of today with the most innovative technology and thinking, making it possible for venues of all kinds to keep visitors and employees safe from concealed weapons and pandemic health threats.

In the wake of COVID-19, a fundamentally new approach to security screening is necessary for venues to safely reopen. To help people visualize what this screening looks like, we’ve produced a new video highlighting Evolv Express™ in action at several customer locations.

It’s security screening that is touchless, respectful and efficient.

 

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

Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging

By: Steve Morandi,
VP of Product Management
Evolv Technology

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.

  1. 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.
  2. It is important to vet the claims about accuracy and detection capability.
  3. 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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Reimagining Recreation

By: Julie Zomar & Sandi Marcus

In late May, Evolv hosted the “Adaptive Recovery” Webinar with Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette spoke about crisis management using her Adaptive Recovery Framework for managing an organization’s reopening and recovery across a variety of different sectors of the economy. At that time, planning was underway for schools to eventually reopen and for workplaces and recreation entities to reopen. This blog post has been excerpted from Juliette’s discussion on the webinar and expanded on.

Click here or on the image below to download the full webinar.

A month has now gone by, and while many organizations have put their plans into action, others continue to prepare for their reopening in the coming weeks and months. Many states have begun to lighten their restrictions, allowing restaurants, businesses and stores to reopen. And, even some theme parks and aquariums are opening their doors. Regardless of where you are on your reopening timeline, Juliette’s sage advice is worthy of embrace:

  1. Go slow, have a plan AND a back-up plan
  2. Embrace the “now normal” and use all available tools and resources
  3. When integrating technology, opt for ones with longevity and flexibility

Here’s What We Learned for the Recreation Sector.

The bad news is while the virus is new, crisis management isn’t. The good news is we have expertise and experience in crisis management. This pandemic is nothing if not a crisis. 

First things first …. don’t think about opening up as a moment in time or a threshold to cross; think of it as an organic process. Here’s why. In times of crises, like hurricanes or tornadoes, there is a moment of “boom” and the enemy is gone, response and recovery begin – a specific moment or crossing a threshold if you will. In this crisis, the enemy isn’t gone and in fact and unfortunately, will be around for a while – – this is a “rolling boom” hence the need to continually adapt.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself.

As security, operations and guest experience managers, the reality is we’ll have to continue to adapt to the virus in real-time and over time. That means planning, re-planning, embracing new governmental requirements, responding to new outbreaks and eventually, hopefully, administering a vaccine.

But the common thread through the multitude of plans is risk reduction, a balancing act based on three elements:

  1. What’s the intensity of the interaction?  Can I limit the number of people?
  2. Can I control the number of interactions? Is it possible to social distance? Am I able to enforce crowd control?
  3. What is my ability to mitigate? Can the cleaning protocols be modified? Is detection possible? Do I have access to testing capabilities?

Where Does this Leave Us?

Two things we know for certain:  social distancing and touchless security/venue features will allow you to come back more quickly and ensure patron safety.

Specifically, for entertainment and recreation entities, here are a number of areas you can focus on as you plan your reopening, or continue to adjust over time. We’ve outlined changes based on your customer’s journey, from the time the individual approaches your venue or facility until they are inside and enjoying themselves!

Communication & Planning Prior to Arrival

Planning their Visit

One of the best ways to provide peace of mind, entice visitors to your venue and ensure they are well informed is by providing clear communication to them in advance. Use your website, create a video, use social media accounts, e-newsletters and email reminders to communicate the importance you have put on the cleanliness of the venue and the care around staff interaction with guests, as well as the considerations you ask of your guests to adhere to guidelines for the safety of all.  And, don’t forget your employees. Consider implementing an employee health survey they take before arrival to work.

Paperless Ticketing

Go Mobile. When possible, implement paperless ticketing utilizing an app or email to provide patrons/guests with a scannable QR code or barcode for entry. A significant reduction in the use of paper tickets will eliminate surfaces from which germs can be spread. Don’t forget, additional benefits to implementing paperless ticketing is guests will no longer forget their tickets at home or have to stand in will-call lines. And, there is less fear of stolen tickets.

Stagger Arrival Times

If possible, a great way to help avoid crowds in the parking lot, on the trams or buses to the park entrances and at the park or venue front gates is to stagger arrival times. Just like the airlines provide boarding zones, and golf courses are now staggering tee times, you could implement entrance times or zones in advance to help keep the flow moving at a steady pace instead of bottlenecking anywhere on premise.

