The Active Shooter Epidemic: One Major Preventive Measure Launching Today
By: Anil Chitkara, President & Co-Founder, Evolv Technology
Too many mass shootings.
Too many venues without security checkpoints.
Too few technology solutions identifying the individuals who require a closer look.
Too many conversations with security professionals and venue operators asking for something better.
At Evolv, we have had enough. The “new normal,” as some have called it, is unacceptable. We’ve dedicated ourselves to keeping people safe by using technology to stop active shooters. The safer world we envision should be something that everyone simply expects without having to think about it.
Six years ago, Mike Ellenbogen and I started Evolv Technology with a mission to save lives.
Prior to the founding of Evolv, we spent more than two years conducting research. We met with security professionals across the globe and developed a deep understanding of modern threats and what security professionals need to prevent mass casualty events. We visited university labs and small tech companies to understand the latest innovations in sensors, data synthesis, image reconstruction, machine learning, and design thinking. Then, leveraging our combined 40+ years of experience using technology to solve critical, complex problems, we started Evolv.
At Evolv, we set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look. It’s a simple problem statement, but a difficult question to answer.
Our First Product: Evolv Edge
We launched the Evolv Edge system in 2017, after about 3 ½ years of research and development. Evolv Edge is one of a kind. It’s the first product in the industry to screen people and their belongings at high speed without requiring them to stop or remove items from their pockets and bags. From a technology perspective, Edge’s combination of sensors, signal processing, detection algorithms, and user-centered design is like nothing else on the market. Gone are the white bowls for your keys, coins, wallets, belts and cell phones; gone is the need to stop and put your hands in the air. There is no need to place your bag on a table for a guard to search prior to walking through the Edge. With the Edge, you just walk through.
Since its launch, the Edge has screened more than 25 million people around the world, primarily at entertainment venues, sports stadiums, tourist locations, workplaces, hospitals, and houses of worship. In that time, the Edge has detected more than 5,000 weapons. Prior to selecting the Edge, many of these venues tried walk through metal detectors, but found the experience for their visitors to be too slow and cumbersome. These outdated pieces of equipment also resulted in long lines, creating a potentially new security target and concern.
Feedback on the Evolv Edge has been very positive. We’ve seen first-hand the reactions of visitors going through the system and guards operating it. The most common question we are asked is “Why don’t they have these everywhere?”
What We’ve Learned
As we deployed the Edge and spoke to thousands of security professionals and venue operators, we again asked how we could advance screening technology to make many more venues even safer, while continuing to deliver a positive visitor experience. These conversations were enlightening. We heard significant concern about several different scenarios:
- Workplace Violence Prevention:
One of the biggest areas of concern was the proliferation of workplace violence. People should not be concerned for their safety while at work. Many employers, however, are not willing to put a traditional checkpoint in place. They are looking for a system that screens people with little-to-no inconvenience.
- Event Screening:
Another scenario we heard was about screening large crowds for events. The shootings in Las Vegas, Gilroy and Jacksonville Landing highlight the need to screen large numbers of people at special events.
- Tourist Screening:
The third scenario we continued to hear was around screening at tourist locations. Many of these locations, whether an observation deck, museum, or landmark, carry their own unique complexities. Many visitors are carrying food, clothing, cameras, and a host of other personal items for a day’s outing. Often there are international visitors speaking a range of languages.
These three scenarios were just a few of the many that were highlighted.
In many cases, security teams had tried traditional checkpoints with walk through metal detectors and found them to be unsustainable solutions. Traditional screening created massive lines, frustrating visitors or employees, and resulted in an unacceptable overall experience. These stories, which we continue to hear on a daily basis, inspired the design for our newest product.
Introducing Evolv Express
We’re now launching our second product, Evolv Express™. Whereas the Edge screens individuals one-at-a-time as they pass through the system for venues who want a control point, Express screens large groups of people at a time with no stopping, no emptying of pockets or removing bags. After eighteen months of development, we’re now releasing Express, the fastest threat screening product on the market that ensures every individual and their belongings are screened as they pass through without even breaking stride. We have incorporated the latest high-speed sensors that move data in real time to a detection algorithm that renders a decision as people pass through; with Express, 60 people can be screened every minute, that’s 3,600 per hour. The system screened more than 250,000 individuals during our pilot testing this spring and summer. As with the Edge, Express detects those individuals who require a closer look, and automatically alerts guards and security personnel to confirm those individuals are not a threat.
How Express Works
Evolv Express combines the latest technologies and user-driven design principles to provide this high throughput, truly frictionless approach to screening thousands of people per hour. It all starts with the brains of our system, the Evolv Cortex AI Software Platform™. This is a machine learning-based AI system that uses data sets we have generated from the system to train the algorithm. The training is conducted on a methodical basis, starting with a designated threat set, such as firearms. A range of threats is scanned, and classifiers are developed, refined, tested, tuned, and hardened to detect the threat set. Similarly, a range of non-threatening items such as cell phones is scanned through the system. A similar approach is undertaken to create classifiers. As the range of threats and non-threats are analyzed by our development team, the algorithm is continually refined. Over time, as new threats emerge and data is collected, the algorithm will continue to be refined. This process is done in our labs in a controlled manner. Once we are confident in the performance of each new algorithm, it will be released and upgraded to Express systems operating at customer sites.
