Profit Growth for AI Gun Detection in Schools, Despite Questionable Outcomes

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  • Evolv Technology successfully convinces Clovis Municipal Schools to invest in their security systems through persuasive tactics and the promise of cost savings.
  • Despite concerns about the effectiveness of Evolv’s technology and instances of false alarms, the company reports significant revenue growth and stock price increase.
  • Evolv employs a proactive approach in collaborating with schools, providing marketing materials and assistance in crafting narratives to address potential misinformation.
  • However, experts caution that labeling factual information as “misinformation” can distort public understanding of Evolv’s capabilities.
  • Clovis school officials acknowledge the system’s limitations, including false alarms triggered by non-threatening objects.
  • Internal documents propose methods to speed up the scanning process, including directing students around the machines and implementing conveyor belts.
  • Dana Loof, Evolv’s chief marketing officer, acknowledges the need for transparency and communicates that achieving a sterile environment requires additional measures.
  • Evolv presents false alarms as opportunities for positive student interactions, with some officials viewing them as part of students’ daily routines.
  • CEO Peter George highlights Evolv’s proficiency in detecting guns during the earnings webcast.

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Last November, Anthony Geraci, a skilled sales representative from Evolv, reached out to Clovis Municipal Schools in a compelling email. Urging them to take their security seriously, Geraci proposed a quick call to discuss the advanced systems Evolv had to offer. Emphasizing that it was not a pressure tactic, Geraci enlightened Clovis about an enticing opportunity. He informed them that if they were to finalize the purchase of Evolv’s systems before the year’s end, they could avoid the inevitable price escalations that would occur otherwise. The intention was crystal clear – to provide Clovis with an informed choice, ensuring they would not miss out on the advantages enjoyed by other organizations.

Undoubtedly, the tactful approach left an impression on Clovis Municipal Schools. The desire to enhance security measures, coupled with the realization of potential cost savings, prompted their decision to invest in Evolv’s technology. In March, local media outlets reported that Clovis had secured the weapons detection systems for $345,000, utilizing funds allocated by the Federal CARES Act, a Covid-19 relief initiative. Interestingly, Evolv deliberately delayed the announcement until May 9, skillfully aligning it with the release of their first-quarter earnings report, thereby maximizing the visibility and impact of the sale.

Internal emails reveal the level of engagement between Evolv and Clovis during the pre-announcement phase. In early May, Evolv officials sought permission from Clovis to feature the sale in their earnings report, highlighting the significance of this partnership. Subsequently, on May 10, Evolv proudly acknowledged the purchase of their systems by Clovis Municipal Schools, along with several other notable school districts, in a highly anticipated webcast.

Evolv Technology, a publicly traded company, has found itself in the midst of both acclaim and criticism. Despite publicized concerns regarding its technology’s efficiency and effectiveness, Evolv’s relentless marketing efforts targeting schools have yielded remarkable results. The company recently announced a staggering doubling of its earnings in the first quarter compared to the previous year, propelling its stock price to a remarkable 167 percent increase over the past year.

While critics argue that leveraging fear plays into the hands of salespeople, the reality is that there is an undeniable fear of weapons and shootings in America today. Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, an esteemed professor of law at American University and an expert on surveillance, acknowledges that salespeople will utilize any leverage at their disposal. Evolv’s ability to tap into this heightened fear and market it effectively has undeniably contributed to its success.

Evolv has faced intense scrutiny for the shortcomings in its technology, particularly instances where guns and knives managed to bypass the system in schools, resulting in alarming incidents, including student stabbings. However, the company has managed to defy expectations, with total revenue for the first quarter of 2023 reaching an impressive $18.6 million—a remarkable 113 percent increase compared to the same period last year, surpassing initial estimates.

Undeterred by criticism, CEO Peter George boldly proclaimed Evolv’s plans to add a minimum of one school building to its client roster daily over the next three months. While acknowledging the imperfections of weapons detection, George highlights the additional layer of protection it offers in deterring, detecting, and mitigating risks. Dana Loof, Evolv’s chief marketing officer, emphasizes its role as a partner, working closely with customers to foster safer environments.

As Evolv’s prominence and value continue to soar, the company has secured the services of Parag Vaish, former Tesla product leader, as its chief digital product officer. This strategic addition to the team exemplifies Evolv’s commitment to staying at the forefront of digital innovation.

Peter George aptly draws parallels between the transformative impact of digital advancements and the potential for artificial intelligence to address the pressing issue of gun violence in the nation. As Evolv Technology maintains its rise, the company remains steadfast in its pursuit of leveraging technological developments to combat the gun violence epidemic that plagues our society.