Contactless Guest Screening at Arrival

Ensuring the safety and health of guests and staff has required a number of measures to be put in place.  These include asking patrons and guests to assess the risk they have coronavirus and could infect others, screening for elevated body temperature, and screening to detect and prevent weapons from entering.

Temperature Screening

How might you institute temperature screening to mitigate risk of allowing someone with a high fever with potential contagions into your venue? Will you use handheld temperature reading devices or larger touchless ones? Who will be overseeing the thermal read-outs and making the judgement calls on whether the numbers are accurate? Do you need to hire dedicated medical staff to manage this function?

What will you do when someone is found with an elevated temperature? It will be extremely important to have a policy and procedure in place and have properly trained your staff on how to react. You’ll also want to consider including language in your Venue Guidelines document or website that addresses what happens if a person is found with an elevated temperature, especially as it pertains to refunds and what to do with the rest of their party.

Touchless Weapons Screening

Many of you already had weapons screening in place to safeguard your venue, but prior to COVID-19 did they create long lines and force contact between guards and fans or guests? We have now entered a new phase of venue security where both weapons and health screening is important, meaning the systems used “yesterday” such as traditional metal detectors, pat downs and manual bag checks will no longer be the systems capable of screening for threats of “today” or “tomorrow”.

Consider a touchless security screening solution that can screen people and their belongings in real-time as they walk through your doors without long lines, and without invasive search procedures. You should look to technology that will grow with you over time, adapting to new threats and allowing you to add-on additional features and sensors for cost savings and increased security in the future.

Social Distancing & Hygiene Once Inside

Spaced Seating

Being able to boast that you sold out every seat will be a thing of the past for a while. It’s time to get creative. What can you do to change your seating structure to reduce the intensity of interaction and limit number of interactions? Can you sell every other or every third ticket? Do you have sections for parties of 6 to make it easier for groups to stick together without having to readjust your entire new seating chart? There are plenty of diagrams you can consider and put in place depending on attendance levels and venue layout.

Source: How COVID-19 Could Impact Theatre Design

If you’re an outdoor venue with “lawn seating”, you might want to put up ropes or mark off seats with tape or chalk to help enforce distancing.

For theme parks and attractions, it will be easy to manage seating positions of park guests on rides by training staff to control the seating placement, and the IAAPA has identified some guidelines to help you think about capacities that allow for physical distancing.

Touchless Concessions

Across the country restaurants have had to reinvent themselves. In many states, eating in a restaurant is still prohibited, so restaurants have had to think outside the box on how to serve customers and keep revenue flowing. Some have opened up outdoor dining sections taking over parking lots, lawns, city streets and sidewalks, and many now offer take-out or delivery to ensure people can have their favorite gourmet food but eat in the comfort of their own home. For some restaurants, that means they are now accepting credit cards, PayPal or Venmo for the first time ever; some are offering a contactless self-ordering system and table service; others are having patrons scan a QR code for their food or drinks menu, make reservations or even connect to a restaurants payment tool. And, once self-serve, salad bars in restaurants and grocery stores are now open again with one distinct change, employees are now dishing out the patrons’ selections.

You can use some or all of these lessons learned from restaurants across the country to update your concession stands. Start with how to limit or erase lines. Do you allow certain sections to go to certain concession stands? Do you add more pop-up food stations to create more places to purchase food? Or better yet, do you launch/create an app for virtual queuing where the fan or guest selects the concession stand they’d like to purchase from and add themselves to that line, when it’s their turn, they are signaled to walk over to the concession? Or best of all, why not use an app in combination with waiters/waitresses; the fan or park guest downloads the app, orders their food and pays online, a waiter/waitress brings the food right to their seat.

Next, make sure you go touchless. Bring those condiment carts behind the counter and have your staff serve them. And, don’t forget about menus. If you usually hand out laminated menus reused with each guest, it’s time to throw them out unless you plan to sanitize them after every use. Although some venues have opted to print one-time-use paper menus, the cost to you and the environment will add up.  Think about implementing an app or QR codes for ordering.

