Ep.26 Kevin Davis | Armored Things & Crowd Intelligence

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In this episode of the Cybrary Podcast, we sit down with Kevin Davis, the Chief Security Officer for Armored Things. Speaking with Cybrary Cofounder Ralph Sita, Kevin goes into detail about what Armored Things is working on and how their Crowd Intelligence is already being implemented around the country.

Hosted by: Ralph Sita, Kevin Davis
Length: 27 minutes
Released on: July 8th, 2020
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Ralph Sita, Co-founder at Cybrary, and Kevin Davis, Chief Security Officer at Armored Things, have come together in this podcast discussing Armored Things, which is a software solution for public safety.

Kevin Davis is the fourth generation public safety, and he has been in this industry for over 25 years. He went to All-boys Catholic High School and then went into policing. He has been in policing for 22 years in George's County doing different things and got the System Police Chief. He, then, went to Colombia with Tony Batts, the police commissioner in Baltimore, and spent time with him there helping him virtually eliminate the drug cartel in the United States. Tony offered Kevin the Deputy Commission with him in Baltimore and encouraged him to get in. He worked in law enforcement for 26 years and then he got his way to working for armored things.

Armored Things is just a software solution that facilitates public safety and management in a venue. This software solution integrates with the existing tech and primarily tells you where people are around you. It identifies corporate campuses having finite geography that cares about where people are and this software solution verifies where there is a crowd of people that are not supposed to be, and where there is a lack of people that people normally are there. For example, there might be an incident among the crowd or there is something wrong in areas where there is a lack of people. This way it would ensure public safety physical security guys want to get in front of that. Organizations that run venues mostly have an after-event meeting to know what should have been differently done. Say they have ingress and egress, ticket booths, hot dog stands, and more around the area. Armored Things gets the map of where the people are and where not, and offers the data to decision-makers, so they can make the appropriate decisions in real-time. It gives them live data, so the event is managed well. Say, there are two hot dog stands which are not very distant from each other, but one of them is over-crowded, so the people could be led to the other stand rather than the crowded one. All in all, the primary purpose of Armored Things is public safety, but it is a nice management solution as well.

A hot question that is always asked is “Does this software tell you where the active shooter is?”. Kevin says it does not necessarily tell you where the active shooter is. It, however, tells you where the other people are in case there is an incident. As a result of the provided data by this software, it could be surely decided where people should shelter, where medical aid is needed or where the threat is to eliminate it. This people’s mapping around an area is simply done by wifi and the existing camera around.

Kevin thinks Armored Things software solution is a nice-to-have platform, but it would get a must-have platform one day. It is not a device, platform, or professionals trying to protect you, but it is a combination of all of them which makes it unique. According to Kevin, the Cyber Security task force has to be fortified at the moment and the tech world has to do a great job in predicting, so it would ensure public safety to an extent.


Ralph: Hey everyone. It's Ralph Sita, co-founder here at Cybrary in the studio today and addressing our staff at our all hands later after our podcasts is Kevin Davis. Kevin is the chief security officer for Armored Things, which is headquartered in Boston. Kevin has been in the business of protecting people and communities for over 25 years. And I'll let him explain that a little bit, but Hey Kevin, thanks for joining us today.

Kevin: Ralph. It's great to see you again, number one. and great to be with you guys. You guys are doing great things.

Ralph: Yeah. We should probably let our, our studio audience and our. World audience know that Kevin and I have a little bit of a background. Our kids went to the same Catholic elementary school. My son and his son played lacrosse together on club teams. And then later against one another in high school and his daughter, Julia went to the same college as my daughter, Madeline, and actually carpooled a little bit in their first couple of years. But, Kevin. Again, before we get started, let's get a little bit of background about you and your great career so far.

Kevin: Sure. So, Ralph, I'm a fourth generation public safety official, I guess my great grandfather and my grandfather were both DC firefighters. My dad is a retired Prince George's County police officer. I was born and raised literally right down the road from where you guys are in college park. So, I went to an All-boys Catholic high school. And then, because I grew up in college park, the last thing I wanted to do back then was go to the university of Maryland. Cause I told my parents, I got to get away. So I went to Towson. So back then that felt like I was going away. It's a big trip. I got an English degree of all things. Cause I like to write. And then, you know, I went into policing and I spent 22 years in Prince George's County. I did SWAT, I did narcotics. I did some homicide narcotic task force things. And then I found myself at the top of the organization as the assistant police chief. And we had just come out of a consent decree, a big reform effort. The crime in Prince George's County was instill is at really an all time low. It's been since the 1960s that murders and violent crime has been this low in Prince George's County. And really that's a Testament to Rushern Baker and a lot of people who put a lot of work into public safety in the crime fight. And the jurisdiction right next door in Arundel County, they had the misfortune of their County executive going to jail and their police chief being pushed out the door. So sometimes success has many fathers and failure as an orphan of a newly appointed County Executive look to Prince George's County because we were then, and still are the considered a success story. So, we spoke, Laura knew and ended up appointing me as her police chief. I stayed with her during her entire time in Anne Arundel County when it came time for her to run for election, she lost in the primary. So all of her top officials were kind of out.

