Start 2021 off right...listen to Evolv's Anil Chitkara and Lux Capital Partner, Bilal Zuberi, as they discuss CES consumer tech trends that will be entering enterprise and defense/national security sectors in Digital Threshold Live EPISODE 6.

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Survey Shows Fast, Reliable Screening is Crucial to Bringing Back Live Events

By Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder

The Harris Poll survey shows event-goers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.

While these days we all yearn to return to some semblance of normal life, most aren’t going to feel comfortable returning to concerts, sporting events and the like for several months after the pandemic has subsided. The reluctance largely has to do with screening methods that, while necessary and welcome, create lines and crowding that are unacceptable to large swaths of would-be event attendees.

This is one finding from a survey of more 500 people who attended a concert, sporting event or other live, ticketed event in 2019. Conducted by The Harris Poll in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, the survey made it clear attendees want to see both adequate COVID-related measures in place as well as traditional safety precautions such as metal detectors – but without the lines. It’s a result that should have sports teams, event producers and venue facility managers looking for new ways to make attendees feel comfortable with screening processes while greatly increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.

Social distancing is top of mind

Survey respondents made clear they’re more comfortable returning to events such as conferences, workshops and conventions where social distancing is more easily accomplished and enforced. On average, respondents said they’d be comfortable attending such events within two to three months after federal, state and local restrictions allow (see Figure 1). For events that are generally more crowded, like concerts and sporting events, the median was four to six months.

Figure 1

That finding is consistent with The Harris Poll’s ongoing COVID-19 Tracker surveys, said Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll, who recently joined me for a webinar to go over the results.

“It’s clear from that kind of data that it’s a bigger lift to get people to ticketed events,” as compared to dining at a restaurant or returning to the office, she said. “Venue and facility managers are going to need to do some work to restore public confidence and get people back and feeling comfortable doing these activities.”

Part of the issue is, unlike some workers and school-aged children, consumers have the luxury of simply opting not to go to events. They can also be choosier about the protocols in place before they’re willing to return.

Safety concerns run deeper than COVID

What’s more, it’s not just COVID-19 that has folks concerned. While 81% of survey respondents said they are concerned or very concerned about the pandemic, other issues garner the same or even more concern:

  • Mass shootings: 83% concerned or very concerned
  • Street crime – 82%
  • Protest-related civil unrest/violence – 81%
  • Terrorism – 72%

81% of event attendees are concerned about COVID-19 but even more are concerned about mass shootings (83%) and street crime (82%).

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) believe crime has increased over the past year. In the Midwest, the figure is 79% vs. 63% in the South. Residents in rural areas are likewise more likely to think crime is on the rise, 82% vs. 62% for suburbanites.

All this adds up to 69% of respondents believing the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than it was a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 respondents (28%) say it’s unsafe to go out in public. That’s especially true in the Northeast (35%) but far less so in the Midwest (18%).

69% of respondents think the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 say it’s unsafe to go out in public.

Against that backdrop, it’s not hard to understand why 79% of survey respondents either agree or strongly agree that screening makes them feel more comfortable at events. This is the case even though they cite numerous problems with traditional screening measures, from lines that slow the process and make social distancing impossible to relying on fallible human intervention (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

On the other hand, respondents clearly appreciate efforts to make screening safer and more efficient post-pandemic. Asked how likely they are to return to a venue that has various features in place, 86% said they were somewhat or strongly likely to visit venues that have hand sanitizer stations and touchless screening in place along with plexiglass shields (85%). Other desirable features include:

  • Walk-through body temperature measurements: 84%
  • Social distancing floor markings: 84%
  • Mandatory face masks: 81%
  • Handheld thermometer checks: 79%

Protecting venues

Traditional metal detector screens, which require attendees to empty their bags and pockets, and potentially be subject to a pat-down, still induce more positive than negative feelings. But the negatives are significant.

Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 75% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 73% said it would make them “confident,” more than one in five (21%) said they’d be “fearful.” Nearly three-quarters (74%) said the screening would make them feel “satisfied” but 30% said they’d be “irritated.” Anxious, fearful and irritated is no way to enjoy an event.

Respondents were also asked what risks they would be willing to accept during a mid-pandemic screening process. The answers point to more challenges for venue operators and managers, as attendees will not tolerate use of outdated technology (61%), slow or inefficient screening processes (58%), false positives, meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon (52%), and even the possibility of human error (50%). 

Perhaps most telling, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they would simply not join a line in which people were not socially distancing. Think about that: it means someone has a ticket to an event, gets to the venue, sees a line that violates social distancing guidelines and decides to forego the event.

“When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [event attendees are] not interested in that,” The Harris Poll’s Parker said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New workplace requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for event attendees, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep attendees safe and secure.

Consumers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, given 79% agreed that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a venue makes them more comfortable. And nearly three quarters (74%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and ensure potential attendees you value their safety, putting them more at ease – and more likely to attend your events. Click here to learn more.

Watch Digital Threshold Live Episode 3 here:

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A Look Back at How We “Evolved” in 2020

By: Neil Sandhoff, VP North America, Evolv Technology

While last year was filled with an abundance of sadness, uncertainty and civil unrest, it’s important not to overlook accomplishments and successes. As we put our 2021 plan into motion, I’d like to highlight the key awards, news coverage, launches, customer achievements and key lessons from 2020 that have set us up for an outstanding 2021. But first, I’d like to say how grateful we are for our customers and partners; you continue to put your trust and confidence in us to keep your visitors and employees safe.

