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Modernizing Threat Detection: The Shift To AI Advanced Security Solutions

Joshua Douglas, SVP of Product & Engineering at Xtract, discusses security threats impacting facilities today, and the benefits of AI weapons detection systems.

More than three-quarters of Americans (77%) believe there’s more crime in the U.S. than a year ago, according to Gallup’s most recent annual Crime survey. In light of that statistic, it’s no surprise the demand for more effective security measures has become more urgent than ever.

Compared to traditional metal detectors, advancements in Artificial Intelligence-enabled weapons detection systems can offer facilities cost efficiency and accuracy, streamlined entry procedures, and a more discreet and non-intrusive experience.

Threat Detection
Joshua Douglas, SVP of Product & Engineering at Xtract One Technologies

Last month, Xtract One Technologies’ Multi-Sensor-Gateway portfolio was awarded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SAFETY Act Designation as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT). The award recognizes the Xtract One portfolio for its efficacy in safeguarding public spaces against advanced modern threats, and enables Xtract One to bring its innovative security solutions to a larger scale. It’s a mandatory requirement for vendor selection by several organizations including the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Major League Baseball (MLB).

Facility Executive, Continuity Insight’s sister publication, talked with Joshua Douglas, SVP of Product & Engineering at Xtract One to find out more about security threats impacting facilities today, and the benefits of AI weapons detection systems.

Facility Executive: What are some of the biggest threats impacting facilities today? What are the most common threats detected, and which ones often go undetected?

Joshua Douglas: Threats come in all shapes and sizes, relative to the geographic location of facilities and demographics of a given event. In large part we often see throughout the world where there are stricter gun controls, knives and IEDs are the major concern of our customers. The U.S. and other countries that have access to guns in various forms make this their top concern. This makes it so knives and other smaller ferrous threats can get through security as product sensitivities are turned down to increase throughput to facilities.

Overall however, we believe that the biggest threat is absence of awareness and due diligence to the threat. Too often, we see venues that become intoxicated over the enhanced guest experience of fast entry, and are turning a blind eye to the risk from decreased security in a world where the risks are growing. For years, venues have had their metal detectors turned up, ensuring a secure environment while navigating the negative patron experience. This seems to have done an about face, which is concerning.

AI Threat Detection
(Source: Xtract One)
FE: What are the major differences between AI weapons detection systems vs. traditional metal detectors?

JD: This depends on what we are calling “Artificial Intelligence.” There are some detection systems that are in fact just using lower sensitivity settings with no compute, which would mimic modern walk-through metal detectors with their sensitivity turned down.

There are other solutions, and in fact the broader tech industry, where systems are incorrectly labeled “AI” because that buzzword is hot right now. For us, AI means that there is in fact compute on the system that is using purpose-built AI models designed to solve specific problems using a specific data set. The AI models have been trained relative to threat objects and continuously get better through continuous training, along with external data that produces real intelligence. Both systems can use signals relative to detecting metal, the true power of AI comes in understanding what to ignore and how to integrate that with other data sources and applications to make our customer’s lives easier, and to also ignore things that are not threats.

Metal detectors on the other hand solely focus on magnetic signals, and the strength of that signal, with divestment still being a central process to how they work. Weapons detection systems are meant to focus on weapons… on threats, and work without divesting. The design of these systems allows them to ultimately get smarter over time. There is zero intelligence with a walk-through metal detector, or the variations of a metal detector that are on the market that claim to be AI.

AI Threat Detection
(Source: Xtract One)
FE: What does an alert with an AI weapons detection system look like? Does this technology eliminate the need for security personnel at the entrances?

JD: Alerts are different based upon the product, and ultimately what the user wants to ensure a secure environment. Often, the form and content of an alert is different for each venue, and the weapons detection system needs to have the flexibility and customizability to fit each venue’s unique security requirements.

The ultimate end game is the minimal number of alerts as possible, while also ensuring — a critical requirement — no false negatives.

(Source: Xtract One)

Alerts can take many forms. They could come from an onboard display, a sound, flashing light and/or an external tablet with information such as an image to identify the correct individual, and to highlight where the threat is on their person. The key is to have flexible and adaptable technology and a well-thought-through operations process married with well-trained (and continuously trained) people.

A well-designed end-to-end process can significantly reduce unnecessary alerts, allowing the venue to focus on the right things, and thereby reducing frustration or unnecessary work for everyone. However, good weapons detection systems, and end-to-end processes will not automatically and fully eliminate the need for security staff. There are decisions to be executed by the staff. The role of technology is there to scale security operations, and to proactively inform security staff with intelligence to make better, more informed, and more efficient decisions.

FE: If something amiss is detected by the AI technology, what are next steps facility management professionals can take to minimize and eliminate the threat, especially if security personnel aren’t as available and accessible? If security personnel are on hand, how does the AI data improve an organization’s response?

JD: If your first time of planning secondary screening is the moment you detected a threat, you are already behind the curve. As part of your installation of any new weapons detection technology, a venue needs to work through primary and secondary screen processes. We often recommend understanding staffing constraints upfront so that this can be taken into consideration during the design of the end-to-end security processes.

There are capabilities that the AI weapons detection system can provide to assist in reducing staffing requirements. For example, good weapons detection systems will pinpoint the location of the weapon on the person passing through. This can reduce the need for full secondary screening of a person, thereby reducing secondary screening time and staffing.

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