Smart Security: the evolution is underway

Smart Security, a joint initiative of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI), envisions a future where passengers proceed through security checkpoints with minimal inconvenience, where security resources are allocated based on risk, and where airport facilities are optimised, thus contributing toward an improved journey from curb to airside. Guido Peetermans looks at the progress being made, and reports on innovations that may soon be coming to an airport near you.

Airport security checkpoints are a critical element of the aviation security system, and in the face of an ever-evolving threat picture, authorities and front-line staff are working hard every day to stay ahead of people with malign intent.

That doesn’t mean though that security measures necessarily have to be disruptive to efficient airport operations or a major stress factor for the passenger. In fact, it is entirely within the realm of possibilities to design checkpoints that are highly effective in detecting threats, while at the same time processing higher numbers of passengers and reducing the hassle factor.

Under the Smart Security programme, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI) have been working with forward-thinking governments, airports, airlines, and solution providers to demonstrate the viability of innovative concepts and technologies that will contribute to more effective security, increased operational efficiency and an enhanced passenger experience.

For most passengers, the idea of passing through airport security with minimal interruption may appear to be far removed from everyday reality, but in fact great strides have already been made to turn this compelling vision into reality, and a new wave of innovations is on the verge of maturity.

Passenger Screening
Traditionally, passenger screening processes focused mostly on the detection of metallic threats using walk-through metal detectors (WTMDs). In many jurisdictions, these have now been supplemented with manual pat-downs and/or additional measures such as explosive trace detection (ETD) swab tests.

Security scanners provide a readily available alternative, which addresses metallic and non-metallic threats in a single process while better respecting the privacy of passengers thanks to the anonymised format of images and automatic target recognition, allowing for targeted search and thus reducing the need for full body pat-downs.

Smart Security trials have demonstrated that up to 240 passengers per hour can be processed with a single security scanner in a sustainable manner; through the utilisation of multiple resolution screens, this number can be further increased. Hence, in most operational environments, this type of equipment can be deployed as primary screening device without negative impact on throughput; where higher throughput is required or where other factors come into play, these systems can be deployed as a secondary screening method. Either way, they will increase the detection capability compared to a conventional setup with WTMDs, without negative impact on operational efficiency, and while enhancing the passenger experience.

Over time, detection capabilities will further improve while false alarm rates will drop, largely due to the evolution of detection and decision support algorithms. We expect to see standards emerge that will enable decoupling of hardware and software, which will spur even more innovation in this area.

Due to current limitations of some passenger screening equipment, in some jurisdictions passengers still need to remove their shoes for screening. As simple as this requirement might seem, it negatively impacts passenger experience and is disruptive to the process. With the emergence of new technologies such as non-touch ETD, it should be possible to find an effective solution to this problem.

In the longer term, the combination of different technologies into a single piece of screening equipment will open the door to material discrimination (i.e. detecting the nature of the objects found) and an overall improved detection capability in the face of ever-evolving threats.

Cabin Baggage Screening
Conventional stand-alone, single-view X-ray equipment has been the standard for a long time, and the effectiveness is highly dependent on the operators’ training and experience. Multi-view X-ray equipment, which is increasingly prevalent, provides the operator with more information by showing multiple viewing angles of the same bag or tray. The capabilities of these systems are now expanding, and enabling the deployment of advanced equipment intelligence – but thus far this hasn’t led to a reduction in divestment requirements.