ISJ Exclusive: Astrophysics assesses integration in security screening

Integration in the security screening market Astrophysics Inc.

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ISJ – April Edition Exclusive

As security technology continues to improve and threats emerge, agencies around the world are deploying more complex screening systems and networks to keep up with increasing operational burdens, reports Astrophysics Inc.

In 2023 and beyond, major players in the global security sphere like the US and Canada, the EU, the UAE and the UK are looking to improve information sharing and collaboration between parties along supply chains and travel networks.

For example, the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) roadmap for air cargo security from 2021-2024 prioritises risk-based security assessments and advance warning systems to guide cargo screenings. Other plans from analogous authorities invoke similar messaging, albeit tailored to their unique processes and regulations as applicable.

This level of coordination and information sharing between airlines, freight-forwarders, customs officials, government agencies and other entities creates a significant red-tape burden for global logistics. Additional steps in the process – while beneficial to security – necessarily adds to the time needed to complete it. If critical data and necessary information cannot get to where it is needed promptly, delays are inevitable.

Therefore, comprehensive integration is an essential facet of modern security, futureproofing, and regulatory compliance. Taking the diverse range of subsystems designed, developed and maintained by independent parties into consideration, integration could even be called indispensable.

What is integration?

Integration means combining independent systems into a cohesive whole. A common example can be seen in airports on a daily basis. A specially designed cable interface can allow an x-ray machine to signal an upstream diverter mechanism when suspicious carry-on luggage has been flagged as “suspect.” The luggage can be diverted on an alternate track and inspector workstation for further analysis without disrupting the flow of traffic through normal channels.

More than a trendy buzzword, integration encompasses everything from designing complicated multi-stage workflows spanning multiple participating countries down to exchanging detection signals between radiation portal monitors and x-ray scanners to eliminate interference and flag hazardous materials.

As regulatory authorities push to eliminate screening gaps across air travel, borders and commerce, security providers must move beyond offering self-contained solutions to have any hope of continued relevance. X-ray systems must go beyond providing x-ray images. CCTV systems must do more than record and display video. Security officers must learn to interface with a broader array of supporting technologies.

For example, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is currently launching integrated screening checkpoints with a multitude of overlapping technologies at various border crossings and ports of entry.

These checkpoints are necessarily more complicated than what existed before, but through careful consideration and implementation should improve waiting times despite enhancing overall security. Of course, this requires thorough, good-faith cooperation between all the vendors responsible for exchanging signals, data, decisions, reports and other information needed for stable operation of the system at large.

Proper integration is also crucial for maintaining effective troubleshooting to identify exact points-of-failure when things go wrong. In that sense, the quality of cross-systems integration is just as important as the quality and performance of the technologies being integrated.

Securing borders and travel

With a strong background in customisation, Astrophysics Inc. is an eminent contributor towards modern integration initiatives. The HXC-LaneScan and HXP-FreightScan are the premier x-ray screening solutions for border crossings and customs facilities, respectively, and both are designed from the ground up for integration with new or existing infrastructure.

With options like traffic gates, RFID reading, under-vehicle inspection (UVIS), license plate and container optical character recognition (OCR), and more, these systems can provide their own support or interface with the end user’s preferred solutions, with ease. In tomorrow’s landscape of pre-emptive risk assessments, information sharing, advance warning and comprehensive screening, cross-systems compatibility is an invaluable advantage.

The HXC-LaneScan is the most advanced x-ray scanner for passenger vehicles in the world. With an outstanding 65mm of steel penetration and top-down imaging perspective, it helps analysts quickly spot discrepancies hidden anywhere within each vehicle. The scanner’s slim-profile 12-foot wide frame fits easily within standard traffic lanes and enables installing multiple units in parallel when site layouts allow for it.

The HXP-FreightScan is a high-efficiency x-ray portal for screening freight trucks hauling standard shipping containers and other similarly-sized loads. With up to 340mm of steel penetration, phenomenal throughput of up to 160 trucks/per hour and broad compatibility with industry-specific tools like UFF 2.0, weighbridges etc., the HXP-FreightScan is well equipped to streamline customs screening operations in harsh port environments around the world.

The backbone of any integration-focused system is scalability. The HXC-LaneScan and HXP-FreightScan can just as easily deploy as single units for small scale applications or network many units across multiple transnational sites alongside innumerable other security technologies.

Both systems compile highly portable image data sets containing x-ray images and all additional information from integrated subsystems to enable straightforward inspection, secondary inspection, remote inspection and sharing results and archived records directly with business partners and government agencies.

Revolutionising air cargo

Air cargo in particular is a challenging sector of the security industry. While low density homogeneous pallets are manageable with conventional x-ray inspection, denser pallets of heterogeneous goods are significantly harder to screen. Freight-forwarders often opt to break-bulk, which requires splitting pallets to scan smaller pieces before reassembling them for shipment. Needless to say, it is a costly and time consuming process.

The Astrophysics Multi-View CT is an unprecedented scanner combining classic x-ray transmission images with a full three dimensional CT reconstruction of the data. The ability to scan whole pallets and thoroughly inspect even densely cluttered cargoes eliminates the need to break-bulk.

In addition to its revolutionary imaging performance, the Multi-View CT is ideal for integration with air cargo warehouse operations. For example, in Automatic mode, the scanner processes pallets as fast as they can be loaded without waiting for analyst decisions. Instead, it adds the completed image data sets to a queue on its centralised server.

Analysts in a remote workstation – sequestered from the noises of the cargo warehouse – can begin inspecting pallets in first-in-first-out (FIFO) order. This analysis can start immediately, though some freight-forwarders elect to scan pallets en masse overnight and inspect them at the start of their morning shift. This approach is exceptionally time-efficient, but requires integration with on-site networks and pallet identification systems such as barcode or RFID readers.

The way forward

As security agencies around the world take a more holistic approach to their security processes and infrastructure, it is equally important for security x-ray companies to engineer systems that can seamlessly integrate into these new or existing infrastructures. It is no longer enough to simply provide security x-ray systems. As the complexity of security threats and modus operandi of criminals increases, manufacturers must likewise provide a holistic security solution.

The new paradigm of steadily increasing reliance on integration brings with it the necessity of building stronger ties with global partners for the purposes of legitimate oversight and the common defence. For example, as CBP expands and upgrades border crossings throughout the US, their Mexican counterpart, the Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), is working to match CBP’s renovations and establish cooperative interoperation on both sides of the border.

Going above and beyond sharing specifications and setting new standards, both agencies are seeking to become active partners of a fresh alliance that will more effectively combat fraud, smuggling and other threats they face on a daily basis.

While commercial-off-the-shelf products are still prized for their predictability, private and governmental security stakeholders are recognising the advantage of integrated solutions tailored to their individual needs. The ability to combine otherwise-unrelated systems to cover gaps in tracking and detection capabilities not only improves overall security but also enables generating data to use in long term analytics and process improvements.

While integrated systems require a higher initial investment of time, money and training to implement, they pay later dividends in efficiency and efficacy with continuing growth as they mature. In today’s global society, sharing information and security data benefits everyone involved: Improving security for your neighbours and trading partners improves your own and vice-versa.

Astrophysics Inc.

Astrophysics Inc. is dedicated to developing, constructing and supplying x-ray scanners to help clients worldwide. The company’s cutting-edge technology detects and recognises concealed hazards, while its security system engineering assists in safeguarding vital infrastructure, transportation and commerce.

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This article was originally published in the April edition of ISJ. To read your free digital edition, click here.

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