Hygiene Stations & Touchless Amenities

Keeping areas clean is paramount to stopping the spread of germs. Have you asked yourself how often railings, door handles, counters and bathrooms should be cleaned? Do you need to hire additional janitorial staff to ensure these areas are maintained? Do you have pop-up handwashing and/or hand-sanitizing stations throughout your venue or park? Do you remove all drinking fountains and install water bottle refill stations that are managed by staff and sanitized between each use?

What about your faucets, toilets and paper towel dispensers…are they automatic, or do they involve the turning of a handle? While some of these would be costly renovations after already losing revenue these last few months, you can choose a variety of ways to make your venue or facility cleaner and keep the presence and spread of germs to a bare minimum.

The Moral of this Story…

No matter how much you prepare in advance of reopening, one thing is for certain – you will need to watch, measure, evaluate and be ready to make adjustments as necessary.

Adhere to your local government guidelines and embrace the physical and technical adaptations you can make, to build confidence among your returning visitors, patrons and fans and ensure a safe and fun time for all.

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Additional reopening trends, guidance and guidelines can be found on our COVID-19 Reopening Resources page.

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

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

Imagine going through theme park security without having to open all your bags and allowing a security guard to look through your things, or not even having to put your bags into an x-ray machine. That may be the case soon at some Six Flags parks.

As attractions begin reopening after their coronavirus closures, theme parks are reevaluating the security screenings their guests go through in light of social distancing measures, and Anil Chitkara’s company, Evolv Technology, has introduced an innovative touch-free system Six Flags recently featured in a video highlighting their parks’ new safety procedures.

Ever since 9/11, theme parks have implemented various types of security screenings to ensure that guests don’t enter with weapons or other prohibited items. The Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts use a combination of manual bag inspections and walk-through metal detectors, while Universal resorts employ automated bag-screening machines and walk-through metal detectors. However, in announcing their reopening plans, Six Flags has released the following video depicting the use of the Evolv Express security system in their parks, which permits guests and their belongings to be inspected while walking through without removing or opening their bags at all:

The new bag screening system depicted in Six Flags’ video comes from Evolv Technology, which was co-founded by Anil Chitkara. Six Flags will only confirm that the chain has ordered 37 Evolv Express units, but is not sharing publicly at this time at which parks (in addition to Frontier City) they’ll be used at, or how many units per park. Chitkara himself was unable to confirm or provide any specific details about his company’s involvement with Six Flags (a standard contractual limitation in the security industry). However, he did provide us this exclusive interview about how his team is helping to keep guests both safe and happy in the age of COVID-19. (Note: this interview has been edited for space and clarity.)

How did Evolv Technologies get started?

We started the company about seven years ago, myself and my co-founder, named Mike Ellenbogen. Mike has been in the physical security industry for 20 years after Pan Am 103 … My background is more sort of business and technology. And we’d known each other for 15 years at that point.

Anil Chitkara, founder of Evolv Technology

I had sold the company I was at, Mike sold the company that he was at, and we were trying to figure out what to do next. There were two pieces of motivation: the Boston Marathon bombing, and 9/11. In the case of 9/11, my college roommate and good friend was in the north tower; had just gotten married, had a kid and unfortunately, he was part of Cantor Fitzgerald [headquarters], which was tragic.

In the case of the marathon, my wife is a marathoner. She had run that marathon. I had my three young kids at the finish line. She finished about 45 minutes before the first bomb went off, got in the car and came home … and then all of the news happened. A good friend of ours was there, actually, he got hit with the second bomb and has fragmentation.

It really caused me to think about, what do I want to do next? And how do I want to spend the next 10 to 20 years? I had done a lot with technology to solve business problems. Mike had done a lot to bring innovative technology to physical security. And we went out and talked to lots of people about how they were trying to keep their venue safe.

I thought about my kids. I don’t want them to have to live a life where it is airport-style screening everywhere they go. I want them to be able to live as freely as possible, but also as safely as possible. And that was my personal motivation around starting a company.

Where is your technology currently in use?

At the end of 2017, we started deploying technology, so it’s been deployed and screening people since the end of 2017. We’ve screened well over 50 million people since it’s been deployed; it’s probably closer to 60 million people now. And our customers have used the technology to find thousands of weapons. The types of places where it’s deployed are largely commercial venues, so those have been performing arts centers, sporting stadiums, museums, and tourist locations. They’ve largely been places where they hadn’t used walk-through metal detectors up to that point; they’d been trying them, but they just weren’t doing the trick. They basically were too invasive relative to the visitors that were coming in.