Ralph: Unfortunate circumstance. You lose a lot of talented people, but they like to switch regimes. And that's just what happens. Right. Tough break.

Kevin: It's part of the business. So I had become friends and I had just traveled to Columbia, South America with Tony Batts, who was the police commissioner of Baltimore at the time. And he and I spent literally a week together in Bogota and we were kind of hosted by the US embassy in Colombia and the DEA and. And that country is a success story, working with the United States to virtually eliminate their drug cartel organizations. Now, a lot of that operation has shifted to Mexico. We're still dealing with the heroin, but in Columbia that's a success story. So we got to know each other. So when I was out at Anne Arundel County, he offered me the assistant or the deputy commissioners position with him in Baltimore city. And at first I said, no way, you know, I've been doing this at the time. I think 25 years, I said, I'm going to go wear a suit somewhere good, find a nice space in corporate America and be off on the weekends and not have my phone ring at night for the first time ever. But he talked me into it. I arrived in Baltimore in late January of 2015. Fast forward, just three or four months down the road, the riots hit.

Ralph: National news

Kevin: National, international news

Ralph: International, yup.

Kevin: And it was a game changer. He was then out. The mayor fired him, and she appointed me as the 39th police commissioner of Baltimore. And right. And I was there for three years. I think the last, or I know rather the last five mayors in Baltimore have all fired their police commissioners. So that's kind of considered, you know, like Taxes and death is something...

Ralph: That's going to happen. Right?

Kevin: And, you know, I remember when I first got the job and people were saying, you know, it's not going to last that long. I think the average tenure for a police commissioner of Baltimore is two years. So, I lasted three, which is longer than most of my predecessors. Sure, but ultimately mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake who appointed me. She decided not to run for reelection. Catherine Pugh came in. I lasted with her for a while. We really didn't see eye to eye on some things. I was uncomfortable with her leadership style in what I perceived to be a lack of ethics and integrity. As it all kind of turned out later, she got indicted and she's on her way to federal prison.

Ralph: Right.

Kevin: But you know, after 26 years I was suddenly out of law enforcement, no regrets, great career enjoyed every minute of it. And that's kind of where I made my way to where I am now working for armored things.

Ralph: Gotcha. Gotcha. I mean, Kevin, no matter where you were Prince George's County, Anne Arundel County or the city of Baltimore. And you never walked into an easy situation where it's like, hey Kevin, it's running smooth. Don't mess it up. So I mean, I even know in our County, Anne Arundel, I mean, huge opioid problem that you had to deal with. And you know, you were a leader in a lot of the stuff that was the, the Narcan. And...

Kevin: We were the first police department in Maryland to mandate it. Our police officers carried Narcan. Narcan's the brand in the lock zones the drug it's an antidote to a heroin overdose.

Ralph: Gotcha

Kevin: But back then, 2013, 2014, there were only a total of 22 police departments in the country, even carrying Narcan. Right. So we were trendsetters, but I kinda got the reputation as being a fix-it guy, a fix-it leader. And you know, jurisdictions, organizations, even in corporate America, sometimes they'll need a fixer to come in and identify an issue, whether it's a cultural issue or something within the organization that needs fixing. Fix-it leaders tend not to last very long. They come in, they fix it. They ruffle some feathers.

Ralph: Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah. Well, lots of great experiences.

Ralph: Yeah, no, absolutely. And you're very cerebral guy. I mean, it's from some of the work I've seen you do on your history and reading up on you and knowing you for these years. I mean, you're definitely a thinker and you're analytical and I guess that's probably. Tell us a little bit about Armored Things, because you know, you're going from the role of protecting people, physical, commanding, a huge workforce between Prince George's County and the city of Baltimore. I mean, you must have commanded two, three, 4,000 employees at a time. So now you're in a little bit different area. You're protecting people still, but not, you know, in per say, the criminal type of mindset. Tell us about armored things.