January…Making Strategic Moves for the Year Ahead

At the beginning of 2020, Evolv made several strategic moves to scale operations and meet the unprecedented demand for free-flow weapons screening by raising $30 million in growth capital from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and others, promoting Peter George to CEO and expanding our research, development and productization efforts led by Co-founder Mike Ellenbogen. 

Finback Investment Partners

Little did we know that those moves would help us keep our doors open through the pandemic and establish our market leadership among security screening companies worldwide, setting us up to assist venues and facilities to safely reopen throughout the year. As 2020 momentum was building, we were recognized as a great place to work, honored as one of Built in Boston’s prestigious Best Small Companies to Work for in 2020.

February…Working Towards our Mission of Making it Safer to Learn

One month into the year, we took huge strides in living our mission of making it safer to learn by partnering with two South Carolina school districts who installed Evolv’s AI-based, free-flow weapons-detection systems. Taking proactive measures to keep students safe was paramount for both school districts, given the increasing frequency of school shootings and related incidents. Dr. Mark Smith, Director of Student Services and Safety at Spartanburg 6, the first school in the nation to use Evolv’s AI-based free-flow weapons detection system stated, “We wanted to incorporate security technology not because we had any incidents, but because we wanted to ensure we never have one. I’d been researching security strategies and next generation technologies searching for a solution that delivered optimal security while providing a welcoming, non-prison-like environment for everyone on campus. I’d been coming up short until I discovered Evolv. They checked all the boxes.” As much as that statement meant to us, the most meaningful moment of the deployment was having a student walk over after the initial installation and say, “thank you, I finally feel safe.” That’s why we do what we do. It was Spartanburg’s ability to see beyond “the norm” that set all of this in motion and established a new baseline of security for schools across the nation.

March… Unprecedented Achievement for Evolv…and the Pandemic Took Hold

Just weeks after launching Evolv Express™ in school districts, and as the pandemic sadly began to spread, we were honored for outstanding campus security services and products, by being recognized by Campus Security & Life Safety with a Platinum Perimeter Protection and a Gold Screening Equipment 2020 Secure Campus Award. One week later, as we settled into our “work from home” routines, we were awarded the world’s most revered innovation award, a Gold 2020 Edison Award in the Threat Defense and Security Category.  Winning an award of this caliber against elite competition worldwide was a true honor for everyone at Evolv.

April…Regrouping and Re-Engineering to Address the Pandemic Health Threat

In April, as all non-essential businesses shut down, or started to find a “work from home” rhythm, we saw a massive increase in factory worker hiring and an increase in uncertainty, civil unrest and the start of ongoing violence. We also saw a shift in security threats.  No longer were CSOs and COOs worrying solely about weapons as threats, now they had to worry about health threats as well.  Our executive team was refining our strategy, while engineering and product management started reshaping our roadmap. Security screening as we knew it was probably changing forever, and our solution was more important now than ever before.

While it would have been so easy to become stuck in what we coined, “the COVID fog”, our employees rallied together, hunkered down and worked even longer hours to serve our customer mission globally and sustain manufacturing.

First on the list for our updated product roadmap was to evaluate and build an add-on thermal imaging package to help venues and facilities spot individuals with elevated skin temperature who might be possible health threats. While our support team managed calls assisting venues with reallocating systems to different locations, our marketing team developed a customer spotlight program to drive awareness and business to customers online, and our Customer Success Team established a Best Practice program for customers, setting up customer meetings to field questions, help share trends and lessons learned across industries as everyone worked together to keep our various communities safe. And while the teams were hard at work, working remote and assisting customers meet the new security demands, we were honored by the Tech Tribune as a 2020 Best Tech Startup in Waltham

May…Time for Adaptive Recovery

Throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic, we continued to be surprised and honored, and in May we earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Best Workplaces List, where they recognize successful businesses that value company culture, offer standout worker benefits and prioritize employee well-being. This award helped shine a light on why we all love working for Evolv…it’s a family and we all are driving towards the mission of keeping people safe. Our customer partnerships are an extension of that family, and we knew we had to do everything possible to help venues and facilities adapt and recover. We were lucky enough to be able to call on one of our Advisors, Juliette Kayyem, to host an hour-long webinar discussing the adaptive recovery process for schools, workplaces and ticketed venues.  She was able to offer hundreds of venues and facilities strategic guidance into how to adapt and recover during this unprecedented time.

June…Reopening America with Touchless Security Screening

Since the launch of Evolv Express, interest in the free-flow, respectful, fast screening had been strong.  What we hadn’t focused on until the pandemic was its “touchless” capability. Because Express offers free-flow screening, and drastically reduces the need for secondary screening, we realized that Express was the only screening solution out there that enables social-distancing at entrances while still screening people as they walked in the door.  And, in June, we were grateful to help reopen some North American sites with touchless security screening starting at Six Flags locations nationwide, Set Jet and several others.  Together we were reimagining security in the recreation space.

What once was a “nice-to-have”, was now an imperative. People refuse to be touched. People cannot and will not stand in lines. And, Express was and is the one solution that enables safe screening at a distance. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment for all of us…

July…Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging as Touchless Screening Demand Surges

As customers such as Georgia Aquarium, Six Flags Theme Parks and others reopened throughout the summer with Express systems in place, we saw a demand surge for touchless security screening. We also were hearing of many other new security tactics and operations solutions enabling touchless guest experiences that were being adopted by our customers. We called upon Anthony Rivera from Georgia Aquarium and Todd Fasulo of Wynn Resorts, to host the webinar “It’s Time to go Touchless”. Their years of experience in both security and hospitality left us with a number of important takeaways, including: 1) Adopt a culture of relentless innovation; all things can be improved upon; 2) Think “five-star experience” as you approach every step of your guest, visitor or employee journey; and 3) Engage your full leadership team, ensuring public safety AND public health are organization-wide strategic imperatives.

