Airports, experience is everything: Airport Security

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Previously we talked about how checking-in is one of the more stressful processes associated with flying, but many will agree that the security check is even more so.

Photo taken at Denver Airport Security

According to a passenger survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airport security is one of the least popular aspects of travel. Understandably, this is due to the long queues, having to remove items of clothing, taking devices out of their cases and the restrictions on carried liquids.

However, the most controversial topic regarding security control is the intrusion to privacy. This includes being patted down, having random checks on your carry luggage, and more recently the use of full-body scanners. Since being rolled-out in 2007, the release of images showing the person checked appearing rather nude created backlash from privacy groups. Since 2013, these machines have either been removed or have started running a privacy software called Automated Target Recognition. Instead of showing revealing images, they generate a cartoon-line body image that identifies the location of potentially suspicious elements, inducing the staff to carry out a pat-down.

To reduce queuing time, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has introduced a new auto scan system which runs an initial scan through the content in a tray, and alerts the operator only if it spots suspicious items. Having fewer images to check allows the operator to focus only on those that require attention, hence increasing efficiency.

This is all part of the new Schiphol Security Experience which aims to create a more seamless experience for passengers and to deliver security “not as a necessity, but as a service”. The security area has been redesigned with plants, noise-reducing materials, wood-covered ceiling and more natural light to create a calmer atmosphere. Furthermore, the security staff went through a retraining process learning not just about security but hospitality as well.

Further efforts to improve passenger experience are also underway, but this time by trying to take advantage of technology. IATA forecasts that soon enough liquid and laptop scanners will allow passengers to keep these items in their luggage. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed prototypes for what they call MagRay, based on scanning technology similar to what is used in medical MRI scans. Trials at Albuquerque airport have so far been “favourable” in distinguishing between benign and malicious liquids in luggage.

Improved camera security technology is also gaining traction. Dallmeier (a large security systems company) will showcase its new Panomera multifocal sensor system at the upcoming inter-airport Europe trade fair in October. It has been specially developed to enable comprehensive video surveillance of wide areas as well as long distances in high resolution, in real time.

This type of powerful technology will allow for behavioural analytics in the future, whereby software continuously scans surveillance video feeds for suspicious behaviour, as opposed to relying only on human eyes. Another potential feature of this equipment could be facial scanning to match faces to a database of previously identified individuals, allowing for easier identification of potential culprits.

As with everything, we see the powerful insights technology can provide when it comes to data.

In our next blogpost in the series of Airports we will be covering the passenger services and wayfinding – which coincidentality, is part of what we do here at Pointr!

Team Pointr

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