Raising the bar for airport security

Raising the bar for airport security
Recent events have brought civil aviation security back to the center stage. Earlier in May, an EgyptAir Flight from Paris to Cairo crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the ISIS-related attack at the Brussels airport and the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 above the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015 reminded the world of the necessity of securing airports and airlines.

"Unfortunately, I have to say that while the threat scenarios evolve over time, the systems used to protect airports and air carriers are always behind," said Omer Laviv, Aviation Security Specialist and CEO of Athena, a security and intelligence solutions provider that is a subsidiary of the MER group of companies. "It seems that the decision makers are always waiting for a threat scenario to actually materialize, before countering the vulnerability that enabled the threat in the first place. Airports and airlines introduce new security measures, but always after an attack and not before. For example the ban on liquids, aerosols and gels above 100 ml. was implemented after a failed bombing attempt in 2006, while the liquid explosives threat was known since 1989."

Currently, different technologies are being employed by airports to deal with security threats. This can involve the detection of illegal tools and equipment that might be used in a terrorist attack such as to bomb an aircraft or to hijack it. Additionally, airports are now putting a strong focus on IT and cybersecurity measures, video surveillance use with video analytics for situational awareness (C4I) and physical barriers to block vehicles from entering crowded areas in terminals.

Israeli Airport Security
Israel's Ben Gurion airport is considered one of the most secure airports in the world. Security personnel in the terminal interview and screen each passenger and luggage scanners and sniffers look for explosives, gun powder and other illegal materials. These measures come together with other technological measures such as LPR readers, video surveillance and close cooperation with security forces for intelligence. The combination of the above provides a high level of security; however, this type of solution can work in Israel because it only has one international airport and a focused security team, but it is difficult to scale up. 

"Screening technologies for both passengers and bags are getting better all the time. However, since almost all airports in the world don't screen passengers and their belongings at the airport/terminal entrance, there is a high need for more software-based analytics that can make sense out of raw data very quickly. There is also a higher demand for both situation awareness and situation management technologies as a solution that guides the actions of operators and field personnel with accordance to industry best practices and regulatory requirements," said Danny Peleg, Director of Business Development for Transportation at Qognify.

Taking Video Analytics a Step Further
Airport security needs both event detection capabilities and comprehensive situational understanding. This operational requirement is driving the development of video analytic solutions that not only try to detect an event (e.g., a bag left unattended), but also identify the person that left it and locate the suspect in the terminal. 

"The common problem with airports is that it is a big infrastructure, with large buildings, large number of people and typically thousands of cameras. An international airport can have between 5,000 and 10,000 cameras, but how can they convert this to something that gives them awareness? Relaying everything to a control room with 30 screens is not a solution. Merely having a large amount of cameras doesn't give real-time situational awareness," said Bill Flind, CEO of U.K.-based Ipsotek.

Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient, voiced a similar view: "People still install lots of expensive cameras and recordings in airports even though their usefulness is very limited without intelligence to address problems in real time. Simple video analytics have been in some airports. The more advanced ones are now evolving to implement systems which can address complex use cases. For example rather than just detecting that a bag was left unattended, the system can automatically see who left the bag and track that person on every camera within the network. Another major issue for airlines is to find that last remaining passenger when the plane is ready to take off. An effective system will locate the passenger wherever he is, saving the airline time and money." 

Higher resolution cameras offer clear images of suspects and the introduction of new algorithms are making this more feasible than before. "Normally the task of identifying a person who left an object unattended and then find his/her location in the airport, without using advanced algorithms, may take hours, now it can be done within minutes," said Udi Segal, Director of Vertical Marketing at Qognify.

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