In keeping with the notion of “going touchless”, Evolv was thrilled to launch our thermal imaging package for Express. Venues and facilities could now screen for both weapons and elevated skin temperature in an integrated, touchless fashion ensuring safe screening for all involved.

August…A Global Partnership is Announced and Cultural Institutions Begin to Reopen

In August, we announced a global partnership with STANLEY Security, the world’s second-largest electronic security company. As a result, organizations receive unparalleled expertise and the full spectrum of value-added services from the two combined companies. Shortly after our partnership was announced, we were honored by Campus Safety Magazine with the Campus Safety Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) award for the “Inspection & Detection Equipment” category. As CEO Peter George stated, “As classrooms begin to reopen, public officials, administrators and security professionals alike share a commitment to do so safely. Keeping people safe is Evolv’s core mission and we’re honored to be recognized by Campus Safety magazine’s 2020 BEST awards for the tremendous value Evolv Express brings to campuses nationwide.”

Just as schools were beginning to reopen and find a “new normal”, so too were museums and cultural institutions, such as those in New York City. Our customer success team spent the month working with customers like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and several others to ensure a smooth and safe reopening.

September…A Golden Ticket to Safety and the Rise of the Digital Threshold

In September our teams were now in full swing working with customers nationwide as they slowly and carefully reopened, several of which were proudly showcasing new attractions, exhibits and entrances. One such customer was Hersheypark, who used the shutdown time to finish rebuilding a brand new entrance for a better customer experience including the incorporation of touchless screening to eliminate the need for person-by-person manual bag checks. With metal detectors, it typically took the park four to five seconds per person for screening, regularly followed by hand searching of bags or other personal items, so not only was this a welcomed change by park guests, but the park’s security professionals emphasized how easy it was to learn and use the system while optimizing their staff resources.

As mentioned earlier, Six Flags also updated their entrances, in fact, they won an Amusement Today Golden Ticket Innovation of the Year Award for their entrance improvements which included incorporating Evolv Express for park guest screening.

By mid-September, we had spent months talking to customers, analyzing market trends and watching nationwide violence and civil unrest hit new highs. We used that newly found knowledge coupled with expertise in both the physical and digital security spaces to build a new vision, one where the physical and digital security realms merge, and our CEO published “The Rise of the Digital Threshold” piece illustrating our thoughts on security of the future.

Rise of the Digital Threshold

Tied to that new vision, we launched a webcast series called Digital Threshold Live where Co-founder Anil Chitkara talks with security, operations and guest experience professionals about emerging trends, lessons learned and so much more.

October…The Current Threat Environment and Reopening Safely

Kicking off the month of October, we held our first episode of Digital Threshold Live. In the first episode, Anil talked about safely reopening New York’s premiere arts venues with Keith Prewitt, Chief Security Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lisa Schroeder, Director of Finance, Performance and Campus Operations for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Thomas Slade, Senior Security Director for the American Museum of Natural History.  

Our second episode was held three weeks later where Anil sat one-on-one with Managing Director of Corporate Safety and Security for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Jason White, to discuss trust and confidence being the foundation of delivering an exceptional visitor experience. In each of these episodes, Anil and the guest speakers covered a variety of topics related to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal.

Mid-way through the month, we proudly sponsored Counter Terror Business’ CTB365 event where our European Sales Director, Nathan Bailey, gave a virtual keynote presentation around “the current threat environment and the need for layered security strategy”, and then Co-founder Anil Chitkara joined esteemed security professionals and advocates in the final Panel Discussion & Round-up featuring: Philip Ingram, Figen Murray, Rick Mounfield, Paul Jeffrey, Gary Simpson and Nick Aldworth.

While a majority of outdoor ticketed venues were finding ways to reopen throughout the summer and fall, many of our beloved performing arts venues, stadiums and indoor arenas were unfortunately dealing with a different situation. Many sports venues allowed the games to take place, but they were without fans and most of their employees, such as Manchester Arena. For some performing arts venues, opening up was highly dependent on location. For instance, Omaha Performing Arts Venue was able to reopen in October after installing Evolv Express as their new security scanners to eliminate close contact between employees and attendees and changing to cashless transactions.

Others, such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, created an online community for arts lovers to enjoy music and live performances virtually in what they call “Lincoln Center at Home”. Others took innovation and “thinking outside the box” to a new level. Dr. Phillips Center decided if people can’t be inside to see the performances, they’d bring the performances outside to the people. And, in October they announced their new series “Frontyard Festival”, an all-new outdoor, six-month long festival for downtown Orlando that started in December. Front Yard Festival features live entertainment in a safe, socially-distanced environment, using Evolv Express as part of their security operation.

November…Time for Research

While we are in constant communication with venues and facilities throughout the world who provide a wealth of anecdotal information, we were thirsty for formal data.  To help venues and facilities with their planning assumptions for 2021, we decided it was time for market research. With Harris Insights we embarked on a survey. This Harris Poll was conducted online with more than 1,500 American adults who have a personal stake in the security screening experience: consumers who attended ticketed events in 2019 (n=506), parents of school-aged children (n=712), and workers at large factories, warehouses and distribution centers (n=504). Anil and Erica Parker, managing director at The Harris Poll, reviewed these research results and discussed the implications for workplaces, schools, ticketed venues and other facilities in mid-November in Episode 3 of Evolv’s Digital Threshold Live webcast series.