Kevin: Ralph, it's definitely different. So I went from being in charge of the eighth largest police department in America to being the chief security officer at a startup in Boston of about 35 employees. And we've grown to 35 right. A year ago. We were half of that. So I met these guys about two plus years ago. And, I was the police commissioner in Baltimore and it was still in this post riot environment where every vendor in the world was coming to Baltimore, the city and the police department. And they were offering their version of a solution. So, and I entertained as many of those folks as I could cause I wanted to think outside the box a little bit. I was particularly concerned about situational awareness in Baltimore. 2016, the calendar year after the riots, we had virtually a protest five days out of the week, every week for a year.

Ralph: Trying to drive to Baltimore was ridiculous.

Kevin: You know, we had six police officers who were on trial throughout that calendar year and each and every time it invited national media attention. So we went through a year of not always knowing where the protests were going to be. We were guessing, we were relying on human intelligence, suspicions and hunches, and I was learning for a solution at the time. Well, you know, wouldn't it be nice if in public spaces we could know where people were gathering and in a way that would be an anomaly. So we could be aware of it and get in front of it, and getting in front of it and public safety might only mean having a 15 minute heads up, but 15 minutes is better than nothing. Right? So the folks at Armored Things I met with there. Their three co-founders, Julie Johnson is their CEO, Charles Curran the president, their chief technology officer, Chris Lord. And he hails from Carbon Black, which is a pretty well known cyber company up in Boston. And he brought a lot of his folks with him to Armored Things. So I met with them and, you know, the best way I describe the armor thing, software solution to people is it's Google maps for people and not cars. And it's a heat map of where people are in your space. I think 10 years down the road, it'll be applied to smart cities in America. But right now it's applied to college campuses, corporate campuses and stadiums, venues. We're at a few places right now where at Fenway and in Boston, we have a deployment. We just stood up at Cap One Arena, right downtown for the wizards and caps. We're at the university of Tennessee, Kentucky. So, you know, we're identifying the corporate campuses and the venues, mostly major league sports, kind of college campuses who have finite geographies, but they really care about where people are in those spaces because when something is not going right, and people either are where they're not supposed to be, or there's a lack of people where there normally are people, whatever the anomaly is, right? But public safety physical security folks want to get in front of that.

Ralph: Gotcha. So when these events, let's say Capital One, you know, when they're running live, you guys are streaming data. You guys are monitoring data. You guys are seeing where the heat lights up, where people are, where people aren't. Are you making adjustments on the fly when you see this happen?

Kevin: And so Ralph that's the whole point of it. So, um, you know, large organizations, particularly organizations that run venues they'll, you know, not unlike what we probably do. They'll have an after action meeting when something's already over and they'll look back in time and they'll say, you know, what could we have done differently? Well, if we give you the data and the information real time to inspire you to do something differently while it's in progress or left of boom, you're going to be more efficient. So when it comes to the major league sports venues, it really starts with ingress and egress. You know, having people enter your facility, where do they go when they're in your facility? Are they at their seats? Are they in line for a hot dog and a beer? Are they in line to use the restroom? Where are they gathering? And is there presence in your space consistent with your expectations of there, of that crowd behavior, sometimes it's not. And in those occasions, when the crowd is behaving in a way that you think is abnormal or deserves your attention. The data we provide real time, lets decision makers get more resources to a particular gate or to a particular section in the stadium or on the operation side of it, it gets helped to a vendor who's overcrowded with 50 people in line and

Ralph: Blocking egresses

Kevin: And then there's a vendor selling the very same hot dogs and beer, you know, 200 feet away with 10 people in line. Right? So a lot of the operational facilities folks have found a lot of use cases for our product as well.

Ralph: So that takes into consideration a couple of things, security and safety for one, but also like management of your assets if you're a venue owner. You know, like Hey, we could use a few more hot dog stands for lack of better word here or there and so forth. And maybe we need to have better protection on this East gate because that's where the concentration of people are going to be leaving from or congregating for some odd reason. So you can adjust it on the fly. If the people are, if the company is using your software, your platform. You can also use it as a, you said left of boom,

Kevin: left of boom.

Ralph: What happens when it turns to the right of boom? So that's when you know, what hits the fan is this is your platform useful in that now that it's mapped it out and people have gotten experience with it?

