All around the world, attacks on soft-targets — churches, nightclubs, shopping districts, train stations, sports stadiums — have become an all-too-common occurrence. We at Evolv Technology aggregate these outrages in our daily newsletter, The Scan, and too many of them share the same maddening story line: a troubled person, often known to authorities as a possible terror threat, walks into a venue unimpeded and causes mass casualties. Government officials bemoan the tragedy, sometimes warning citizens to get used to this “new normal.” Terror organizations are emboldened. Shortly before ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani was killed by a U.S. drone last summer, he urged lone wolves around the world to action. “The smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here,” he wrote in ISIS’ online magazine.
We started Evolv three years ago to give security professionals a fighting chance against these anytime, anywhere attacks. Last month, we announced our first hardware product — the first ever body scanning system designed from the ground up for use at soft-target locations. It’s called the Evolv Edge®, and it differs from traditional products in four main ways.
It’s fast. Evolv Edge can check up to 600 people per hour for concealed firearms, non-metallic explosives, suicide vests and other threats, without requiring anyone to empty pockets or take off shoes. So long as people walk at normal speed and go through one at a time, they might not even notice they are being scanned.
The Evolv Edge can be configured to provide real-time alerts when a terror suspect or criminal approaches the system. A camera in the column of the unit captures footage of approaching people. By the time they arrive, the imagery has been compared to official watch lists for possible matches. Customers can also opt to have the matches sent off to a human expert for real time review, to increase the likelihood of a positive ID before interdicting the suspect. The process typically only takes a few seconds more. (We don’t keep any of the imagery or other information we collect on individuals.)
It’s easy to use. No one is looking for another security system that requires extensive training, and is only as good as the operators’ ability to stay vigilant hour after hour. We designed a simple software interface, in which potential problems show up as a red alert on a photograph of the visitor.
Under the covers, the software offers simple but powerful controls that enable users to adjust the system— say, to automatically turn up the scan sensitivity for unrecognized visitors or to turn it down when a badged executive walks through. But our goal was to create a system that any temp security guard can use with minimal training.
Evolv Edge is portable. The system is comprised of two 5’6” towers that weigh a combined 250 lbs. It comes on wheels, so can be easily rolled into place and be up and running in less than 30 minutes. Use it to screen employees and visitors at the main entrance of your facility, or move it to add a random, unobtrusive layer of security in response to heightened threat levels..
Many of us at Evolv Technology are veterans of the security screening business. We built Reveal Imaging Technologies, a leader in checked baggage explosives detection which is now part of Leidos. But to create Edge, we had to throw out much of what we had learned in the past. Rather than bake all of our technical capability into the hardware, we took a much more software-centric approach. That way, Evolv Edge could be reconfigured for a broad set of environments and applications. Rather than obsess over spotting the smallest pen-knife, we recalibrate our priority to focus on the most dangerous threats, but in far less time and with far fewer false positives. And for the first time, we had to worry about aesthetics. After all, Evolv Edge units won’t be tucked away at some nondescript checkpoint, but will reside in office atriums, stadium entrances and in front of restaurants and night clubs. They’ll have to look good.
Judging from the early response to the system, we’ve hit a nerve. We’ve spoken with more than 300 entities, ranging from leading transportation authorities to rock and roll band managers looking for a system they could take on the road to concerts. Some of these parties are anticipating upcoming regulation. For example, governments around the world are considering mandatory curbside screening at airports, to avoid the types of attacks that occurred in terminals in Brussels and Istanbul earlier this year. Other companies are determined to find cost-effective means to prevent the most heinous, mass casualty attacks, both to protect life and limb and because they believe they will increasingly be judged by their ability to keep employees, customers and other visitors safe.
While we recognize we are just at the start of a long journey, we’re confident the Evolv Edge® system is an important first step. We deployed it at the entrance to one of the sections of UK Security Expo last month, and it performed admirably during the two-day test drive. We think of it as a basic building block — a layer that almost any company can use as part of a security system to meet its particular needs.
If you agree that there are too many media headlines proclaiming the tightening of security AFTER an attack, then we should connect.
Mike Ellenbogen is the CEO and Co-founder of Evolv Technology, founded in 2013. Prior to Evolv Technology, he co-founded Reveal Imaging and successfully led the company, achieving double-digit growth in both revenue and profitability since its inception. Through his more than 15 years of contributions, Mike has reshaped the explosives detection industry. Reveal Imaging was acquired by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in August 2010.