December…Putting a Bow on 2020

In the beginning of the month, Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions, joined Anil in Episode 4 of Digital Threshold Live: “Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters” to talk about the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI, exploring the business drivers, the technology and ultimately the effect on humans. He told us that “Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” and with regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”

In December we received three honors. Frost & Sullivan recognized Evolv with the 2020 North American Technology Innovation Leadership Award for Evolv Express™ publishing a full industry report. BostInno named us one of Boston’s hottest startups with an Inno on Fire 2020 Blazer Award; and we were awarded a 2020 Platinum ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award from American Security Today.

To tie a bow around what we learned from 2020 and put it to work in 2021, Anil welcomed Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm to join him for Digital Threshold Live Episode 5 – Resilience Is A Competitive Necessity: Learnings From 2020 And Considerations For 2021. Resilience is central, it’s an organization’s ability to respond, recover and rebound, and the challenges of 2020 have made it abundantly clear that resilience planning is critical.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Throughout the year, several themes emerged among our customers and their industries: 1) touchless solutions are the key to building confidence and customer reengagement; 2) sharing lessons learned across institutions and venues within one’s industry is a true treasure; 3) a layered security strategy is the only way to adapt and recover from any tragic event; and 4) the security landscape and the CSO’s role has changed forever.

As we move into the second week of 2021, I hope you and your organization are able to use what we’ve learned to build a more robust security infrastructure and customer experience for 2021.  We look forward to our continued partnerships and for those who haven’t yet reached out to have a conversation, I’m only an email or phone call away. And, don’t forget to check back periodically for the latest Digital Threshold Live event.

Cheers, here’s to a successful and safe 2021, and thank you for entrusting us with your safety.

Simplicity is in the Details: Addressing the Deep-Tech Challenges of the Digital Threshold

A conversation between Evolv Technology’s Founder and Head of Advanced Technology Mike Ellenbogen and Chief Scientist Alec Rose.

Evolv Technology started as a small team with a clear mission: return confidence and peace of mind to people visiting public spaces by changing the paradigm of how security professionals can assure venues are safe from the most serious threats without compromising visitor experience. While this mission was created during ongoing and escalating terrorist threats and attacks, it was well before our current global pandemic environment. But it has never been more relevant or more prescient. According to the recent Harris Insights poll, “Consumer Sentiment – Advancements in Security Screening,” the pandemic has only served to heighten consumer, employee, and visitor expectations and safety and security awareness when it comes to work, travel, shopping, entertainment, and general interactions.

It is this core mission that has attracted innovative people like Chief Scientist Alec Rose to Evolv. According to Alec, he was “doomed from the get go” when it came to math and, later, physics. He grew up with a math teacher mother and electrical engineer father and solved “fun mental math problems” from a young age. His path to Evolv, and developing complex algorithms to solve the basic idea of keeping people safe while they do their ordinary things, seemed destined.

I sat down with Alec to understand what drives him to solve the big deep-tech challenges of the space we call the digital threshold.

Mike Ellenbogen: What brought you to Evolv?

Alec Rose: I always found math fun and interesting, but I needed a real problem to apply it to. Physics was that pathway because it’s about fitting the simplest possible model to a complex problem. I definitely see myself as a physicist—I love it and am always looking for a new piece of the puzzle to learn and new tools to apply. I studied physics in college. From there I got my electrical engineering PhD degree at Duke, although even then I did everything I could to take all my courses out of the physics department to stay close to math and theory.

At Duke, I worked with Professor David Smith who was developing metamaterials for millimeter wave imaging. You and Anil (Evolv co-founder Anil Chitkara) had been following David and his work and started Evolv to essentially commercialize this work. Through this, I met you both. One thing led to another and I became Evolv’s Director of Advanced Development in 2013 and then Chief Scientist in 2020. The evolution of my role here has allowed me to blend my desire to distill a complex problem down to the simplest possible model, with the goal of keeping people safe in a non-intrusive way.

Mike: How are you able to blend these to address the deep-tech challenges of the digital threshold?

Alec: I’ll never forget one of the first things I learned in my college Intro to Physics class. We were presented with a seemingly complex problem: what happens when a horse gets struck by lightning? To break it down, our professor instructed us to start with the assumption that the horse is a giant metal sphere, because we know how to solve for this simplification. There’s no need to get bogged down by the microscopic details. Instead, always try to distill the problem down to its simplest form to get a tangible, actionable answer. I use this as a guiding principle every day at Evolv.

My graduate work was in electromagnetics and specifically the area of metamaterials, which is essentially a toolbox of solutions for creating artificial composites to solve different problems. If we wanted to bend light a particular way, if we wanted to make a particular antenna, there was a tool in the toolbox for that. I initially joined Evolv to be the “metamaterial specialist.” But I wanted to go beyond that because I was always driven by that horse analogy—to distill the most critical problems we are faced with in the digital threshold down to their simplest form and solve for that.

My path at Evolv expanded from metamaterials, to millimeter wave imaging, to reconstruction techniques within imaging—how do we consume and analyze reams of radar data, for example, to create a semblance of a person and the guns that a person might be carrying? From there, my focus quickly moved to the world of automated threat detection and computer vision. While much of my focus is now on algorithms, sensors, and their interface, as well as machine learning, I never stray too far from electromagnetics.

Mike: Venue and facility thresholds are the spaces where someone goes from being an outsider, an unknown, to a person who’s either a trusted employee, or a welcomed fan or patron. From your perspective, what are the core technical challenges that you’re drawn to in this threshold area? What are the real problems that have to be solved there?