Kevin: So a right of boom example, and that's kind of where we are today, right of boom. As much progress as American law enforcement has made, particularly with technology cameras whether they're a city watch cameras or body worn cameras that the technology boom in American policing has been tremendous over the last 20 years, but we're still largely in response mode to things that have already happened, bad things that have already happened. So an example, one thing that people always ask us about with our product is a active shooter. So the active shooter on a campus, the active shooter who makes his way inside a stadium or a university. Does our software products tell us where that active shooter, where that bad guy is with a gun and my response is It doesn't necessarily tell you where that bad actor is, but it tells you where everyone else is in space. So people tend to disperse or run away or flee from that bad actor.

Ralph: Right.

Kevin: Or they tend to shelter in place. Now, the first thing that. Public safety is trained to do when they respond to an active shooter incident and progress is number one, find, identify and eliminate the threat. But the second thing they have to do is they have to rescue people and they have to know where they are. And some of these spaces are so vast and so huge that they're really just guessing where people may be sheltered in place or where they may be sheltered in place and harmed and needing medical attention. So what our software products will do? It will, it will identify where people are in your space. And it mostly does that by cameras and wifi. So if you got a device and you pass through a camera, the secret sauce of our software product is to be able to say, hey, right now in this podcast room, there's two people in it. And it does that jive with your expectations of how this space should be behaving right now. Right? If it does, fine, if it doesn't, you might want to go check it out.

Ralph: Gotcha. Gotcha. So as myself and my family, my kids , we go to venues, you know, you just inherently think you're safe, somebody smarter than you set up the way in and the way out and the seats are arranged. So people can, you know, get out of the space. Right? Is that a great assumption or should we be looking for a stamp of approval in our world? Certifications still mean things, you know, like it's a bar that you said it's a checkoff for HR people when hiring people, this guy's got certification certification. We're moving more towards knowledge, skills, and abilities, and actually proven that you could do something, but the certifications still mean something. Should I be looking for a stamp of approval somewhere on the side of Capitol one or the Anthem theater or the university of Maryland stadium out here they says, hey, this place is protected and meets the criteria of,

Kevin: Well, I'd say this about large venues. They're better than they ever have been, but they haven't reached the mountain top. There's still a long way to go. So the public there's a public safety act, federal public safety act requirement that these large venues have to go through. But there's still a lot that is left to chance. So typically these stadium environments, or even college campus environments feel much better about their public safety platform when you're on their footprint, but once you're immediately outside of their footprint. So. for a stadium that might mean the parking lot, that might mean the roadways into the parking lots that lead to the stadium, so the ingress egress. So it's that soft perimeter around a hardened target because once you're inside you're , unless you're able to sneak a firearm in or explosives in and that's tougher and tougher to do nowadays, but once you're inside most of these venues, it's a lot safer than immediately outside. And that's why you see so much attention, go to the physical security, physical safety Bollards and all these other preventative measures that are in place now that prevent vehicles from being used as weapons and, you know, lone Wolf bicyclists, for example, being able to easily access your ingress and egress points. So a lot is being done. I think it's better than ever, but I think we all realize that it's still a vulnerable place.

Ralph: Hey, Kevin, just wanted to touch base a little bit more about your platform, you know, without you getting too specific. Cause nobody wants to give away their secret sauce, but you know, when people are at places and they shouldn't be at places, how do you identify them from the normal, the people that should be at places. Is there a way to do that?

Kevin: Sure. Ralph, so what the Armored Things software solution does is it integrates mostly with your cameras, your existing cameras and your wifi. So everyone is carrying a device of some sorts, whether it's a cell phone or a laptop or an iPad. So it identifies where people are based on. Existing technology in your space that you already have. So cameras, wifi, ticketing, if you have other technologies we integrate with those as well. We're really a privacy first company. We don't care that this is Kevin Davis necessarily sitting in this room, but we want to be able to tell you that there's a person sitting in this room and based on the alerts that you set that may or may not jive with your expectations of what should be going on in that room right now. But it's agnostic. It's a privacy first platform. We interact with colleges and universities all the time. And, and we realize how sensitive the privacy concerns are. You know, the big brother fears this is just taking advantage of what already exists, pulling it together, integrating it. And our solution can manifest in a command center on campus with the dispatch at the college that we're deployed right now, the campus police officers have it on their cell phones. So they're able to see real time where people are in their environment.

Ralph: Uh, Maryland. Well, we're out here in college park right now. Maryland's got 38,000, 40,000 undergraduates. If Maryland was to use your platform, those 40,000 students somehow would be related as yet these are the good 40,000 and there's 20 people that are here that shouldn't be..

Kevin: Well, potentially. It goes back to, you know, people always ask me, you know, who is, what's the profile of an active shooter. And more often than not, the active shooter is already associated with his environment. So, you know, we're all worried about stranger danger and that person, that bad actor making his or her way into your space. But unfortunately the way things have played out since Columbine, 20 some odd years ago now that the bad actor is almost always already a part of your environment.

