January 9, 2020
Evolv raises $30 million to expedite security screenings with AI
Perhaps the worst thing about air travel is having to wade through congested airport security. Wait times at airports like Salt Lake City International and Washington Dulles regularly exceed half an hour on average, and that’s assuming folks follow TSA instructions.
The founders of Evolv Technology, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based security startup specializing in tech-based screening technology, think they have a better solution: the Evolv Edge and Express. They’re self-contained and portable gates that tap AI, machine learning, and millimeter wave sensors to expedite security screenings in high-traffic places.
The founders evidently are not the only people who believe in the products. Evolv this morning announced that it’s raised over $30 million in series C growth capital with participation from Finback Investment Partners, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s firm. Existing backers Bill Gates, DCVC (Data Collective), General Catalyst Partners, Lux Capital, and SineWave Ventures also contributed, bringing Evolv’s total raised to date to around $75 million.
Former Fidelis Security president and chairman Peter George, who was recently appointed CEO, said the funds will accelerate product development and the growth of Evolv’s marketing, customer support, and channel programs. “The active shooter epidemic is one of the greatest challenges facing our generation,” he said. “Evolv is the human security company that delivers the best approach to maintaining society’s freedom of movement while dramatically reducing threats.”
The Edge is able to scan more than 800 people per hour, said Evolv — slower than the 3,600 per hour the newer Express can scan but better than the 250 per hour of which conventional scanners are capable. That’s because you walk right through it — it doesn’t require you to slow down, pose, or take off your jackets or shoes, and its algorithms can distinguish in real time between common objects like cellphones and keys and potentially dangerous ones like firearms and explosives.
The sensors work in conjunction with computer vision-equipped cameras that identify people as they walk through the gate. Those who lack security clearance or who have a criminal record are flagged for review. And when a threat is detected by the system, it’s pinpointed on a video monitor for manual screening by a human employee.
Evolv offers an optional facial recognition add-on — Pinpoint — that taps an IP camera to capture images of visitors’ faces and compare them to a localized or networked database. They’re processed in seconds and compared to multiple watch lists and employee rosters, including custom “be on the lookout” and VIP lists.
It remains unclear how the Edge’s threat detection rates compare to traditional checkpoints. A leaked 2015 TSA report revealed that Department of Homeland Security investigators managed to sneak weapons and fake bombs past airport screeners in an alarming 95% of attempts.
Evolv hasn’t made public the results of its pilot programs, but vice president of global solutions Chris McLaughlin said that the company is committed to a policy of transparency. “[The Edge] is based on an open architecture,” he told VentureBeat in a previous phone interview, noting that Evolv’s Cortex AI Software platform continuously improves scanning accuracy by uncovering new threat profiles. “We’re maintaining close oversight with engineers and scientists […] to validate [our] screening models.”
Evolv says that to date, its gates have detected more than 5,000 weapons and screened over 50 million people in schools, concert halls, workplaces, houses of worship, and other public venues. In July, Evolv deployed Edge scanners in Oakland International Airport (OAK) as part of a pilot to streamline employee screening, and in August 2017, the company teamed up with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to test the Edge in commuter train stations. More recently, Evolv installed scanners at Lincoln Center and the World Trade Center PATH station in New York City; Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh; Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts; undisclosed LL Bean locations; and Dorman High School’s freshman campus in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.
“Mass shootings in our country and Florida, like the ones that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Pulse nightclub, and just this month at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, are happening more frequently around the world,” Bush said in a statement. “Evolv has reinvented what’s required in physical security systems to protect innocent people. Outdated legacy systems just don’t meet the need.”
Evolv’s board includes the former head of the Secret Service, the former CTO of the TSA, a former White House National Security Advisor, and the former head of counterterrorism for the New York Police Department.