Alec: I’m very interested in the role of the guard at the threshold. They’re often the first person that anybody meets when entering a venue. Not only are the guards responsible for spotting a gun or a bomb but they’re often asked general information questions. They suffer fatigue just like anybody else. It’s easy to blame them for long lines or missed threats. I want to make the process more synergistic with the guard. How do we make it easier for them to quickly and unobtrusively scan for, or monitor for, a threat? And all while reducing false alarms. If you lower the false alarm rate, guards are less stressed because they’re chasing fewer phantoms. And visitors are less stressed because fewer are getting stopped.

Mike: Why are there so many false alarms?

Alec: Unlike the electronic articles surveillance systems that most retailers use, we don’t have control over the shape, size, or materials of the things that need to be stopped from crossing the threshold. The possible space of threats is gigantic and it’s inevitable that in trying to protect against all of these possible threats, overlaps with some common items that people might carry will occur, creating a false alarm.

Mike: How do these overlaps occur?

Alec: The signature we look for on certain threats can be very similar to the signature on something quite benign. For example, the steel barrel of a rifle can look very similar to the steel pole of an umbrella. Since we want to catch all possible rifles while trying to let through all possible umbrellas, there’s going to be some overlap. You’re going to stop some people with umbrellas, to make sure you’re not letting through any rifles.

Compounding this, the materials used in threats can be similar to those used in everyday items; a similar amount of steel and a similar shape can show up in a gun as well as inside your laptop. At the same time, the venues and their customers are incredibly varied and very fractured. They don’t all have the same types of people coming through, they’re not all carrying the same type of “clutter,” such as bags, mobile phones or thermoses. The person coming to work at an office building is carrying something very different than the person entering a sports stadium. And each has a very different expectation of being stopped and searched based on the type of venue.

Mike: Drawing on your roots, how do you distill this into a solvable math problem? What is “the shape of this horse?”

Alec: We’ve moved well past the “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” approach of traditional metal detectors that…detect metal. If we open up parameters, we can then consider not just how much metal, but what kind of metal? What shape is it? The extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves at the lower end of the spectrum interact with metal objects and reveal what looks like just a blob to the untrained eye. But that blob still has color and shape. These two dimensions end up being immensely important to algorithms for separating consumer electronics from firearms.

And yes, this definitely harkens back to identifying the simplest possible model that can extract usable information from a very, very complex problem. How do we represent analog signals alongside digital data in the same rich way, in the right formats and with enough precision, so that they can be analyzed? In this case, the complex problem is the interaction between the system and all the possible combinations of metal objects that somebody could be carrying.

When someone walks through the Evolv system, we collect over half a million measurements across all of the different sensors and frequencies. How do we boil this vast amount of data down to actionable, real-time intelligence that the security guard can use to detect threats, make a visitor feel welcome, and not create false positives? We use a physics model called magnetic polarizability tensors (MPTs) that synthesize these half a million data points and dimensional data streams we’re constantly collecting, and represent them in six physically intuitive and computationally useful numbers. We can then teach a computer what these six numbers represent by giving it lots of examples. The computer can start drawing relationships between threats of interest and the clutter items that people carry. The guard can then use this “well-digested data” to have a clear profile of the person walking through the system.

Mike: Many solutions to problems work great in the lab, but not in the real world, where everything is dynamic and varied. How do you solve for the commercial environment?

Alec: It’s true, venues come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and infrastructures. But a commercial product needs to work in all of these environments, without exception. If we only focus on the cool things that we can do in a lab, we actually miss some of the more fun challenges of making something work in the real world.

For a security system to work, assuming it’s comprised of sensors and algorithms, the sensors need to be able to listen to their environment and adapt to temperature, to nearby metal or nearby electronics emitting in similar spectrums. Successful products actually build an algorithm that’s smart enough to listen to the environment and continuously adapt. Sensors and algorithms have to constantly verify their assumptions and be able to dynamically change in real time.

Using the Evolv system as an example, we made it sensitive to one part in 10,000 of our signal strength. When a system is that sensitive, it means anything that blows it around or moves sensors in the middle of the scan is going to present some interesting challenges. You run into this in wall scanning or synthetic aperture radar in drones, where you need to always know where your sensor is located, relative to whatever you’re imaging. It’s an incredibly difficult problem.

Mike: And then, of course, these sensors and algorithms generate a flood of data and the analytics needed to synthesize it, to make sense of flows, spot patterns, etc. Do you see any interesting technical challenges there?

Alec: As I said earlier, the goal is presenting that data from sensors and algorithms in an integrated, “well-digested” way to deliver something actionable in real time. Once the data is collected and stored, it needs to be analyzed for this actionable information, which is where machine learning takes over to look for patterns.

Additionally, not all sensors are built the same, or talk to each other very easily. You then need to create an orchestration layer to coordinate all of these different sensor streams in real time, and make sure they’re processed, that the sensors all turn on together, that they’re all collecting together, that none have failed.

Mike: Given your path to date from those early math problem-solving sessions, what do you hope will be the impact of your work?

Alec: I want to synthesize the actions that need to happen at the digital threshold down to a visitor experience that’s as unobtrusive and ubiquitous as it is at any store. My goal is to have sensors and scanning everywhere, but they are just part of the daily fabric keeping people safe while they do their ordinary things

Mike: That’s a goal we all hope for. Thank you, Alec.

Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Worker Well-being in Large Facilities

By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder

Workers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.

While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers at large workplaces, a recent Harris Poll survey we commissioned indicates concern over physical threats are just as or even more concerning. And the survey makes clear that, while workers welcome screening measures to promote safety, if such measures create lines and crowding, they simply won’t be acceptable in the COVID era.

