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Security - Tunnel of technology

IATA  security tunnel: vision for seamless airport processing

Security developments received a welcome boost at the recent ICAO Assembly. A checkpoint of the future initiative was endorsed by states, underlining the global will to achieve consensus on an essential component in 21st century travel processes.

“This has brought a greater legitimacy to the whole checkpoint of the future concept and provides clear direction both for individual states and for the collaborative effort,” says Ken Dunlap, Global Director of Security and Travel Facilitation, IATA.

An International Working Group met in Geneva in November and work will continue throughout 2011. The meetings—hosted by Airports Council International (ACI) and IATA for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)—are being used to detail global agreement on the way forward.

What is already clear is that the existing model has created long lines, inconvenienced passengers, and has not resulted in higher detection levels of threatening objects. British Airways Chairman, Martin Broughton, has noted that there are a number of elements in the security program that are completely redundant.

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive of BAA, agrees, saying that security consists of one requirement laid on top of another. “We could certainly do a better job for customers if we could rationalize all of that into a single, coherent process,” he says.

Turning point

An IATA blueprint for the checkpoint of the future has been presented to the participants of the security meetings and delegates at AVSEC 2010 to provide a start point for the discussions. Dunlap says it is an ambitious undertaking to move a major project forward from a blank sheet of paper, and the IATA blueprint simply provides a framework. Its modular design allows different elements to be accepted, modified, or rejected without affecting the overall theme.

But while the work will look for improvements in current technology and processes, there is a crucial philosophical change behind the checkpoint of the future concept.

“We are no longer convinced by the one size fits all approach,” Dunlap explains. “Passengers should be screened to a degree commensurate with what is known about them. The threat has become more dynamic. It’s not just bad objects that need detecting now. We must respond to this development by bringing risk management to the checkpoint.”

This represents a very different way of thinking. Passenger information will play a crucial role in this version of the checkpoint. Data collected by customs and immigration agencies will be combined with data collected for security. There is a precedent for such an approach. Much the same thing happens every day at every airport in the world for inbound international passengers. The same concept is simply being applied to the security checkpoint.

“Combining biometrics, stand-off screening, and passenger data, travelers would walk uninterrupted through a ‘tunnel of technology’ where all security and customs processing would occur in a transparent manner,” says Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO. “In the near term, we envision a checkpoint combining many promising new processes and technology into a high throughput and high efficiency passenger experience.”

New system

A new Known Traveler system is being proposed by the industry, based on an IATA working paper, which will establish a high degree of certainty in terms of an individual’s risk level. Incentives in processing time and efficiency should ensure sufficiently high levels of enrolment.

Any results from pre-screening would be made known to screeners at the checkpoint and that encoded information would be used to determine the level of risk and the appropriate security measures. One misconception is that passengers deemed low risk would have a “free pass” through security. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even frequent travelers would be thoroughly screened and subject to random measures to ensure the integrity of the system.

“It’s important to note that everybody still gets screened,” says Dunlap. “Everybody will get screened electronically—via the data—and physically. It is just the ratios of electronic and physical screening will vary according to the risk assessment.”

Although there will be an increased cost for these enhanced screening procedures this will be more than offset by a more efficient use of resources.

“We must modernize 40 year-old airport processes designed to combat hijackers,” concludes Bisignani. “Today’s threats require a different approach. We must find alternatives to the one-size fits all model that will help us cope with passenger volumes that will increase by 900 million to 3.3 billion in 2014. My long-term vision is for passengers to be able to get from the door of the airport to the door of the aircraft in a seamless process.” 
 

Mood Swings

Different layers will combine to make the checkpoint of the future more secure and efficient. For example, behavioral analysis will be explored. There are two potential ways forward for this progressive technique; passive and active. Passive behavioral analysis is really about observing—is a passenger’s behavior appropriate for the setting? There is some interesting developmental work going on but there isn’t yet widespread agreement on how to implement this into the overall process, or indeed on the techniques used. Some airlines are looking at passive methods, however, and may provide basic training for key crew members.

Active behavorial analysis means questioning. This has the greatest potential for a primary screening process. It will work in conjunction with the progress being made on passenger data. Based on that data, a trained officer will ask pertinent questions. The answers and, just as importantly, how the questions affect passenger behavior, are noted.

“Behavioral analysis is a complementary layer,” says Ken Dunlap, Global Director of Security and Travel Facilitation, IATA. “Intelligent questioning based on intelligence is a very powerful tool.”

The human side will be further strengthened with an increase in trained personnel. Recruitment is an ongoing process but with traffic numbers on the increase again and new techniques and standards coming into play, having the requisite manpower will be essential to any future security scenario. “We are working with the relevant agencies to ensure we get this right,” says Dunlap.

A sense of decency

Advanced Image Technology (AIT), or body scanning, is difficult to assess. The main problem is the time taken for a scan, which would have a serious effect on throughput. With some of the major hubs already falling to 160 passengers per hour, Ken Dunlap, Global Director of Security and Travel Facilitation, IATA, suggests AIT is not a feasible solution in the short term. Also, it would cost the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) around $2.4 billion to place AIT machines at all US checkpoints, about 40% of TSA’s total budget.

“My feeling is that body scanners need to remain as a secondary screening technology and not as a primary screening methodology,” Dunlap notes.

 AIT is being installed at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental (18 machines) and Hobby (6 machines) airports. Passengers will enter the unit with their feet slightly spread apart and their arms raised overhead. Trained screeners review the image in a separate room and officials stress that no image is ever stored for any reason. Passengers have the right to opt out of AIT screening in favor of a pat-down.

“Implementation of AIT at our airports ensures that we keep our city and our local citizens secure as we move into the future,” says US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee.

Whatever technology finally holds sway, the ability to transfer images and information will be vital. Global standards will be paramount. “Machines will have to talk to each other and this is a major hurdle given the amount of proprietary technology currently in use,” informs Dunlap. “But it is not just a technical issue—this is more about political will. We have to move to a global standard and the approvals already sealed at ICAO on the checkpoint of the future provide a solid foundation.”

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