A key Express component is the sensors that collect data to drive the algorithm. These sensors were designed by Evolv to optimize the separation of the signals for both threat and non-threat items. After scanning millions of people with the Evolv Edge system, we had developed a tremendous body of knowledge regarding sensors as well as the typical items that are carried by visitors through our systems. This body of data informed the design for the Express sensor set.
We have also optimized the data flow through our system. For each individual screened, the Edge system moves nearly 1 million data points to the algorithm, with a resulting red light / green light decision as the person exits. For Express, this ultra-high speed data-processing engine has been further optimized to render a decision in less than one second from the time a person starts walking through.
A significant amount of time was spent on the Express user experience. The UX has a number of components: the industrial design of the system, the interaction with visitors being screened, the operator’s interaction with the system, and the people moving and setting up the system. Each of these elements has been carefully thought through and tested with the respective user group.
- Industrial Design:
The Edge was a significant step forward in designing a system that is welcoming to people passing through it. We have taken some of those key design elements and made improvements to streamline the look even further. Additionally, we recognize these systems need to visually fit into the environment, so we added the ability for users to add custom branding or signage on a key component of the system.
- Visitor Experience:
We widened the overall design to make it easier for people to pass through with minimal disruption.
- Operator Experience:
Our focus on the operator experience has resulted in a system that is easy to operate as thousands of people pass through each hour. There are a mix of audio and visual cues for the operator. If an individual alarms, there is a picture of the person alarming, with the alarm location clearly outlined for further evaluation.
- Ease of Deployment:
Finally, a key element of the system is the ability to move it around to enable screening at different locations. The system has built-in mobility capability, for easy breakdown, movement, and set-up. When the system is powered on, an automatic software calibration routine runs through diagnostics, resulting in the system being up and operational in two minutes.
We are starting a roadshow to preview the Express to security professionals around the U.S. Next week we will be unveiling at the ASIS GSX Security Show in Chicago. After that, we will be in major cities around the U.S. And, you will start to see the Express working at venues around the country keeping people safe.
We set out to solve a very tough problem: how do you recognize that the vast majority of people pose no threat, while simultaneously identifying those few who may be a threat and require a closer look; how do you improve public security without disrupting the public? Over the past 6 years we’ve dedicated our resources and our expertise to answering these questions.
We’re humbled to have the opportunity to ‘make our dent’ in the universe and couldn’t be more excited to launch Evolv Express.
What Role Can Technology Play in Building and School Security?
By Christian Wilson, MarketScale – August 12, 2019
Building security continues to be an increasingly important issue for business owners and building managers. Over the last decade, everywhere from commercial office buildings to retail centers and college campuses have been subject to violent attacks taking place within their walls.
With a wave of modern technology taking over workplaces in America, building managers are beginning to utilize things like Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition software to improve security measures and as a result help save lives.
While smart security systems have played an important role on the ground, many companies are exploring how to better secure premises’ from buildings’ immediate airspace using unmanned aerial surveillance, more commonly known as drones. Security firms like Nightingale Security offer a Robotic Aerial Security Service that provides clients with drones to provide a new-level of aerial surveillance.
There are several benefits corporations can gain from drone security. This service utilizes drones for autonomous patrol missions, autonomous threat response, and manual surveillance missions. This application can be critical not only for quick response to a significant event like an oil spill, break-in or locating a trespasser, but also helps security officers on the ground have a quick and reliable perspective of the events with a birds-eye view.
Advancements in building security have been especially imperative for school districts nationwide. On this front, every second is critical when it comes to assessing a threat and protecting the safety of countless children and staff. While most schools have some sort of security team and camera infrastructure in place, the Putnam County School System in Oklahoma has gone above and beyond. It has invested $10 million over the last four years, and in a recent major upgrade, installed facial recognition software in its security camera systems.
According to KFOR News in Oklahoma, “Campus police plan to use the system to track a short list of people prohibited from entering the building. The software allows users to input a “watch list” of suspects, that is, anyone who’s not supposed to be in the building. In practice, the cameras with facial recognition are able to positively identify an intruder within 15 seconds of entering the building. Within 30 seconds, campus police are aware of the presence of the suspect.”
The main purpose of this is to add an extra layer of security to ensure people like ex-employees and their spouses, expelled students, or runaways don’t cause any harm or distractions in a place they aren’t supposed to be.
The high-capacity data processing power AI holds translates into big implications for large-scale access and crowd control. Companies like Evolv Technology offer physical security systems comprised of an AI-powered screening system working alongside facial-recognition to help enhance security and ease accessibility for patrons in places like sporting events and airports.
The systems are set-up at a checkpoint in a building and the video surveillance uses machine learning algorithms to match a face placed on a “watchlist” from the cameras. The system even has predetermined threat levels set for individuals on the watchlist. For example, if a red flag is displayed on an unauthorized person, they are immediately located, detained, and removed from the property. If a person brings up a yellow flag, meaning they are an undetermined threat, a person is physically dispatched to monitor the person and make a determination on a proper course of action. The company claims this process takes a matter of seconds.