New research by The Harris Poll, conducted in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, surveyed more than 500 people who work in a factory, warehouse or distribution center that typically houses at least 100 workers. The survey covered workers in manufacturing, wholesale/retail, and transportation/utilities industries. These are the folks who are moving essential goods and services through our economy, including the pharmaceutical and food industries as well as other essential goods and services.

Concern over crime eclipses COVID

Results show workers are certainly concerned about contracting COVID-19, with 78% saying they are somewhat or very concerned. But an equal 78% are concerned about mass shootings. Other forms are violence are likewise quite concerning:

  • Street crime: 79% somewhat or very concerned
  • Protest-related civil unrest and violence: 71%
  • Terrorism: 70%

78% of workers are concerned about contracting COVID-19, the same percentage who are concerned about mass shootings.

More than 4 in 5 respondents (83%) think crime has increased over the past year and 77% say the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago.

Those concerns extend to the workplace, with well over a third – 39% – saying they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work. Fearing for your safety is no way to go through your work day.

It’s not surprising, then, that workers do appreciate steps their employers take to keep them safe, with 92% reporting the safety measures at their workplace make them feel “mostly” or “very safe.” However, the majority of that group, 56%, was in the “mostly safe” camp, along with 8% who report feeling mostly or very unsafe.

More than a third of workers report they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work.

Part of the problem may be the type of security measures in place, with ID cards and swipe access being the most common, reported by 75% of workers. Only about a third have security or threat awareness training or a staffed gatehouse, and fewer yet have metal detectors (27%) or bag checks (25%).  Clearly, there’s room for improvement.

Protecting the workplace

In terms of what measures would help workers feel safer, when it comes to COVID they include simple measures such as hand sanitizer stations as well as less common ones such as walk-through body temperature measurements (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

For physical security, nearly four out of five workers (79%) think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces. A majority agree such screening provides important benefits, namely:

  • The ability to detect obvious threats: 74%
  • Providing a sense of safety: 73%
  • Acting as a deterrent: 57%

Nearly 4 out of 5 workers think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces.

Traditional metal detector screening involves emptying bags and pockets and potentially being subject to a pat-down. Even in the COVID era, such measures induce more positive feelings than negative – but the negatives are significant. Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 69% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 72% said it would make them “satisfied,” again 32% said it would make them “irritated.” Sixteen percent went so far as to say such screening would make them “fearful.”

It’s clear that COVID-19 is driving up levels of fear and anxiousness. Asked how COVID-19 made them feel about traditional screening methods, respondents reported feeling:

  • Less calm: 33%
  • Less confident: 28%
  • Less satisfied: 30%
  • More anxious: 34%
  • More fearful: 28%
  • More irritated: 33%

Workers report having a number of specific concerns about traditional metal detector screening, including long lines, the touching of their belongings and violation of social distancing guidelines (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of workers cite issues such as the possibility for human error, too many false positives (such as a metal detector alerting on a harmless object) and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.

Figure 2

Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When workers were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, more than half (55%) said they would not join the line.

A touchless screening experience

I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [workers are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New workplace requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for workers, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep workers safe and secure.

Workers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, as 83% agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a workplace makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (77%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and ensure employees you value their safety, making them more at ease at work – and, likely, more productive. Click here to learn more.

Watch Digital Threshold Live Episode 3 here:

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Digital Threshold News: Episode 5 – Resilience is a Competitive Necessity: Learnings from 2020 and Considerations for 2021

2020 was a year of learning for security and risk practitioners, in fact, the blueprints they started the year with quickly became obsolete. At the end of the year, it’s time to look back on what the industry learned and what 2021 will bring with the final episode of the year of Digital Threshold Live.

Host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, welcomed two guests from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm, Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security. Adante and Wackrow shared what they learned during this unexpected year and how that will shape risk and security postures in 2021. 

2020: New and Emerging Risk Required Agility and Creative Solutions

No matter what industry, size, or level of success, most organizations were not prepared for a pandemic. Even when more information about COVID-19 became available, and there were shifts in work, Adante commented, “We were building solutions on the fly. This mode of operating will likely continue into 2021.”

Wackrow agreed, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face, and everyone got punched in the face. Those that have been successful, identified threats with the virus and pivoted quickly with a model of resilience and flexibility.”

COVID-19 wasn’t the only risk in 2020. Civil unrest around social and criminal justice reform, a faltering economy, rising crime rates, mental health issues, cyber-attacks, and natural disasters also commanded attention in 2020. Those same challenges will carry into 2021. 

How Do Organizations Move Forward with Risk Management?

Adante and Wackrow discussed risk monitoring and intelligence, and their importance. They are leveraging data analysis and expert critiques to add context while concurrently teaching their clients how to do this.  

Wackrow said, “In thinking about threat domains and how they impact your organization, it’s not only about consequences and severity, but how are you going to respond? You don’t want to be in a reactive model.”

A New Domain for Security: Health Security

In the realm of security, prior to a pandemic, the branches were physical and cyber. Now companies realize that health security also has to be part of that conversation. It becomes a new pillar requiring subject matter expertise, and is not something traditionally part of the security component. “We’re seeing hiring of chief medical officers outside of healthcare, in airlines and real estate developers. Businesses are now prioritizing this expertise,” Adante added. 

This new part of security is changing the role of the Chief Security Officer (CSO).

The New CSO

Traditionally, a CSO has been about gates, guards, and guns. 2020 has disrupted this idea, and the role will never be the same. The CSO has three areas now: physical, cyber, and health. The CSO isn’t necessarily the expert on all these things, so that’s causing three shifts.

First, CSOs will have to think about risk management and strategy, along with its alignment with business operations and strategy. 

Second, they’ll need to form collaborative relationships with leaders in HR, information security, and operations. 

