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The Changing Face of Airport Security

19 October 2015

Airport Security - A Complex Balancing Act

Aviation security is under scrutiny and pressure like never before. Security teams are tasked with protecting large, diverse areas, with a high degree of vigilance, while airport operators must balance security, operational performance, and commercial considerations to deliver profitability for shareholders. Moving passengers from check-in to airside, while avoiding pinch points and delivering an attractive, immersive experience, is therefore a balancing act.

In this edition of The Interview Room, we talked with Chris Bishop, Synectics’ International Business Development Director and aviation sector lead, to understand how airport security, and surveillance technology, is evolving to meet the latest demands.

What makes today’s airports unique from a security perspective?

At a fundamental level airports have to ensure that planes can take off and land safely without incident, and that every passenger and employee of the airport is safe and secure.

However, beyond this there are complex challenges. Security teams and border control agencies operate under government legislated rules and regulations. Add to this retail considerations, baggage handling needs, customs, and a whole host of other stakeholders who make an airport run smoothly, and an airport quickly becomes one of today’s most demanding security environments.

If any one part of the operational environment is not functioning, or has a problem, this can result in serious issues which can have a ripple effect throughout the entire airport. For instance, if there are queues forming at check-in desks, baggage security channels become clogged, which further delays passengers, and in turn reduces the amount of time travelers have to spend money in concessions. Generating profits and producing a return on investment is a key part of a modern airport’s operation.

As a result, more and more airports are using integrated security management systems to help monitor and manage mission-critical activities.


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Can you give an example?

Protection of an airfield’s perimeter is crucial. The last thing any airport operator wants is someone gaining unauthorised access to the main runway, which results in massive disruption.

There’s no way a human can monitor all the CCTV cameras guarding the perimeter of an airfield, it’s just not possible. Therefore the use of intelligent video analytics, combined with fixed and PTZ cameras, enables security teams to manage kilometres of perimeter fencing.

For example, when alarms are triggered from fixed cameras, long-range PTZs can automatically pan to the location and zoom in. An operator can then quickly see if it’s a genuine incursion or not.

But of course to achieve this, you need an integrated security management solution with seamless integration to an intelligent video analytics system, which allows multiple alarm types to be configured for each CCTV camera and, importantly, has low false alarm rates.

How else is technology changing?

When an incident occurs, or escalates, supervisors and operational teams need to be sure that the correct response for a given alarm type will happen every time. Mapping alarms to automated workflows, which are based on an airport’s standard operating procedures, provides this assurance.

For instance, when a fire alarm is triggered in a baggage area, an integrated security management solution can prompt operators to check what else is stored there. If, based on that information, this needs to be handled as a major incident, a predetermined workflow can also highlight what other agencies and teams need to be informed.

There’s a further benefit too. Workflows can be recorded, which allows them to be reviewed for training and the fine-tuning of standard operating procedures.

What demands is this placing on solution providers and manufacturers?

A key metric for airport owners and operators is seeing a return on investment, which in turn means integrated security management solutions must have new levels of longevity, scalability and resilience.

System designers need to ensure solutions are able to operate for decades and are built on an open platform to support the monitoring and management of thousands of edge-device sub-systems, and support of legacy equipment. The last thing an airport operator wants to find out is that their new terminal building is outdated and cannot work with other equipment.


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Take an in-depth look at the latest applications of integrated security management solutions across airports.

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