Airport security: Clear skies ahead?


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Vinisha Joshi, Content Team Lead, Global Market Insights, Inc. outlines the top three technological solutions likely to define airport security.

Security has always been of paramount importance in airport operations, given the volatility of illegal ammunition and weapons and the rising number of terrorist activities encountered almost every year. Fraught with the consistent fear of violence and threat, airport authorities are adopting advanced airport security systems to counter unrest.

In the wake of current threats related to cyber-attacks and potential damages to the aerospace and aviation industry, demand for airport security solutions is gradually witnessing an incline, stimulating the airport security market dynamics. In recent times, the aviation industry has been highly vulnerable to threats related to smuggling activities, terrorism and other crimes; in response this, security companies are working on advanced airport security technologies that deliver optimum protection at airports.

The proliferation of connected and digital solutions is transforming the security landscape as airport personnel continue to seek the integration of security systems to ensure advanced safety and surveillance.

Demonstrating a recent example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nominated transport security technologist, Pangiam, to showcase its AI-driven accessible screening solution that is said to have strong potential to revolutionise aviation security. Project DARTMOUTH, a partnership between Google Cloud and Pangiam, makes use of AI and pattern analysis technologies to analyse huge amounts of data in real time to detect potentially prohibited items in carry-on baggage. In the years ahead, AI tools will emerge as the go-to solution for airport security market contenders.

How will leveraging AI help to optimise safety for airports?

Today, AI technology enables airports to enhance passenger safety and security. Cameras integrated with AI video analytics turn into proactive security systems for the recognition of security threats. These are used to optimise situational awareness and automate response in case of high impact scenarios. The smart use of data gathered from AI video analytics enables airport managers to make informed decisions about optimising airport performance to accelerate operational efficiency and improve customer experience.

Driven by the rapid proliferation of AI, the airport security market size may cross USD 25 billion by 2028, as per a report by Global Market Insights Inc.

While AI will continue to be a mainstay for airport security, the penetration of other technologies has also been observed lately. Below is a brief snapshot of some of the fundamental airport security solutions that have helped increase passenger and infrastructure safety and security at airports:

  1. Access control

Access control is an integral part of airport security. It is crucial to manage access to sensitive areas like air traffic control towers, tarmac or hangars. At the same time, there is the need to assure that service providers, company employees and multiple commercial vendors have access to certain areas of the airport at certain times of the day and that passenger traffic flow is seamless. This is precisely the reason why intelligent access control systems have been deployed. Services like biometric access, designed to differentiate between unauthorised and legitimate visitors, help regulate access control.

Unlike swipe cards that can be stolen or borrowed, biometric access control, especially face recognition, offers enhanced security. This solution is highly popular and has been deployed at many airports to ensure proper safety and security.

  1. Cybersecurity

While technological advancements and digitisation have revolutionised the aviation sector, it has become quite challenging to manage the growing threats emerging from cyber-attacks. A recent example of this is EasyJet; in 2020, critical information of nearly nine million airline customers was compromised after a cyber-attack, including the bank details of more than 2,000 of them.

This has prompted airport authorities worldwide to introduce effective cybersecurity solutions and ensure a secure and safe environment for both the passengers and employees. To cite an example, UK’s Manchester Airport Group commissioned Bridewell as its security ally in 2021 to augment security event visibility in the country by 1500%. The collaboration has seen the airport revolutionise its protection and visibility against cyber-attacks via the development of a more agile and modern security operations centre, on-site.

The Asia Pacific region is also observing a significant boom in the airport security industry pertaining to the deployment of cybersecurity solutions, subject to the increasing number of cyber-threats. A report by Global Market Insights Inc. claims that the APAC airport security market size accounted for a revenue share of over 35% in 2021. The increasing penetration of the internet and the robust upsurge in passenger traffic will push the demand for technologically advanced airport security solutions across the region.

  1. Perimeter security

Perimeter security breach has been around for a long time. Over recent years, the globe has witnessed several highly publicised perimeter security breaches, wherein intruders have gained unauthorised access to the restricted areas in airports. In 2021 for example, an individual slashed through a perimeter fence at Los Angeles International to board a plane that was being examined, creating a potential security threat on the secure side of the airport.

While the airport perimeters are already being sealed with traditional protection methods like fence alarms and fence systems, a flaw these systems sometimes encounter is delay. To that end, airport authorities are considering the adoption of advanced technological solutions like taut wire, fibre optics, radar and thermal imaging and video analytics. The amalgamation of motion detection software and video surveillance cameras has extended the range and capabilities of perimeter protection solutions from complex intrusion analysis to simple detection.

The impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a mixed effect on the demand for airport security. The onset of the global virus attack negatively impacted the aviation sector through much of 2020, given the stringent restrictions that completely halted domestic and international travel. As flights resumed in the early months of 2021, the demand for hygiene maintenance and sanitation became more significant than ever. This led to a meteoric rise in the necessity for enhanced passenger screening, tracking, surveillance and access control.

The pandemic brought new challenges at passenger checking points and a subsequent complexity in security protocols. To that end, companies have been working to incorporate advanced technology in airport security solutions to ensure that passengers and employees are safe, secure and healthy. The proliferating trends in health security and automation have led to the increasing need for touchless technology to minimise the risk of virus transmission; this will open several growth opportunities for certain solution providers.

Final thoughts

As the number of incidences pertaining to terror attacks and volatile events continue to rise at airports, the demand for airport security solutions will witness an upsurge. Airports are now looking to implement advanced screening technologies from leading providers to ensure optimum safety of air travellers and authorities.

Air travel worldwide is predicted to witness an incline in the years ahead, the impact of which will be felt on the airport security market expansion. Developed regions such as North America and Europe will particularly register massive gains across this industry, given the increasing air passenger traffic in these areas and the presence of prominent security solution providers.

This article was originally published in the October edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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