In the quest to promote their technology and forge strong relationships with schools, Evolv Technology has been known to employ persuasive strategies, as evidenced by public records obtained by research publication IPVM and shared with The Intercept. These records shed light on the extent to which Evolv goes to convince schools to adopt and endorse their cutting-edge security systems.

Internal emails exchanged with the Clovis school district reveal Evolv’s recommendation to utilize conveyor belts in conjunction with their AI system. While pitched as a means of enhancing efficiency, this approach effectively positions Evolv’s technology as an auxiliary component to supplement more traditional security procedures. By providing schools with a comprehensive plan, Evolv seeks to demonstrate the seamless integration of their systems into existing security protocols.

Furthermore, Evolv extends its support to schools by providing them with marketing materials, including template letters to notify parents about the implementation of their technology. Beatriz Almeida, Evolv’s marketing director, expressed the importance of proactive communication, acknowledging that schools that choose not to make an announcement may be vulnerable to misinformation from local media and critics. Evolv aims to preempt such situations by assisting schools in crafting their own narratives, ensuring accurate information reaches the public before misconceptions take hold. The Clovis school district, unfortunately, did not provide a response for comment on this matter.

However, experts caution against the potential drawbacks of Evolv’s approach to correcting the narrative. Don Maye, head of operations at IPVM, argues that labeling factual information regarding Evolv’s detection capabilities as “misinformation” can distort the public’s understanding of the technology’s limitations and capabilities. Striking the right balance between proactive communication and transparent disclosure is crucial to foster an accurate perception among the public.

Dana Loof, Evolv’s chief marketing officer, emphasizes the company’s commitment to transparency and candid communication with its customers and security professionals. Loof asserts that Evolv focuses on identifying and mitigating the risk posed by weapons that could potentially cause mass casualties while ensuring its customers and industry experts are fully aware of the technology’s capabilities and limitations.

While Clovis Municipal Schools proceeded with their collaboration with Evolv Technology, prior reports have highlighted instances where the system’s alerts were triggered by non-threatening objects, such as misidentifying a lunch box as a bomb. However, the school officials involved agreed to collaborate on the press release announcing the sale, as indicated by internal emails.

In Evolv’s press release, Loran Hill, senior director of operations at Clovis, expressed confidence in Evolv’s ability to provide the necessary security without disrupting students’ routines. Hill stated that since the technology can differentiate between threats and everyday items, students’ anxiety levels remain low, allowing the focus to remain on education.

However, public documents obtained by The Intercept suggest that the implementation may not have been as smooth as initially anticipated. Previous reports by The Intercept have demonstrated that metallic objects often trigger false alerts, despite Evolv’s assertion that its system is not solely focused on metal detection. The sensitivity to metal became apparent for the Clovis school district, as reflected in an email exchange where clutch purses were mentioned as causing false alarms. Mark Monfredi from the integrator Stone Security acknowledged the issue, indicating similarities between clutch purses and metal eyeglass cases that triggered the system.

Despite Evolv’s claim of efficiency, as they claimed a single-lane system could scan up to 2,000 children per hour, other internal documents provided to the school district proposed methods to expedite the scanning process. These options included “The Pass Around Method,” where students would be directed around the machines, and the “Conveyer Belt Addition,” resembling airport security checkpoints. Both options required students to remove laptops or other items that might trigger false alarms from their bags.

Dana Loof, Evolv’s chief marketing officer, acknowledged that achieving a sterile environment akin to TSA-style screening would require additional measures. Loof emphasized that Evolv is transparent with customers and prospective clients about the trade-offs involved.

In an attempt to highlight potential benefits, Evolv presented false alarms as opportunities for positive interactions with students. Materials shared with clients featured statements from school officials who viewed the secondary checks as part of students’ daily routines, providing a chance for positive conversations with adults at the start of the day.

Despite the need for workarounds to address system limitations, CEO Peter George couldn’t resist extolling Evolv’s technology during the earnings webcast, stating emphatically, “We’re really, really, really good at detecting guns.”


The case of Evolv Technology and its sales tactics in the school security market reflects a combination of successful persuasion and ongoing challenges. While the company has managed to secure significant contracts and generate substantial revenue growth, concerns regarding the effectiveness of its technology and instances of false alarms persist. This suggests that while there is demand for advanced security solutions in the market, customers remain cautious and discerning when it comes to evaluating the capabilities and limitations of such systems.

As the market continues to evolve, companies in the security industry must balance their sales efforts with transparency, effectively addressing concerns and providing accurate information to build trust with their customers. Additionally, continuous innovation and refinement of technology will be crucial to meet the evolving needs and expectations of schools and other potential customers.



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