Third, there are now new issues on the plate, with physical locations mostly being empty. “New issues in security are now part of the story with the ‘work-from-home’ model. Those aren’t going away and may become bigger,” Adante said. 

Resiliency: What Does That Mean in 2021?

The last question for security and risk leaders is to think about what resiliency means in 2021. It’s not about business continuity. Most businesses had those before the pandemic. They were very IT-focused. Companies need to integrate the three pillars of security — physical, cyber, and health to create a more sustainable version of resiliency. 

Get More Insights from the Experts

To view our OnDemand version of Episode 5, click here or the video below:

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Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Getting Kids Back in School

By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder

Parents are equally concerned about mass shootings and COVID; the majority want weapons screening in place.

While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers as they work toward getting students back to school full-time, a recent Harris Poll we commissioned indicates there’s significant concern over violence and crime to be overcome as well. And in the COVID era, traditional screening methods that create lines and crowding will no longer be acceptable as a mitigation measure.

For the poll, more than 700 parents of K-12 school-aged children were surveyed in Sept. and Oct. 2020. It found 87% of the parents were either very or somewhat concerned about their kids contacting COVID upon returning to school. But concern over their physical security was a close second, at 81%. Although parents in urban areas were more likely to be somewhat or very concerned than their suburban counterparts, over half of suburban parents are concerned about the physical security of their children, 74% vs. 54%, respectively.

Eight out of ten parents are concerned about the physical security of their school age children.

COVID measures yes, but physical security, too

It’s a similar story when looking at COVID-19 prevention protocols and measures to ensure physical safety.

Having schools follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols is important to parents feeling safe about their kids. More than 90% of parents say it’s important for schools to ensure frequent handwashing and sanitizing, increased cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing and temperature screening (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1

While that is certainly understandable, what may be surprising is that parents are nearly as concerned over physical security measures intended to keep students safe. More than 9 in 10 parents said it was somewhat or very important that each of the following measures be in place:

  • Locked doors and visitors showing ID: 92%
  • Presence of law enforcement: 92%
  • All classrooms have door locks: 91%
  • Metal detector for screening: 91%

Over 90% of parents say it is important to have a metal detector to screen for weapons coming into schools.

Part of the reason for concern over physical security measures is a fear of violence in public spaces. Sadly, school safety has been an issue for decades now. But concern seems to be growing, as the poll found 68% of parents think the risk is higher now than a year ago. Perhaps even more concerning, more than a third (31%) say going out in public is “mostly” or “very” unsafe.

Almost 90% of parents are concerned about a mass shooting in schools, matching the same level of concern about COVID.

In fact, parents are just as concerned over the risk of various sorts of physical violence as they are of COVID. Indeed, 88% of parents are somewhat or very concerned about COVID, the exact same number as for mass shootings. The numbers are similar for other forms of threats:

  • Protest-related civil unrest/violence: 86%
  • Street crime: 83%
  • Terrorism: 76%

COVID-related issues with metal detectors

So, it’s clear schools will have to take steps to assuage parents’ concerns over various physical threats. But the poll makes clear the pandemic is making that more challenging.

Parents now see issues with traditional metal detector screening. More than three quarters of parents are concerned that screening can create long lines and requires a student’s belongings to be touched by a security guard (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of parents cite issues such as the possibility for human error, creating crowds that violate social distancing guidelines, and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.

Figure 2

The poll makes clear any schools using traditional metal detector screening are in for some backlash from parents. In the COVID era, at least half of parents are not willing to accept many of the problems associated with traditional metal detectors, including:

  • Crowds that violate social distancing guidelines
  • Use of outdated technology
  • False positives
  • Slow or inefficient processes
  • Physical pat down searches

Three out of four parents are concerned that security screening creates lines, and two thirds of them would not join a line that lacked social distancing.

Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When parents were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would not join the line. This inclination was far more pronounced in urban (73%) and suburban (64%) areas than rural (43%). 

A touchless screening experience

I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [parents are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of parents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screener; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives – meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon – which means there’s no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and powerful sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New back to school requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for parents of K-12 students, their physical safety is a close second. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep kids safe and secure.

Parents will appreciate schools that implement a touchless approach, as 85% of them agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a school building makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (78%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and safely welcome kids back to school. To learn more, visit Evolv.

Read our Press Release

Digital Threshold News: Episode 3 – The Harris Poll: New Visitor Expectations for Security Screening

The pandemic has shifted consumer, employee and visitor expectations across a wide swath of our society. The ways we work, interact, shop, travel and more have all experienced fundamental shifts, and it remains to be seen how permanent some or all of those evolutions may be as the global reopening continues.

However, on the third episode of Digital Threshold Live, host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, was joined by Erica Parker, Managing Director, Harris Insights & Analytics LLC (The Harris Poll) to discuss a particular aspect of changing visitor attitudes and expectations – those surrounding security screening.

Parker and Harris Insights recently published a report titled “Consumer Sentiment – Advancements in Security Screening,” which aimed to capture new visitor expectations regarding touchless physical security practices and guest experiences.


The findings will play a key role in helping organizations reopen and operate safely by providing an avenue toward greater understanding of visitor attitudes and desires and toward earning trust and confidence among members of the community.

“I think we’ve seen a lot of interaction of different crises over this six-month time period, and it’s important to think about that holistic environment that we’re operating in right now,” Parker said.

Episode 3 Highlights and Key Stats from The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll survey was conducted among more than 1,500 American adults with a personal stake in the security screening experience, including consumers who attended ticketed events in 2019, parents of school-age children, and workers at large factories, warehouses and distribution centers.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Evolv Technology, and this population represents approximately 60% of the U.S. general population. Results are weighted to be representative of population under the study based on U.S. census population targets on education, age-gender, race and ethnicity, region, and income.

