7News Investigates: Inside Mass. Company’s Push to Protect Soft Targets

(WHDH) — While terrorists are focused on attacking large crowds of people, one local company is on the front lines in the fight to protect soft targets and save lives.

A single suspect with a pipe bomb strapped to his chest in a subway tunnel packed with people. It happened in December in New York City, and three people were hurt. But it could have been much worse.

“That’s exactly the kind of threat that the Edge is designed to protect,” said Michael Ellenbogen, CEO of Evolv Technology in Waltham, referring to the company’s flagship product.

When asked what the ultimate goal of the Edge is, Ellenbogen replied, “To move more people, more quickly, more securely.”

And 7NEWS got an inside look at the cutting-edge technology.

“This is a high-speed, walk-through system that automatically looks for mass casualty threats,” Ellenbogen said.

The system is designed to protect places like stadiums, train stations, and public plazas. Those kinds of venues have been the scenes of horrific attacks in recent years.

It’s airport-level security with advanced artificial intelligence – and without the hassle.

“Just the same way that you would currently go through security, but you don’t have to take all the things out of your pocket. You just walk through,” Ellenbogen said.

The Edge combines a slew of sensors and cameras to screen a steady stream of people – up to 600 every hour. And it can be broken down and moved quickly in under three minutes. So potential terrorists never know where it’s going to pop up.

When the display flashes green, there’s no threat. But it’s smart enough to tell the difference between a cell phone and a gun.

“Blue means the system’s identified a metallic threat. And as you can see, it’s carried under Peter’s arm,” Ellenbogen said, as employees demonstrated the Edge’s capabilities.

The red alert means that it picked up on something not made of metal.

“I can then look at the tablet, which will show me exactly what caused the alert and where it’s located,” Ellenbogen said.

It had identified a mock suicide vest.

The Edge also has facial recognition, which can alert security if someone is on a watch list.

“The fact that somebody might be on a watch list, combined with what they might be carrying on them, is pretty powerful to protect the venue,” Ellenbogen said.

Evolv executives said that the Edge is being used in Massachusetts and many other states. But for security reasons, the company doesn’t reveal exactly where.

Company executives also said they stay in touch with counterterrorism officials, upgrading and updating its systems constantly in order to better thwart the newest threats.

“It’s not about fighting the last battle. It’s about anticipating what the next battle is going to be,” Ellenbogen said.

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