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2020 vision


Airport security screening and passenger flow expert, Cameron Mann, looks back at how security has evolved over the last 10 years and considers what the coming decade might bring for airports and passengers.

In a rapidly evolving threat environment, it is worth pausing at the new decade to reflect on the changes in aviation security over the past 10 years and consider how they are likely to impact on airports in the coming decade.

The key drivers of change in airport security over the last decade has been an increased focus on the passenger experience and operational efficiency whilst maintaining the security outcome and managing risk. It is through these lenses that we will examine our changing industry.

Threats – enduring and emerging

Sadly, airport and airline operations continue to be the frequent recipients of threats and, as recent history has shown, on occasion become the target for terror attacks involving the destruction of aircraft, infrastructure and the loss of life.

Today’s threats are real, varied and persistent. Indeed, they are not likely to go away any time soon and will inevitably be joined by new, emerging threats to provide an increasingly tough challenge for aviation security over the coming decade.

Security risks at airports today include the ‘insider threat’; airside and landside attacks; drones; cyber-attacks; and concealing explosives/hazardous chemicals under clothing and in baggage and cargo consignments.

Two other threats worth mentioning here are activism – the use of airport and airline infrastructure by activists to disrupt aviation operations for the purpose of providing a public focus; and mental Illness, when those with mental illnesses carry out activities which disrupt the aviation network.

Mega-trends shaping the future

Connectivity and convergence will have an impact on aviation by creating masses of data that will be analysed to improve operations. We can also expect to see a move to cloud-based systems and increased sharing of data and connectivity to support seamless journeys, all of which will need added security and secure mechanisms such as blockchain.

The cognitive era will empower Artificial Intelligence (AI) for better predication and warning systems, including decision support tools in screening operations. It will also enhance the passenger experience while delivering autonomous vehicles across the airport and improving the self-service journey.

Balancing outcomes

The aviation ecosystem is working to seek the right balance between:

  • Security effectiveness, ensuring they have regulatory compliance today and into the future;
  • Passenger experience, working to streamline the process and reducing queue times. This supports airports growth and profitability with increased non-aeronautical revenues; and
  • Operational efficiency, improving productivity, throughput and reducing operating costs.

In order to achieve these outcomes, there is an increasing focus on placing the passenger at the centre of the industry’s transformation efforts, this requires airlines, airports, regulators, controlling authorities and trusted partners to work together on enhancing the passenger journey.

Security effectiveness

The last decade has seen the formalising and raising the standards of airside passenger (mmW) and baggage screening (CT imaging), and an increase in the integration of technologies, such as the automated tray return systems into the integrated checkpoint.

Biometrics and the use of AI and Machine Learning in the security environment has also commenced. As has landside layering approaches with course filtering, behavioural analysis, greater physical security presence and patrolling and increased integration and communication across the airport for prevention and response activities.

In the next decade, there will be the increased deployment of certified technologies (mmW and CT) across more jurisdictions and also a rise in the integration of those technologies.

Behavioural analysis both from behavioural officers and software analytics, coupled with track and trace solutions, will allow better detect, track and intervene capabilities across the entire airport.

The combination of these technologies will provide opportunities to evolve security processes and how security staff perform to ensure the delivery of safe and secure airport environments.

Ipsotec is one company leading the development of the track and trace capabilities and already has aviation/airport applications. Efforts to ingest vast amounts of data and provide actionable insight will grow significantly.

The use of stand-off people screening is also an area of focus as authorities look for improved filtering solutions that provide course level detection of threats that impact the landside zone.

One such company that is providing technology into the screening at pace arena is Evolv Technology. Work is required with authorities and vendors to ensure appropriate standards can be developed against the threat vector of concern.

The emerging threat of drones also requires greater regulation to allow airports to deploy technology to better safeguard their facilities. Exclusion zones around airports exist, but there are technologies that can focus on the early detection and mitigation such as DroneShield, which can use a combination of radar, radio frequency (RF) and electro optical (EO) detection technologies to detect and mitigate
the threats.

The challenge for the 2020s is having regulations that allow stakeholders to work together to deploy not only the detection but also the mitigation measures to provide a safe airspace around the airport.

The evolving threats of cyber-attacks results in greater risks due to increases in attack surfaces from multiple systems and networks interfacing with the external environment.

Airports need to continually update their technology to protect their information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) infrastructure.

Passenger experience

The passenger experience and centricity has been a significant shift and focus for many airports. IATA now has the OneID programme in place to support the industry in the adoption of a framework and systems to facilitate seamless travel for passengers.

In the next decade, there will a significant focus on managed identity and sharing information across government departments and across national boundaries to understand risk of the individual and their belongings to the aviation network.

In the coming years, biometrics will continue to grow in importance as digital identity will be the key to seamless journeys through the airport departure, transit and arrivals processes.

Sydney International Airport (SYD) and Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport (BLR), have both focused on the kerb to gate experience. Both airports partnered with Vision-Box to incorporate biometric touchpoints across the departure journey.

Finally, an approach to lead the seamless journey across national boundaries. Singapore is working with the Dutch to provide an environment where credentials are shared between Singapore, on departure from Changi (SIN) to arrivals at Amsterdam (AMS), providing passengers with a seamless journey using their digital identity.

The digital identity provides the mechanism to then consider greater sharing of people and bag data and images to ensure security and customs clearance operations at transit and arrival destinations is more efficient, smoother and changes the passenger experience.

These changes can eliminate for many, the inbound or transit screening process as shared data is used to clear travellers and enhance the seamless passenger experience.

This increased sharing of identity and traveller information provides opportunities for Security, Customs and Immigration authorities to change their way of working to benefit from the pre-screening/clearance to support increased flow through the transit and arrivals processing. This then truly builds the connected ecosystem delivering value across the chain.

Operational efficiency

The seamless journey supports enhanced passenger flows across the airport from book to board.

The use of integrated checkpoints is changing the airside screening environment and importantly delivering operational efficiencies in the process.

Last decade, passenger throughputs of 100 to 200 passengers per hour were commonplace. With an Integrated checkpoint, there are demonstrated examples achieving in excess of 500 passengers per hour.

Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL) in Australia is one such airport embracing this technology, integrating ATRS, CT and mmW body scanning solutions to achieve impressive operational benefits.

The next decade will see these integrated checkpoints incorporate biometrics into the security screening process. This will deliver efficiencies not only at departure airports but also transit and arrival airports through the sharing of passenger data to better and more efficiently manage risk.

This will be coupled with increasingly sophisticated dashboards and analytics providing insights to manage the ever-increasing passenger volumes.

Digitising touchpoints will continue to expand throughout the passenger journey, allowing airports to support passengers on their navigation through the terminal and assist in on-time performance.

For the airspace, counter-drone solutions actively manage the identification and mitigation of drones to prevent disruptions to airfield operations ensure the airports continue operations.

Achieving the people, process and technology balance

In order for the aviation ecosystem to remain secure, deliver a seamless passenger experience and continue to improve operational efficiency across networks, there needs to be the right regulatory framework in place to allow the technology, people and processes to deliver success for the decade to come.

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