As it continues to explore ways to enhance both the passenger experience and aviation security, there are at least several bright near-term prospects for achieving these twin goals without having to rely on technology advances, according to an industry official.
One component that is “almost a game changer in its own right” is centralized image processing of X-Ray images, which entails locating the operators of X-Ray systems in a central control room away from the checkpoint, Guido Peetermans, project manager at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for the Smart Security initiative it is conducting with Airports Council International, tells HSR.
Centralized image processing is already being used in several airports, including Gatwick near London and will be used in at least one of two pilot Smart Security pilot sites that IATA and ACI are already working with at Schiphol in Amsterdam and Heathrow in London, says Peetermans. The remote screening allows the next image to go to the next available operator, increasing the capacity to process images which in turn achieves efficiencies in each checkpoint lane and allows passenger throughput to increase, he says.
This way of image processing also can improve security, says Peetermans. For example, if there is a complicated image, then “perhaps two operators” can look at it, providing more security by having two opinions, he adds.
The affect of centralized imaging processing is to move the “bottleneck” elsewhere, which is to the front of the X-Ray screening lines where travelers divest their belongings, says Peetermans. This is driving a need to be able to constantly feed trays and bags into the X-Ray systems to use the freed capacity, he says, which brings up the need for a second key process component, “new and innovative lane designs.”
Parallel divesting, which is already being done at Schiphol and Gatwick, provides for a number of divestment stations for travelers to put their belongings on the belt feeding an X-Ray machine. This allows travelers to unpack at their own pace, without pressure, improving the experience for the passenger and simultaneously filling the capacity of the inspection equipment, he says.
Operational trials of centralized image processing combined with parallel divesting has shown that throughput can be more than doubled and in some cases nearly tripled “of a single lane in a sustainable manner,” says Peetermans.
“This is not science fiction,” says Peetermans. “These are relatively simple concepts but they can achieve great efficiencies.”
A third component to improving the checkpoint experience has to do with the body scanners, or Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, says Peetermans. He says Schiphol is in the process of integrating the body scanners into its central security checkpoint as a primary screening tool in place of metal detectors.
However, the problem with the AIT machines is that they are slower than metal detectors, which means that the throughput gains from the centralized image processing and parallel divesting move the checkpoint bottleneck to these scanners. Peetermans says that his team has been working with several airports—and shortly Schiphol—on using multiple screens for the AIT machines.
Typically the AIT machines have an image display attached to the scanner, allowing operators to process one passenger at a time. With two or three screens located away from the AIT scanner, a passenger can be processed at one screen while another is going through the machine for processing at another screen.
“This is a relatively simple technology improvement but it can dramatically increase the throughput on the body scanner,” he says.
As it conducts various pilot tests with international airports, one of the goals of IATA and ACI is to provide airports and related stakeholders with a menu of options for enhancing security and improving the passenger experience. The tools that different airports need to deploy depend on their respective regulatory environments and operational requirements, so there is no “one size fits all,” says Peetermans, echoing what other IATA officials say.
IATA recently announced that Hamad International Airport and Qatar Airways will be hosting Smart Security pilots and Peetermans says he would like additional pilot sites around the world. In the short-term he says the processes and technology modifications that can be expected at Heathrow and Schiphol are likely to be found at Hamad.
Additional process changes and technology improvements will be rolled out incrementally as Smart Security continues, says Peetermans. Some changes will include risk-based security measures based on behavior detection or other rules, such as family units traveling to a holiday destination versus a person traveling alone that little is know about and who is traveling to a high risk destination, he says.
He also says under Smart Security projects are planned to try and limit divestments such as electronic items. Solutions for this are “around the corner but not quite there yet,” he says, noting there is technology for this but there are still operational concerns due to false alarm rates. That doesn’t mean a pilot to test technology to limit divestments can’t be done in the next year or so, he adds.