About a year ago, we launched the second product, which is the Evolv Express product [which is what is featured in Six Flags’ video]. We’ve screened millions of people with that product. There were two very large events we did last fall screening with Express. One of them was a week long conference in San Francisco where we screened about 500,000 people, and then there was a second conference we did a month later where we screened about 400,000 people. So there’s been some very large-scale, high volume deployments that have been used the system. There are other applications where people are screening it using it for visitors on a daily basis.

We haven’t yet used it in a theme park environment. We’ve used it in large-scale events, and we’ve used them in some sporting events in some performing arts and entertainment events. But not a theme park event up to now.

What’s the hourly guest capacity and staffing requirement of the Evolv Express?

One unit of Express has two lanes. Each of those lanes could do 1,800 guests an hour, or 3,600 for that combined system. That compares to a walk through metal detector where they’re doing “take things out, check the body, check the bags,” those tend to be about 250 to 300, maybe 350 people per hour. So this is about 10 times the speed of a traditional approach.

If we look at the walk-through metal detector, let’s say you need 10 units. They tend to have two and a half people per unit; they have a front and a back and a supervisor. For us, you tend to have between four and six people per unit, so the staffing is significantly reduced.

The turnover in the security guard industry in the U.S. is 300% or three times a year, the entire industry. Therefore, training and getting skilled guards is a challenge, so we have automated some of the key tasks [and] provided a level of automation that assists the guard, so that they can be very targeted in their search.

What are the advantages to Evolv Express over traditional bag screening methods in a COVID-19 reopening environment?

Ninety days ago, we used to talk about 3,600 people an hour coming through; today, we talk about a touchless contact screening process. If I’m going through those 42-inch-wide lanes, without taking anything off and going right through and the alarm rate is extremely low, then I keep going; thousands of people are going through never being touched by a security guard. One benefit is the proximity of guard-to-visitor is lower, because they walk right through. A second benefit is the speed enables people to go through quickly without lines building up, so are eliminating visitor-to-visitor proximity as you’re waiting in line to go through security. And then anybody that’s looking at bags manually is touching every bag; people are trying to figure out how can I have less touch, but fundamentally, you’ve got to look in the bag when you’re doing a manual process.

How does Evolv Express improve the overall guest experience?

There’s so much work and effort that’s put in around the visitor experience, but then the security experience just grinds things to a halt. There is excitement, you get there, you want to get in, you want to participate or listen or enjoy the entertainment, and then grinding to a halt because I’ve got to stop, I’ve got to put my bag down, I’ve got to take everything out of my pockets. That’s we’re trying to fundamentally change: that visitor experience. That’s essentially one of the key principles of the technology we’ve developed.

Have there been studies demonstrating your technology’s detection rate compared to the more traditional methods?

We’ve done a number of studies with both government and commercial organizations, and a number of large organizations will do the testing themselves. They’ll do lab-based testing: we’ll take a system and run a bunch of threats through and a bunch of nuisance alarm items that they’ll read. And they’ll actually put threats on individuals and have them go through the system in operation. We’ve done that extensively; we can’t share specific customers or specific examples of what’s been done, but that’s been done a number of times in the U.S. and Europe. And what they had found is that the detection rate is a combination of the technology, plus the people operating it, plus the processing protocols … The breakdown oftentimes comes in the guards or the protocols relative to that overall system, so what’s been told to us is the effectiveness of the overall system has been much higher with our technology as part of an overall system than with the traditional technology.

How is the Evolv Express system priced?

We don’t publicly share actual pricing levels. We have a subscription model … a per month fee, not “buy it and you own it forever.” We include improvements, upgrades, service, and everything all combined into that one monthly price. So the pricing model is something we believe is pretty unique in the industry.

What is your current outlook as attractions reopen after the pandemic quarantine?

Everybody sort of hunkered down when COVID hit right. There was a lot of “how am I going to respond to this?” Over the last four weeks, we’ve had a significant amount of inquiries from organizations as they plan their reopening. And many of these organizations have used the “mag and bag,” (the walk through a metal detector and bag) approach in the past and they just don’t believe that’s the right way to go to do it going forward. What’s changed is they’re trying to balance the public health threat and the public safety threat, and do something that considers both of those.

