How is automation changing airport security?

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Consider the last three times you went through airport security. How long did you wait in line? Did you take your shoes off? Was your laptop and tablet in your bag?

Chances are, you’ll remember different experiences at each instance. That’s because airports around the world are going through a massive digital transformation, altering their fundamental designs and core technology to accommodate a rapidly growing rate of annual travellers.

The aviation industry is investing heavily in enhancing the checkpoint to improve speed, safety and the overall passenger experience. This influx of advanced, interoperable systems has made automation at the checkpoint not only beneficial, but also necessary for airports of the future.

Smarter security

In today’s continually heightened threat climate, safety is always first and foremost on the mind of airport managers. Every day threats are changing and becoming more sophisticated – so it’s critical that the technology used to identify these threats is consistently becoming more advanced.

One way to enhance this process is by reducing manual handling, and promoting standardization and automation. Today, many airports are requiring that passengers use bins to send all of their bags, electronics, jackets, etc. through the scanner. The standardized size enables the system to focus on one square area, and more efficiently identify potential threats, rather than trying to differentiate between several items pushed together. Each bin is also tagged with an RFID chip, which allows it to be easily identified and tracked once a potentially dangerous item has been identified.

Experts in the security industry are constantly working with TSA, ECAC and other regulatory bodies to improve detection algorithms and capabilities in an effort to enhance security. As these algorithms and regulations evolve, you can expect to see more security lanes capable of identifying a laptop without it being taken out of a bag, and, eventually, the ability to identify and analyse liquids.

Saving time and money

A universal truth of the travel industry is that everyone wants to move faster and spend less. The emergence of new technology is enabling both. Today, some airports are even able to maintain standards of five minutes or less from the time a passenger enters security zones until they leave.

One of the primary reasons this is possible is because airport security experts have redesigned the flow of the security checkpoint. Now, with automated machines once a passenger pushes their belongings on to the conveyor, passengers are then free to walk through security without waiting for the people around them.

In the screening process, detection algorithms identify potential threats and divert bags off of the main conveyor for further inspection. Remember the RFID tags? Now, when an alarm sounds on a bin, it can be taken to any number of systems all connected to the same network to be scanned and searched. This enables security operators to simultaneously clear several bags, and avoid an inevitable bottleneck.

By automating the process, every step is tied together – and that translates to money. The cost per passenger is lowered because more people are processed per hour, with the same amount of security personnel and fewer necessary lanes.

A better passenger experience

As is true in every industry, there is a chain reaction that follows modernization within individual airports and airlines resulting in a battle royale to win over passengers.

Imagine this – you need to fly from Sydney to New York and either direction you fly around the world will be within an hour or so difference in flight time. What makes your decision? For most travellers, it’s the amenities.

With 25+ hours of travel, passengers are looking for the most comfortable airline and the airport where they will have a more relaxing layover. As a result, more airports and airlines are investing heavily to improve the passenger experience, from artificial intelligence technology in customer service and mobile updates to automated boarding procedures.

The checkpoint is no different. If passengers have the choice between two relatively equidistant airports, they will be less inclined to choose the one where they know the security check will take longer. That’s why airports are implementing technology that allows the passenger to leave belts and shoes on, leave laptops and tablets in bags, and move through the checkpoint as efficiently as possible.

With the increased security threats around the world, airport managers are constantly trying to balance the effectiveness of technology with the overall happiness of the passenger. More advanced, automated systems are the answer. You can expect to continue to see enhancements at the checkpoint and beyond, that provide travellers with increased functionality, higher standards of security and less time spent waiting.

By Rapiscan Systems’ Lauren Presley, senior director of product management; and Hooman Shakouri, senior director of global marketing

November 16, 2017

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About Author


Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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