This technology can help make patrons in large crowds feel safer, keep staff in these high-volume areas better prepared, and help mitigate bottlenecks and long-lines so many are accustomed to in large crowds.
Technology is Driving Modern Security
Now more than ever there is a renewed sense of urgency for companies and building managers to make sure the people occupying these buildings -are the safest they can be. The marriage between data, surveillance, and security has proven to have some serious benefits behind it. There are, however, still challenges these security firms face in this new era of security. The balance between personal privacy and general security has and will continue to spark debate and it is up to those in charge of security to make sure no line is crossed at the expense of someone’s privacy. In the meantime, any advancement in security is a needed one because at the end of the day, the better the technology in a building, the safer people inside of it will be.
Security Teams: Best Practices to Prevent Active Shooters in the Workplace
By: Neil Sandhoff
As the number of mass shootings continues to grow, the number of potential ‘soft targets’ seemingly grows as well. One of the latest target of such violence was the workplace, where a mass shooting occurred at the municipal center in Virginia Beach, claiming the lives of 12 people. This latest attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since November.
The shooter was a disgruntled employee, who previously had given little indication of the potential threat he posed to his colleagues. But the incident hammers home our sad new reality: the threat of an active shooter can touch us in almost every facet of our lives.
Violence in the workplace is not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing concern. Security professionals, business leaders, human resource workers, and venue operators need to proactively plan for these worst-case scenarios to protect employees. And, the best way to protect employees = PREVENTION!
Based on recent events and our years of experience in helping organizations provide greater physical security, here are some best practices to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.
A One-size-fits-all Approach to Security No Longer Fits
Security experts generally agree the use of a venue specific Risk Based Security (RBS) approach is preferable to “one-size-fits-all” solutions. RBS balances security, visitor experience, operational efficiency, and cost considerations. This will help you plan for high-pressure, emotional situations in the workplace, such as terminations or layoffs.
Interested in learning more about Risk Based Venue Security? Download the white paper authored by leading security experts, John Pistole and Mark Sullivan.
Know Your Facility
One of the first things any organization should do is perform an exterior physical security threat assessment. Walk the perimeter and identify all entry and exit points for your facility. Determine if you’re able to lock down the facility, and if so, identify what it will take to quickly make that happen without letting unwanted persons in, or a person of interest to escape.
Upon performing your perimeter check and identifying gaps, work with local law enforcement to make them familiar with your facility. They will also be able to provide additional preventative measures you and your staff can take to secure your facility and reduce your threat risk.
Your People and Policy Power
Your organization should focus on developing and communicating strong policy that clearly outlines what to do to prevent workplace violence. Departments and individuals, such as HR, Security, facilities managers and executives need to work together to define the high-risk incidents and acts of violence most likely to impact their organization. They should proactively put together multi-layered security plans for these scenarios to prevent workplace violence.
One critical example of this planning scenario is how to deal with employees upon termination or resignation. Your policy group needs to determine when it’s appropriate to have Security escort terminated employees from the building, and how to handle an employee when they have given their notice. There needs to be clear lines of communication to ensure that IT and Security immediately revoke computer and building access upon termination so that former employees can’t return to the premises, or access company files remotely. Once your multi-layered security plan is in place, educating employees on a regular basis is critical.
Visible Security = Deterrence
The National Institute of Building Science recently released a study showing that proactive building security design can reduce the risk of an active shooter incident.
Maintaining a strong security presence can not only deter attacks from taking place in your workplace, but simultaneously show employees they’re being protected.
Adding tighter security measures, like security guards and video surveillance technology, can help protect employees and customers, while actively dissuading potential shooters from entering the premises.
Screen for Weapons Without Using a Metal Detector
The reality is, only a select few entering a facility pose a threat, which poses the question: how do you treat the majority of individuals as the non-threatening people they are, while pulling out those very few for additional scrutiny?
Increasing security measures to protect employees should not create additional hassles on the way into work or make anyone feel like a suspect. To ensure you mitigate risks, while maximizing throughput, think “out with the old, in with the new”:
- Avoid Outdated Technologies
In the past, walk-through metal detectors (WTMD) were our best option to discover metal weapons prior to an individual bringing them into a venue. However, they were simply not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats.
Developed in the late 1900s, the WTMD technology has seen virtually no improvement and requires employees to stop and empty their pockets and bags. They also cannot distinguish between a computer or phone and a gun. This slow-moving, single-file security procedure creates long lines and frustrations for everyone involved, along with a soft target in and of itself.
- The Next Generation in Security: New Advancements in Weapons Screening
As the threats against our safety and security continue to evolve and become increasingly unpredictable, security systems must advance with them.
Look to incorporate innovative solutions that can mitigate risks while maximizing employee throughput. New technology, such as advanced sensors and AI, are being leveraged for modern weapons-sensing physical security solutions specifically made for today’s threats.
Screening solutions that detect guns and other weapons can help businesses better detect active shooters before they enter the building. These types of solutions ensure that security guards are better-informed of potential threats and can take quicker and more precise action to deter an attack from starting in the first place.