Why The Future Of Airport Security Screening Is Open, Integrated And Data-Driven

Why The Future Of Airport Security Screening Is Open, Integrated And Data-Driven

Open Architecture (OA) is set to enhance the status quo for airport security system design, installation, operation and maintenance. OA, also known as the ‘open platform’, enables the interoperability and interfacing of security screening algorithms, hardware and software from different suppliers, all within one solution. It can be applied to checkpoint, hold-baggage and cargo scanning equipment – as well as to systems of the wider ecosystem, such as queue management and flight information systems.

It is currently gaining momentum within the aviation industry, as it facilitates increased connectivity, integration and data sharing. Its implementation allows airports to incorporate new components into their screening systems through the definition of standard interfaces, which means different systems can work in tandem, talking to each other more efficiently and effectively.

“Oa Platforms Can Facilitate Operational Efficiency Because The Systems Across Different Fleets Can Be Updated With The Latest Algorithms, Supporting The Sharing Of X-Ray Images And Related Data”

Whilst there are several available solutions for addressing current operational issues facing airports, including increased connectivity, centralised image evaluation, and CT technology, OA delivers ultimate flexibility and efficiency by allowing these solutions to be applied across mixed fleets (scanners provided by different manufacturers).

Encouraging data sharing

The adoption of OA can facilitate the sharing of data between airport and security authorities around the world and allows airports to easily enhance their systems with the most advanced algorithms and software on the market to meet growing potential threats. Not only does this improve the security outcome, but it will have a positive knock-on effect on operational efficiency, passenger experience and the airport’s ability to meet evolving regulation.

OA platforms can facilitate operational efficiency because the systems across different fleets can be updated with the latest algorithms, supporting the sharing of X-ray images and related data. This means that screening results can be shared between departure, transit and arrival airports, despite airports having different fleets and service providers, potentially removing the need for passengers to be rescreened at each airport. 

These factors could improve passenger flow and remove the need to multiple screening points which in turn would reduce the need for as many operators alleviating the strain caused by staff shortages.

Additionally, OA would enhance centralised image evaluation, which enables operators to review screening imagery in remote operator rooms, increasing efficiency by introducing flexibility in terms of operator to scanner ratio through multiplexing.

Although airports are focusing on leveraging OA for image sharing, centralised image evaluation and the deployment of third-party algorithms there is yet to be industry best practice for how it should be adopted.As a highly regulated and classified function, it is critical that it is deployed responsibly. Industry stakeholders are therefore currently exploring how the benefits of OA can be unlocked in a way that does not compromise the effectiveness, operational availability or the integrity of screening data.

The need for regulation

The sensitivity involved in airport screening means that there are complexities when seeking regulatory approval. The main hurdle relates to the certification of various screening systems and third-party detection algorithms, as unauthorised connections and interfaces with certified equipment are not guaranteed to be compliant. Due to these complexities, the regulatory process is likely to take longer than usual due to the different systems that would need to be approved in tandem. Therefore, for OA to be viable, a more flexible certification processes, such as certifying the system in its entirety, needs to be considered.

Airports have other considerations when evaluating the viability of OA, which range from technical barriers to commercial realities. One of these is which supplier needs to take accountability of the overall performance of the system. Currently, OEMs are responsible for the supply and maintenance of certified screening equipment, providing classified data protection and ensuring electrical and mechanical safety as well as electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). However, with OA, there is a risk of software upgrades of individual components having an adverse effect on the rest of the system. In cases such as this, it is unclear which company would be responsible, and therefore it needs to be specified who is accountable. Furthermore, there must be a someone appointed to vet potential third party algorithm developers.

Moving forward

The benefits of OA are clear; it provides greater flexibility to airports to integrate the latest technologies into one screening solution, that can tackle new threats and amplify current technology solution so they can meet new operational requirements, such as the current shortage of labour. However, with the new platform, comes the risks of implementation, and questions of regulation. To address these risks and ensure the smooth implementation and secure operations, it is essential that a common set of standards is established.

The European Organisation for Security is actively involved alongside regulators to establish an agreed approach to OA. At Smiths Detection we are facilitating the coordination of stakeholders and utilising our system interfacing experience to advise on best practice. We have seen that it is only through working closely together that an industry-wide set of standards will be agreed, so that the risks can be mitigated and the benefits of OA fully realised. Only once this has been set, can OA pave the way to a more integrated and secure airport network.

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