With burgeoning passenger traffic, airports are being continuously challenged to find the right balance between security, cost and efficiency. Be it in arrivals at border control, or departures at gates or scanning checkpoints, factors such as increasingly stringent legislation; increased passenger frustration with checkpoint procedures; limited budgets; and changing passenger habits, like the increasing use of cabin bags, are encouraging airports to search for new and innovative solutions. Then there is the greatest challenge of all – the challenge to deliver a security experience that is convenient and comfortable for the passenger. “In addition to ensuring a high degree of security, airports must also consider the passenger experience, wait times and cost. Passenger experience and wait times affect turnaround times for flights, usage of airport facilities – especially retail – and customer satisfaction,” said Sten Peeters, Senior Director of Business Development, Security at leading security screening and imaging specialist Analogic.
“Our technology enables airports to quickly and safely move passengers to their destinations, while meeting the security demands of today and tomorrow,” he explained. Analogic’s COBRA Checkpoint CT system is among the most sophisticated 3D imaging checkpoint systems in the industry. Featuring continuous-flow Computed Tomography-based technology, the future-proof checkpoint solution allows airports to double the throughput of checkpoint lanes while lowering false-alarm rates and improving the passenger experience, without compromising security.
“Our technology was designed with the customer in mind,” Peeters asserted. “Passengers can leave their laptops and liquids inside their bags, allowing for less bin use and higher throughput. This has enabled passengers to move through the line faster, without sacrificing safety. The COBRA’s advanced algorithms and 3D imaging capabilities offer superior detection and more efficient resource utilisation.” COBRA Checkpoint CT system also enables bags to be viewed in full 3D and to be rotated to show potentially hidden objects, eliminating the need to put a bag back through the scanner, which saves time. The COBRA system scans up to 550 bags an hour and can accommodate more than 300 passengers per hour based on Type D+ operations. “That’s two times faster than the industry best,” Peeters commented. The system’s performance has resulted in improved operational efficiency, shorter airport lines, and an overall better passenger experience, while still meeting the security demands of busy airports all over the world. “COBRA’s innovative 3D imaging technology gives operators the ability to easily manipulate baggage scans on screen to get a 360 degree detailed view. The outcome at product trials has been fewer bag searches, better resource utilisation, and lower false-alarm rates, which result in improved efficiency and improved passenger experience.”
As well as fulfilling the security needs of the airport and creating a calming experience for the passenger, meeting legislative criteria is a crucial factor in the development of security solutions. Legislature played an important role in the creation of the biometric technology by Atkins – a pioneering leader in facial recognition at UK airports. The firm developed, in collaboration with Gatwick Airport, and later Heathrow Airport, its revolutionary facial recognition technology in response to a government regulation that requires the airport and the airlines to confirm that the person named on the ticket is the one that gets on the plane.
“We worked with a partner company called Aurora who have developed a technology that works for facial recognition in the infrared spectrum,” explained Nick Whitehead, Atkins’ Strategic Services Manager (Identity Assurance). Infrared facial recognition is now deployed in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, and is operating in Terminal 1. It’s a facial recognition link, in addition to the photograph attached to your boarding card, which means you cannot swap your boarding card and board a flight without biometric authentication.”
In recent years airport security, Whitehead explained, has begun to evolve. “In terms of the ongoing requirements for security, there is I think probably a change in perception about the risk associated with air travel. The further we get away from 9/11, the more opportunity I think there is to reconsider what the appropriate level of security check is for travellers on an aircraft.” Risk-based assessment, he explained, is now being openly discussed as a genuinely deliverable possibility, and a way of improving not only the passenger experience but targeting security where it has the most effect – “now that fits not only a governmental regulation, but also in an era of austerity there would appear to be cost savings to be made by moving away from a one-size-fits-all to a more risk-based assessment”. “Obviously that’s fraught with some political overtones,” he continued, “so there’s a journey to go in this space, but fundamentally the direction of travel is to try to get to a properly risk-based assessment.”
Working in cooperation with its airports, Atkins is committed to the development of solutions that satisfy the demands of both passenger and airport. Its present focus is on expanding the use of self-service and biometric technology used in the various aspects of the travelling experience so that it applies to the whole airport journey.
“Now, self-service is being expanded into the airline checkpoints. The original deployment was for the airport – protection of the lounge, which is the responsibility of the airport. Now though, airlines are looking for self-service options right through the whole of the departure process,” Whitehead said. “A number of years ago now the airlines had massive success with getting you to check-in at home online, and what we’re now trying to do is get to a situation where you could go through the whole process, board the plane, and you didn’t have to present your ticket to an agent at all.”
The importance of integration at the gate
René Kraemer, Head of Business Development, Mass Transit, at security gates developer Gunnebo Entrance Control, explained that there are four major stakeholders in the airport security process. The airport operator, whose interest is in operating the airport in the most efficient, secure and profitable way; airlines, who seek to get passengers in and out of their aircraft in the fastest and most convenient manner; the government, represented mostly in immigration; and, of course, the passenger. “When we compare all these interests from the different groups in regards to security, we come to the conclusion that they are not all going in the same direction,” he said. “This is the biggest challenge for us today, where the new integrated passenger gate technology can help to find the best compromise for everybody. Fully integrated self-service devices like pre-screening gates for boarding pass checks, automated immigration and self-boarding-gates located in front of the jet-bridges at the terminals can make the passenger experience most convenient, saves valuable time during the boarding and immigration process and reduces delays and waiting times drastically.” So far, he described, these three gate devices are communicating individually with different data sources. But if they can communicate with each other and have access to the same database, there will be a solution created that provides all the benefits for the passenger, airports and airlines, with a much higher security level. “Bringing this already available fully integrated solution in compliance with personal data protection requirements, is the biggest challenge the airport security industry is facing today.”
Gunnebo’s automated boarding gate technology has been developed to deliver all-important efficiency, safety, and passenger comfort, in answer to the needs of the airport of today. The new AFL Boarding Gate, which has been installed at airports including Naples, Beijing, Hamburg and Bristol since last year, features low power consumption and full height glass panels, and is EN 16005 compliant. “There is currently no other boarding gate beside the AFL in the market that facilitates efficiency, passenger comfort, sustainability and revenue generation simultaneously in a better way,” Kraemer said.