August 3, 2018
Venue security screeners Evolv-ing with Waltham startup’s technology
[Originally posted by Boston Herald — July 30, 2018]
A Bill Gates-backed Waltham security company aiming to improve safety at venues ranging from massive sports stadiums to small concert halls has raised another $12 million as it continues to expand.
“We started Evolv because we saw a need to really rethink physical security, especially for crowded places and soft targets,” said Mike Ellenbogen, chief executive of Evolv Technology.
“There’s a real need to screen more people, more quickly, more securely for venues that have to screen large crowds.”
Evolv’s security system eschews the standard rectangular metal detectors for a combination of millimeter wave detection — the same technology used in new airport security machines — facial recognition and artificial intelligence. That means attendees at an event can walk through the security checkpoint without having to empty their pockets.
“Evolv exists to help those security professionals do that in a way that is faster, more efficient and balances the need to detect the threats from the crowd with the visitor experience,” Ellenbogen said. “People can just walk through without having to dump their pockets out.”
The software and sensors can detect a firearm or explosives and can send security personnel an alert if someone has a prohibited item.
“A couple of landmarks that are using the system literally found two firearms within the first eight hours of use,” Ellenbogen said. “There’s a performing arts center where we have a number of systems deployed, and they have identified 150 firearms entering or trying to enter their facility.”
Evolv’s technology is being used in more than 100 venues, Ellenbogen said, including Oakland International Airport. He said the systems are also in venues in Massachusetts and New York City, but declined to say where.
Last year, Evolv said it had raised $18 million from investors, including Gates, to fund its expansion. Earlier this month, the company raised an additional $12.5 million, according to an SEC filing. Ellenbogen said the company is still raising money for this round of funding and declined further comment on the investment. The SEC filing indicates the company is hoping to raise a total of $20 million in the round.
Evolv’s technology relies in part on facial recognition, scanning attendees’ faces to look for matches with people that venues know to be bad actors. But last week, facial recognition was brought into the spotlight after Amazon software tested by the ACLU mistakenly identified 28 congressmen as suspected criminals, including Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, prompting calls for government oversight of the technology.
Ellenbogen said Evolv’s facial recognition software is used only to alert security that a person may need further screening.
“It’s a tool. Face recognition is a tool, and it’s one of a number of different tools in the toolbox,” he said. “I think it’s a great way to alert the guards and the security professionals of the potential that an individual is someone they may want to talk to. That doesn’t mean the person should be excluded from the venue.”
Monday Startup is a weekly feature. If you know of a startup with a compelling story, we’d love to hear about it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.