Key Findings:

  • Americans rate COVID-19 and the overall pandemic response as a top issue facing the country (83% say they are very or somewhat concerned).

  • This did not, however, diminish their concerns about social violence, responding that they are very or somewhat concerned about mass shootings (83%), street crime (81%) and protest-related civil unrest (81%).

  • All three groups believe that the risk of public violence is getting worse (70%) and nearly 3 in 10 (28%) express that they felt unsafe going out in public.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) Americans value the general sense of safety that physical security measures provide, and over half (54%) believe there is deterrent value in those measures.

  • Significant majorities also agree, though, that traditional metal detector screening measures introduce unacceptable risks in the pandemic environment.

  • Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) feel that metal detectors create long lines, and two-thirds (67%) feel that metal detectors create crowds that violate social distancing guidelines.

  • A majority also believe that metal detectors require belongings to be touched by a security guard (70%), require pat down searches (52%), generate too many false positives (58%) and force families to separate during screening (57%).

  • When asked to consider how specific safety and security measures affected their likelihood of returning to venues and facilities, nearly 9 in 10 (87%) of Americans said they were likely to return if touchless security screening was in place.

  • A majority of Americans surveyed say they would prefer touchless security screening (52%) over metal detector screening (48%) if given a choice between the two at identical events.

“It’s been really interesting as we’ve watched these numbers and trends unfold,” Parker said. “We’ve really been tracking public sentiment toward a range of topics [since March] as they come up and [based on] what is timely in the news at the time – anything from the economy to healthcare to jobs to education.

“Since the beginning, we’ve actually been tracking different “fear curves,” as we call them. … The fear of returning to public activity is even greater than the fear of dying, with 70% citing that fear.”

That means that strategies and best practices for assuaging those fears, easing heightened emotions and providing peace of mind and security will continue to be critical in the coming months and well into the future.

Tune In to the Next Episode of Digital Threshold Live

On December 3, 2020, we’ll host the fourth episode, Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters with Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions; register here. We hope to “see” you there. In the meantime, consider us as a security resource, click here to contact us.

To view our OnDemand version of Episode 3 click on the video below, or register for future episodes of Digital Threshold Live, click here.

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

 

Digital Threshold News: Episode 2 Recap

In the second episode of Digital Threshold Live, “Trust and Confidence: The Foundation of Delivering an Exceptional Visitor Experience,” host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, was joined by Jason White, Managing Director of Corporate Safety and Security for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.

Episode 2 Highlights

Hershey Entertainment and Resorts has done an excellent job navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The company proactively discussed procedures at the start of the new year before COVID-19 really made its way to the United States, keeping the safety of its staff and customers at the forefront of risk management and business continuity strategies.

Chitkara and White discussed a variety of topics related to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal, including:

  • Safely reopening in the wake of the pandemic, including technologies and strategies helping to make that possible.
  • Creating a touch-free, contactless environment using technology such as Evolv’s touchless security screening systems.
  • Safeguarding guests and employees with rigorous safety protocols, including temperature checks and COVID questionnaires as a health defense at each entrance.
  • Balancing uncompromising security and an outstanding guest experience.
  • Being prepared for inevitable staff quarantines and making sure Hershey Entertainments and Resorts was not short-staffed.
  • Having a plan in place as health protocols and dynamics shift. “We have very, very strict and very detailed exposure response plans that have worked very well for us to the point where we’ve had no cases of community spread within HE&R, which is something we’re very proud of,” White said.

Venue security and venue reopening are complex topics, but leaders like White are developing a roadmap toward a new normal and beyond.

You can view the OnDemand version of the webcast by clicking on the video below.

To view OnDemand versions of other Digital Threshold Live episodes or register for future ones, click here.

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

 

Touchless Security Solutions to Make Venues Safe and the Process Easy

Anil Chitkara discusses touchless security solutions for today’s entertainment venues.

By Daniel Litwin – MarketScale – August 3, 2020

Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and Head of Corporate Development for Evolv Technology, started his company with one goal: to keep people safe from harm at events or other venues and locations where threats could exist.

For most of Evolv’s existence, those threats were violent, either from potential terrorist attacks or an active shooter situation. But COVID-19 shined a light on a different risk to the health of the public at large. When considering entertainment spaces, security checkpoints now have a new consideration: how to make the venue safe from a deadly disease.

Chitkara discussed these scenarios and how Evolv’s touchless security solutions can help.

“We’ve all been through airports. We know what airport screening is like,” Chitkara said. “We looked at all these other places where people are and [asked], ‘How can we help the security professionals in those areas maintain a safe venue or environment?’”

Theaters, performing arts centers, concert arenas, sports venues, theme parks and amphitheaters are all focuses of Evolv’s technology solutions. The company’s goal is to take a slow and manual security process and make it faster and more comfortable for the guest to enter the venue.

The security process for many entertainment venues today is not a friendly experience, and Chitkara wants to change that.

“Not only is it not what the customer entering into the venue wants, but it also is not what the band and the concert venue want,” Chitkara said. “They want their customer to be excited from the day they purchase their ticket up to the moment they walk up to the arena. The biggest pain point of the guest experience is that security screening. There hasn’t been a great solution up to now.”

Rethinking the whole approach to security through technology and doing it in a fan-friendly way is Chitkara’s mission. Evolv’s touchless security approach makes entry easier for the patron.

And, during this time of healthcare concerns, the less security needs to come into physical contact with someone entering the venue, the lower the risk of spreading viruses.

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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.