NFL Football, Fun & Families: The Human Side of Better Security

Blog Post
Anil Chitkara
Founder, Chief Growth Officer

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Sports

Publish date

Dec 2, 2021

 The pandemic has created a renewed desire for human connection and novel, fun experiences. We want to surround ourselves with friends, family, and a good dose of freedom from the many pressing concerns of life. For football fans everywhere, attending a live NFL game in one of the nation’s premier stadiums ranks right up there.   

And yet, fans have gotten used to staying at home and watching NFL games on a big screen TV, even though many prefer to get to a live game, feel the energy, and cheer for their team with other fans. Understandably, the fan experience has changed; everyone wants touchless everything from payments to ticketing to security screening.  

Stadium operators understand that the overall fan experience is more important than ever. There is a renewed focus on the end-to-end guest experience, including new security screening designed to help get families from their parked cars and into their stadium seats in a faster, safer, seamless, and touch-free way. The goal? Smooth sailing right into the experience fans came for.  

Understandably, the fan experience has changed; everyone wants touchless everything from payments to ticketing to security screening.

Transformed security that serves everyone 

 No one disputes the need for increased stadium safety and security in today’s heightened threat environment. As co-founder of Evolv, I’m incredibly aware of the devastating impact a single bad actor can have on thousands. It happens all too often. For those of us in the industry, we take seriously our role to protect the innocent masses from the bad few. And yet, I’m also a huge proponent of getting families and friends back into NFL stadiums without unnecessary concerns around weapons and dangerous people, and the anxiety created by crowds outside the stadium, long lines, and slow, manual, one-at-a-time high touch approaches to security screening. The desire is to return to worry-free fun.  

Our goal is to help make this happen. Evolv Express® is a weapons detection system that uses sensor technology and artificial intelligence (AI)—in combination with security ecosystem integrations—to help stadiums more quickly and effectively detect threats at an unprecedented speed and volume. Fans entering the venue can simply walk through the system at a natural pace with their family and friends. Meanwhile, targeted visual alerts are delivered onscreen to guard staff, helping them identify specific, potential threat items.  

Let’s take a closer look at how touchless physical screening for weapons detection creates advantages for three key audiences: security personnel, families, and stadium operators.  

The advantages for security staff  

The security staff at big stadiums have a taxing job. In most cases, they’re using older metal detection technology, visual bag checks, and hand-wanding technologies to screen thousands. By individually screening one person at a time, they are inadvertently causing security backups and long lines, which can turn happy fans into frustrated fans quickly. As the lines build twenty minutes before kickoff, the security team feels pressure to move people in faster. The manual processes can start to break down, and human errors can increase.   

Using AI and advanced sensors to distinguish true weapon threats from everyday items essentially lets tech do what it does best and, by extension, lets the security staff do what they do best.

When trained security personnel can easily screen 3,600 fans per hour instead of 360 with manual processes, they can let the technology do the work of initially screening everyone while they focus on what they’re trained to do; using their skill and expertise to interact with people, make judgement calls to resolve specific human issues, and address guests alerted by the system who may have a concealed weapon or pose a threat. Security staff job satisfaction increases because they’re doing human-to-human risk mitigation work, not manually checking every single person, the vast majority of whom pose no threat and are there simply to enjoy the gameday experience.  

Using AI and advanced sensors to distinguish true weapon threats from everyday items essentially lets tech do what it does best and, by extension, lets the security staff do what they do best.  

The advantages for families and fans 

Families who pay for that big stadium, NFL game day experience—rather than watching from home—choose it for the elevated experience, memories, shareable pics, and hopefully a win by their team. But if the experience at the perimeter checkpoint is more about waiting in a long, cold security line followed by a single-file screening process including bag check and metal detection (which might alert for a 9-year old’s cell phone) then the experience quickly becomes more about anxiety and entrance commotion—before they’ve even entered the stadium grounds.  

“Ingress tends to be one of the most congested experiences in live sports, which is especially annoying because it’s the fan’s first interaction with the venue on game days. That makes technology like Evolv Express even more important for the live sports industry coming out of the pandemic.” –Sports Business Journal, November 2021 

Juxtapose this scenario with no waiting and no lines, the ability to walk side by side as a family past touchless screening without breaking stride, and the guest experience is night and day. The family can focus on being together, the event, and all the bells and whistles the venue has created for an exceptional, whole-fan experience.  

Families can focus on what’s beyond security, not on the security. 

Stadium operators want their fans to fully enjoy the experience and feel well-protected everywhere inside their venue. And, they want their security teams to have the assurance that they can reliably pinpoint and stop threats. This shouldn’t be a tradeoff.

The advantages for venue operators 

Because NFL stadiums only host games weekly or bi-weekly during the season, and with the current nationwide labor shortage, it’s not easy for stadium operators to consistently find the trained security staff they need. Nissan Stadium, home to the Tennessee Titans, recently installed Evolv’s AI and sensor scanning technology and have seen their security screening personnel needs drop by 66%. This advantage enables them to move the staff who worked old machines to a wider venue perimeter to detect prohibited items and potential threats further out—increasing fan safety even more.  

As well, the AI built into the Express creates event analytics that stadium operators can use to more accurately plan and staff the busiest entrances. This allows them to balance staff with the expected throughput for each gate and deploy them in greater numbers inside the venue at specific high-traffic locations. They can evaluate the past arrival curves at each gate by time of day, weather, and type of event.   

Stadium operators want their fans to fully enjoy the experience and feel well-protected everywhere inside their venue. And, they want their security teams to have the assurance that they can reliably pinpoint and stop threats. This shouldn’t be a tradeoff.  

Creating a win-win experience   

When fans don’t notice security technology, that’s a game changer. When technology helps security personnel do what they’re trained to do, they are more effective and experience higher job satisfaction. When stadium operators can remove the biggest fan criticism of the game day experience and have access to planning data that helps them make smarter staffing decisions, they improve operational efficiencies and maximize their profitability. That’s a win all the way around.  

Anil Chitkara
Founder, Chief Growth Officer