Ralph: Sadly. Yeah, he's already infiltrated and so on. You become comfortable with that person in some ways, your solution scale across the board. Could I use you at a smaller venue, like a Merryweather versus a Capital One Arena versus Wembley Stadium?

Kevin: Absolutely scalable. All it does is it attaches to your existing technology. We're not selling boxes. We're just bringing together, integrating your existing technology doing it real time because we want to limit the after action moments where, you know, we always say, I wish we would've done that differently yesterday at this event. If we can give you data and information real time about what you may need to do differently during your event, we think that puts decision makers in a better position to keep people safe.

Ralph: Is this a must have, or a nice to have type of a platform?

Kevin: You know, I think like any other new software technology, people are interested in being safer. You know, I have a lot of friends and I know you do too, who are chiefs of security at these venues. And they're really accomplished smart people with tons of experiences, but they realize that there are gaps in existing security. So I think as time goes on, this is going to be a must have technology to keep people safer than they already are.

Ralph: I would think so. In our world, you know, it's not a device, it's not a platform. It's not, you know, other professionals trying to protect you. It's a combination of all of them and nothing says something went wrong until something went wrong. And then all of a sudden you're accounted. And it's amazing to say, why didn't you have this? Even though that might not have been the solution, it's just a perception.

Kevin: Well, I know in Baltimore, Ralph, we have about a thousand city watch cameras and the city's bottom was not that big of a city. It's about 80 or so square miles. And there is absolutely an expectation amongst elected officials and citizens in the media that anytime something bad happens in a public space, that there will be a camera available to capture it, identify the bad guy and help the police solve the crime. Well, the cameras don't cover everything but the more technology has sprinted forward in the public safety environment, our human capacity to keep up with the technology, there's a gap there. So, I know in Baltimore, I had about a half a dozen retired cops at all times, sitting in a city watch room staring at a bank of cameras that would cover all these walls. And they're just that they're applying their human capacity to watch the monitors observe human behavior in those monitors hope to see it in real time. So they can make a radio transmission to get a cop there to stop it that we gotta have technology watching the technology, and that's what the armored things solution provides.

Ralph: Well, that's great. I mean, I can absolutely see that it's a really cool platform. It's data-driven, the information that you're gathering, you know, somebody wants to take advantage and use it on their stadium and their venue. It's a tremendous asset, you know, it's just like a, you know, a lot of things, again, we do in the cybersecurity world. I mean, it's not about the more you have, it's about managing the right things that you need for at the time, you know that you need them. Right? And Armored Things looks like a great product, man. I wish you guys all the best.

Kevin: So thanks Ralph. I think what you guys are doing is tremendous. And I tell people kind of around our age, you know, that when we entered the 21st century, that the big thing with Federal State and local law enforcement was joint terrorism task forces.

Ralph: Right.

Kevin: So JTTF squad started the popup all over the country, combination of feds, working with States and locals to fight crime. So now as we make our way into 2020, the big thing is cyber security task forces.

Ralph: Right.

Kevin: So, I know when I was in Baltimore, I more than tripled our manpower commitment to a federal cybersecurity task force efforts because local jurisdictions have to take advantage of the expertise in the resources and the training that's out there in a way that they currently don't have.

Ralph: Yeah, I'm not surprised, but we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on our platform. We had a handful of guys from your department, you know, using Cybrary, and we still have that now through, you know, Prince George's County officers we have on our platform. We have the FBI guys, people have to know cyber security now. I mean, even in your world, you can detect everything physically at the venues and so on, but there's probably some elements still that you have to monitor web traffic in some respects because it doesn't just all of a sudden happen that day. There's planning that goes into it.

Kevin: Right.

Ralph: And there's definite leaks of information that are, you know, somebody needs to find. So

Kevin: And I think the expectation out there is if something is predictable, it's preventable. Yeah. So when we get that bad incident particularly when lives are lost, people look at existing technology and they make an assumption that, okay, this bad act was predictable, so it should have been prevented. And I think what you guys are doing at Cybrary and what Federal State and local law enforcement is doing across the country with cybersecurity acknowledges that we have to do a better job at predicting because sometimes the information is right in front of us.

Ralph: Sure is. Well, Kevin, thanks again, buddy. I really appreciate your time today. Very informative. And it's great to see it. Now. Go ahead and address the troops at the all hands.

Kevin: Thanks Ralph.

Ralph: Alright, thanks, bye.