It’s going to be different going forward. It needs to be lower touch, it needs to be cognizant of the public health risks, as well as the public safety risks. And so they’re looking to our technology to be able to help them enable that.

For more information on Evolv, visit evolvtechnology.com.

Security Screening in the 21st Century: An Interview with Mark Sullivan, Former U.S. Secret Service Director

Man with bags in building

By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –

Earlier this month, I sat down with Mark Sullivan, security industry consultant, former director of the United States Secret Service from 2006 to 2013, and board member for Evolv Technology. We discussed how the threat landscape has shifted in recent years and what people screening should look like today and in the future.

Melissa Cohen: Mark, you have an extensive background in security and have watched firsthand as security threats have evolved over the years. Is the world getting more dangerous? How has the shift in the threat landscape enabled attackers to carry out more mass casualty events?

Mark Sullivan: I understand why many people have anxiety about our world today and perceive it as becoming more dangerous. All too often we are witnessing the horror of terrorist attacks occurring around the world. In our own country we experienced the devastation and pain caused by mass shootings at schools, at the workplace and even houses of worship. These attacks are happening in open areas where historically we have felt safe and there wasn’t a need for any type of security.

Mental health issues, hate, radicalization and the ease of acquiring weapons, in most instances high powered shoulder weapons, has created a situation where they’ve kind of spawned off of each other. Potential attackers may see what other people have done with weapons and decide that’s not a bad way to go. They might even calculate that they won’t make it out alive – and if you’re dealing with someone who’s not concerned with being killed that’s a difficult adversary to stop.

MC: Given these threats, what types of businesses are you seeing conduct more people screening and how has this evolved? Are there any types of organizations for which screening is not a good option?

MS: There are a variety of businesses and organizations I have worked with that are concerned with the safety of their employees, congregations, patrons, fans, clients and contractors. They are also concerned with their brand and want to protect that as well. Today more and more buildings are checking your ID, taking your picture, directing you to an elevator and controlling where that elevator is going. This level of screening wasn’t happening 20 years ago and becomes more common every day.

However, for many types of businesses like hotels, it’s difficult and cost prohibitive to control every single exterior door with a security officer or to conduct sweeps of every piece of luggage entering the hotel.  We all want to feel safe, but what is the impact of securing every door, or the process of screening every piece of luggage?  And at what cost to the visitor experience. For example, would it increase hotel room prices? What kind of process would that create for checking in? Any organization has to weigh the risks to experience with the benefits of enhanced security. Something like TSA PreCheck is a great model for cutting down on the risk, but we do need to streamline the process for people who don’t need to be screened every single time.

MC: Along those lines, what should the screening experience look like for consumers and organizations?

MS: I think there’s a fine line between doing nothing and recommending we hunker down because there’s a perceived threat or boogeyman around every corner. We live in a democracy. People want their freedom. We don’t want to deal with security every place we go.

From the consumer’s perspective, 20 years ago, we never gave any thought to having screening at a professional sporting event. Now you go to a college game and you’re screened. What’s unthinkable not long ago is now commonplace. Today, part of the experience of going to a show or a game is planning for how long it will take to go through the scanning process. Similarly, from a business or venue’s perspective, they’re looking at their overall security plan and constantly reevaluating whether they need to have screening for their Broadway show or cruise ship or at the train station. For these “nontraditional” types of venues, it’s a matter of choosing the right technology and the right level of hassle-free screening to still allow for a superior visitor and employee experience.

MC: Do you think society can afford to not have more screening? What’s the right way to go about it to balance experience, risks and the changing threat landscape?

MS: Well, it’s really not just about having people physically screened. It’s also about having the appropriate information or intelligence to make informed risk management decisions. For example, in a business setting, many companies today are doing more to monitor not only what is occurring outside of their business but also within their business.  One of the biggest risks to a business or organization today is the “Insider risk or threat.” Many businesses are continually updating their databases on employees to keep an eye out for potential risks and watching what they do on social media. There’s so much internal and external data and information companies need to be aware of now.

For all businesses and organizations considering employee screening, it’s important to work with the right security partner who understands there are different types of threats, and different mitigation strategies for each individual threat. You have to consider people, brand, profile, policy, procedures – there is no one silver bullet that will protect you fully. You need a robust security plan, and the appropriate technology to support it.