AI gun detection company Evolv name-dropped Disney in its pitch to NYC

May 13, 2024
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When New York City Mayor Eric Adams was first introduced to a representative from Evolv, the AI gun detection company, he was given a list of places the scanners could be used, including hospitals, schools, Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. What seems to have persuaded Adams, according to emails obtained by Wired, was Evolv’s disclosure of another major client: Disney.

“As I mentioned, Linda Reid, VP Security for Walt Disney World (Florida) has known us since 2014 and deployed many of our systems at the Parks and Disney Springs,” Evolv co-founder Anil Chitkara wrote in an email to Adams’ office on February 7th, 2022. “They’ve had success screening for weapons with Evolv Express … There may be some interesting parallels to how you are thinking about everyone’s role in security.”

New York City did indeed test out Evolv’s scanners in a Bronx hospital and outside the entrance to City Hall later that year. And though the results of both pilots were disappointing — the machines reported false positives at the Bronx hospital more than 85 percent of the time — Adams announced that the city will test out Evolv’s gun detectors on the subway later this year. 

Crucially, Evolv’s pitch to Adams did not include the subway as a possible use case for the sensors. In fact, on a recent investor call, Evolv CEO Peter George said the detectors aren’t geared towards public transit, Wired reports. 

We’ve reached out to Adams’ office asking why the mayor decided to test the scanners on the subway and what parallels, if any, he sees between Disney’s theme parks and the Metropolitan Transit Authority — we’ll update when we hear back. One possible parallel is the amount of foot traffic. In a June 2020 interview with Attractions Magazine, Evolv co-founder Mike Ellenbogan said the company’s Evolv Express units can scan 1,800 to 3,600 guests per hour depending on the model. The interview was published shortly after Six Flags said it had ordered 37 units for some of its parks across the country. 

A month later, the Disney-centric blog The Laughing Place reported that Disney was testing out the Evolv Express system at Disney Springs, a sort of outdoor mall outside Orlando, Florida. Evolv scanners were installed at some entrances to Disney’s Florida parks — Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom — later that year, according to posts on the WDW Magic forums. Disney has consistently expanded its use of Evolv scanners since then.

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