The fact that radars are now quite good at detecting and locating small, slow-moving ground targets (which was technologically not easy), combined with IR sensors that can get clear images at compatible ranges, makes these systems useful for airports or other sites, Flir executives suggest. They can alert automatically when moving targets cross perimeters or limit lines (for example, most airport vehicles and people are not allowed outside the ramp area), maintain track files on authorized movers and classify targets by size. A single tower-mounted system with one or two operators can cover an entire site.
Across the airport industry there is recognition that a smarter use of technology is essential to combine security with efficiency. One analogy is that airport security has become a giant “club sandwich” with yet another layer added by legislators in response to every security incident. The result is unpalatable and indigestible for airport management, airport security and travelers.
Airport authorities realize this security club sandwich must be scrapped and a holistic approach taken instead. “There is a rising need for integration of security solutions, to improve situational awareness and to respond to security threats in more efficient ways,” explains Marco Scarpa, strategy and business development manager for Thales Italy, the group's center of competence for airport security.
TAM—total airport management—is the watchword. “This current differentiation between airside and landside will go in the future and be replaced by TAM,” Martin Olsson, Saab's director of airport security solutions, tells Aviation Week, while Gillian Ormiston, global market manager for border control for Morpho, part of France's Safran group, concurs, commenting that the current “one size fits all” security approach is inefficient in time and space.
She explains that “any project involving [airport] security affects a lot of stakeholders,” from the airport to the airlines via the police and customs among many others. Scarpa points out that “all stakeholders need to be able to share the information but you need to ensure that the right information is reaching the right people at the right time.” He says the information gathered by a large airport's “many thousands” of closed circuit video recorders in place for security management and to monitor queues “could be shared.”
This information-sharing is at the heart of Saab's Safe software, introduced two years ago. It is now installed at Stockholm's Arlanda and Bromma airports, which have already achieved a 29% reduction in security costs. “In a couple of years Safe will be installed in 10 airports in Sweden and they will all be controlled from command centers in Gothenburg or Arlanda,” Olsson says. He emphasizes that the software can be integrated into airports' existing hardware.
Airport managers today want intelligent video surveillance that alerts operators to abandoned objects, people crossing virtual boundaries and so on. This has been demonstrated extensively by several companies, including Saab: Moving video targets are tracked and the record continues when they stop, and if a target splits into two, an operator is alerted. “There is no single solution to fit every airport; the technological bricks are standard but there is a huge need for customization,” Scarpa says. Olsson concurs: “These are not off-the-shelf products; they are all customized and scalable.”
Solutions offered by Saab and Thales have the same aim: sharing information among all stakeholders so that not only do they have a common situational picture but also that communication is quicker and easier. In addition, the systems provide workflow management that improves operational performance and efficiency, which in turn provide a better experience for travelers. Management is not just about security—the same tools can be used to detect congestion and alert staff to problems.
Using biometric technology to identify and screen passengers is growing worldwide. “What we're working on is a platform from check-in to boarding with risk assessment on passenger data and the use of biometrics moving to a more traveler-friendly process,” Ormiston says. Passengers would be identified biometrically and the boarding pass would be done away with, “but this is not going to happen overnight.”
Biometric technology has been used in Israel for several years, as a complement to the human side of security. At airports, travelers are subjected to probing personal questions as screeners look them in the eye for signs of deception. Searches are meticulous, with screeners often scrutinizing every item in a bag. Advanced technology is an add-on.