Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2021

Currently: 86° — Complete forecast

Las Vegas gets look at how company keeps crowds safe but moving

Gun Detection Technology

Steve Marcus

Brooklyn Bowl security officer Mtume Goodrum looks at images on a video screen by an Evolv Technology security screener at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bowl in the Linq Promenade Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The screener uses magnetic field signatures and artificial intelligence to detect weapons while ignoring metal objects such as phones or keys.

Gun Detection Technology

Mike Ellenbogen, founder and chief innovation officer for Evolv Technology, poses with an Evolv Express security screener at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bowl in the Linq Promenade Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The screener uses magnetic field signatures and artificial intelligence to detect weapons while ignoring metal objects such as phones or keys. Launch slideshow »

Anyone who has been to a concert or big sporting event has likely experienced the hassle of getting through security and into the arena.

Fans often must empty their pockets and place their belongings into plastic trays while security personnel with handheld metal detectors check bags and screen people for weapons.

“We’ve all shared that experience,” said Mike Ellenbogen, founder and chief innovation officer of Evolv Technology. “It’s kind of a universally hated process.”

On Tuesday, Ellenbogen showcased the company’s Evolv Express security system at the entrance of the Brooklyn Bowl on the Strip.

Instead of people backed up at the door waiting to be screened, they simply walked casually between two sleek panels that scan the crowd and transmit information to several monitors.

“With this system, there’s no line,” Ellenbogen said. “You just walk straight through, never break stride.”

The system uses magnetic field sensors and artificial intelligence to detect items that have been programmed as threats, such as guns, knives and explosives, according to the company. The machine ignores common items such as belts, phones and keys.

The Evolv system can screen a person per second. If someone triggers an alarm, they are directed to a secondary screening area for a more thorough inspection.

The monitors display red cubes on the area of the person’s body where the suspicious item was detected.

If the system falsely detects a nonthreatening item, such as a camera, sunglasses case or umbrella, the operator can program that item into the system so the error doesn’t repeat, according to the company.

“One, it’s a better visitor experience; two, you know that when you’re going to these venues, you’re in a safe environment,” Ellenbogen said.

The system is being used in the U.S. at stadiums, schools and performing arts centers, such as the Lincoln Center in New York City.

The Brooklyn Bowl is one of a few venues in Las Vegas that utilizes it, although the company has been in contact with resort operators to pitch the technology, officials said.

Evolv is less intrusive than other security screening methods, the company said.

“We understand why you don’t want to put a metal detector into these venues,” company CEO Peter George said. “We get it. … This is an iconic, amazing place. People want to come here to have fun, but they also want to know that they’re safe when they come.”

“Everyone should have this. It’s here at Brooklyn Bowl, it should be everywhere,” George said.

The system is also a money-saver, company officials said.

An NFL stadium might typically use 150 metal detectors and 400 security personnel to screen fans, George said. The Evolv system can reduce the security setup to 25 detectors operated by 75 workers, while also substantially cutting entrance time.

Evolv Technology, which went public this month, would like to see its systems in every public space. The company has 125 employees but hopes to increase that number to 400 by the end of next year, George said.

“It’s very, very simple — we’re democratizing security. Everyone should have it,” George said.

Ellenbogen, who has been involved in the security tech industry for 25 years, co-founded Evolv Technology in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. The Waltham, Mass., company is his third startup in the field, he said.

“We recognized there was a real need for a system that could identify these types of threats,” he said.

As the company gains more capital, it wants to expand into other aspects of stadium and other entertainment venue operations, including ticketing.

George, who has 20 years experience running cybertechnology companies, got involved with Evolv Technology 2 1/2 years ago and became CEO last year, he said.

George said his daughter is an elementary school teacher and it’s unacceptable that one of the first things she goes over with second-graders is active-shooter drills.

He said physical security threats are a “hard problem to solve” but walked away impressed with Evolv’s initial presentation.

But it wasn’t until George, an avid sports fan, saw the system in action at a stadium that he was sold. “I could see 4,000 people walking to their seats without breaking a stride, never having to stand in line,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to join the company.”

He said he recognized “the chance to build something big and important and valuable and also make the world a safer place.”