Prasanth Aby Thomas, Freelancer
Evolving requirements in Asian aviation
With some of the fastest growing economies in the region, the commercial aviation sector in Asia is expanding at a rapid pace.
According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), growth is expected to remain strong in the coming years, well into the next decade. In fact, over the next two decades, a 6 percent growth per annum is projected in the region, mainly due to the liberalization of markets, rise of wealth among the middle class and lack of other adequate transport systems.
As the number of airports in the region continues to increase and existing ones seek to expand their capacity, the demand for security solutions in this vertical is on the rise. According to Homeland Security Research, between 2015 and 2020, airport security market in Asia is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8 percent. To put this in perspective, the North American airport security market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.8 percent during the same period.
For systems integrators (SIs) who are into this vertical, Asia offers a great business opportunity. However, given the varied nature of the region, it is critical that they understand the unique requirements that need to be addressed.
What does the vertical demand?
Like their global counterparts, airports in Asia face a myriad of demanding security challenges. These include handling aggressive passengers, ensuring the safety of staff in monitoring large open public areas, managing access levels and preventing cargo theft.
According to Ken May, VP of Asia Pacific Sales for Security Products at Johnson Controls, advanced video surveillance systems are essential to step up on monitoring public areas and tracking unattended bags. The deployment of strategically placed cameras and recording of high-quality images offer airport authorities faster access to the information they need in critical situations.
“It is vital to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to restricted areas,” May said. “Electronic security can help achieve this. Access control products such as portable readers can be used to validate staff at remote areas of the airport where cabling infrastructure is not in place. In instances of increased threat level, individual access levels can also be automatically amended, and security levels heightened.”
Effective remote monitoring of ground logistics such as the handling of cargo, baggage offload and refueling is crucial to the smooth operation of an airport, May added. With an integrated video and access control system, these activities are monitored 24/7, so that high-value cargo can be tracked, and issues such as accidents, injury, or theft can be reviewed on recorded video footage.
Stuart Rawling, Director of Segment Marketing at Pelco by Schneider Electric, pointed out that an airport can be thought of as a combination of military base, transit center, city center and retail mall. While each one of these applications requires specific technologies and use cases, an airport needs to apply all of these in a holistic operating picture to ensure the safety and convenience of the passengers passing through its facilities.
“Video for monitoring public spaces, access control for protecting access to airside and Security Identity Display Area (SIDA), video analytics or radar or lidar for catching violations of secure areas and perimeters are just a few of the technologies that can be deployed onsite,” Rawling said. “Quite often these different technologies are designed to work somewhat independently or with a limited interaction with a similar technology that may be deployed alongside it.”
Recent changes and trends
Speaking from a SI’s point of view, Verghese Thirumala, MD of Maxitulin, said that as with other industries, challenges in securing airports have evolved over time. Main requirements include monitoring inbound and outbound passengers, maintenance teams and crews, cargo loading and unloading, etc. Mobile track and monitor systems are used to help airport security personnel to properly log and execute security guards/patrols in their surveillance path, ensuring that the officers will accomplish their tasks within the predefined time intervals.
“New technologies, especially AI, IoT, analytics (pre and post), facial recognition, unmanned aerial surveillance, 7K images, 360-degree and 720-degree angle views and storage options, have changed the capabilities of the camera from just security application to business intelligence devices,” Thirumala said. “System and software enhance the effectiveness and functions of airport staff, helping to manage more with lesser human resources.”
Patrick Lim, Director of Group Strategy at Ademco Security Group, spoke along similar lines, adding that even though demand for better video surveillance solutions continue to remain strong, other more sophisticated solutions are being sought.
“We are still seeing demand for higher resolution and better coverage from video systems, but the key focus now, with AI, is behavior/ pattern recognition for pre-alerts, and post-video analytics for rapid response to emergencies,” Lim said. “As far as integration is concerned, there is a growing need to look into a neural system that collects all the information across devices (cameras, readers, sensors, etc.) to give intelligent information so operators can act upon them. Past systems have been very good at collecting data, but everyone just ends up with so much information to digest that operators may not know what to act upon.”
Biometrics, specifically, is becoming a popular solution, according to May. Many airports in China, for instance, are relying on biometric-based screening for identity authentication. Singapore’s Changi T4 terminal is already using facial recognition technology to offer self-service options at check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding, and is reportedly exploring to implement the same technology to its three older terminals. The e-passport gates leverage facial recognition technology to verify passengers’ identity against information stored in their biometric passport.
“Airports are also adopting biometrics for better access control, by ensuring that not only ID cards are valid, but that the authorized cardholder is using the assigned card,” May added. “In addition, fingerprint card readers can be fully integrated with biometric systems such as iris scan for more advanced screening.”
Increasingly, analytics are playing an important role to enhance video surveillance in busy airports. The technology allows airport operators to leverage high-performance video streaming, audio and motion metadata for streamlined access to critical event information, as well as improved real-time command and management. Another technology trend seen is the stronger emphasis on cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity is fast becoming one of the top priorities for airports in Asia, as it is around the world,” May said. “A global survey revealed that 96 percent of airports plan to invest in major programs or R&D on cybersecurity initiatives over the next three years. With the deployment of new technologies, coupled with the ongoing digitalization of the aviation industry, keeping systems secure is of paramount importance since layers upon layers of infrastructure could be impacted, in addition to the knock-on effect on global travel.”
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