Taking Off -  IP surveillance technology is critical partner in airport security

Taking Off

IP surveillance technology is critical partner in airport security

Today’s airports are filled with flashy new technology. Virtual hologram staffers give instructions; full body imaging sensors search for contraband; and passengers can manage ticketing entirely on their phones. But, some of the most advanced innovations are occurring behind the scenes. Airports are increasingly adopting new video surveillance technology to protect their passengers and run the facilities more efficiently.

As airports are forced to upgrade their infrastructure to comply with new regulations and consumer expectations, many are taking the opportunity to upgrade their surveillance systems for smarter video security, intrusion detection, perimeter protection and access control.

While physical security is the most important use of surveillance in any airport, many are finding benefits that go beyond security, including passenger flow management, airline/aircraft gate management and increased overall operational efficiency at check-in lines, retail areas, baggage claim and more.

Making Smarter Technology Upgrades: Analog to IP

In 2013, IHS Research indicated that 50 percent of the surveillance market is converging on IP video. These conversations are no longer plans for the future—they are happening right now all over the world. Airport directors and security executives are tired of dealing with systems that are time-consuming to manage, cannot scale and do not meet their functionality requirements. The capabilities of network video have grown dramatically since they were introduced nearly twenty years ago, and upgrading from analog technology has become the standard in the aviation market. Some of the best reasons include:

  • Improved image quality. With IP video, video users have access to the same high definition image quality they have at home on their televisions. The HDTV quality video available with network cameras lets staff not only see that an event occurred, but also see critical details like facial characteristics or clothing that could indicate who is responsible and precisely what took place before, during and after an event. The ease with which staff can access video—even from their mobile devices—makes viewing it part of the everyday business practice, rather than something done only out of necessity. Some cameras even provide specific formats for better coverage of hallways and corridors which preserves pixels and increases image usability.
  • Simple and scalable. Since analog cameras can only be installed in groups, scaling camera locations can be a headache. IP-based systems make it easy to simply drop in one new camera or a thousand.
  • Finding video quickly. With analog systems, it can take ages to go through DVRs and tapes to find the footage you need. IP technology supports video management software that can cut hours from that process with smart search. Additionally, users can patch video together, search by qualifiers like date or pixels, apply video analytics and support smarter business intelligence activities.
  • Enhancing existing and changing light conditions. Airports are notorious for difficult lighting conditions. One hallway can be bright while the next is full of shadows. Large windows and backlighting also affect the quality of the video and ability to capture clear images. IP video boasts Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) capabilities to help compensate for changes in light, while Lightfinder technology produces color images in places with little to no light at all.
  • Storage simplification. No more DVRs, tape, etc. These images and video captures are quickly and easily compressed and stored on servers.

Making Bigger Even Better

The benefits above are driving more users and uses of video surveillance, well beyond the traditional security-oriented users such as airport security, TSA or CBP. Other functional groups, such as operations, maintenance and risk management departments, as well as major tenants are becoming stakeholders. With more users and uses of network- based video, IT organizations are driving more and more of the deployments that satisfy traditional security and safety measures along with more proactive and innovative uses of the technology. All of these advantages are driving the overall size of the system.

The airlines that operate in the airport often have their own security protocols and surveillance technology in use. By switching to more accessible surveillance technology, airports can gain useful insight into airline operations. For instance, the video can help to understand the reasoning behind flight delays—such as unscheduled maintenance and fueling—and how to improve the situation in the future.

New creative uses for the high quality footage are being realized each day. The video is helping to improve efficiency in areas as diverse as baggage handling, airport construction monitoring, customer mapping in retail areas, loss prevention and customer counter queue. Analysis of the video can drive more sales and generate additional revenue for the airport.

More Intelligent Security Actions

Unlike analog system, IP video gives airports access to real-time data and increased intelligence. As a result, security directors and staff are able to make smarter decisions to improve safety and operations. Cameras can be deployed as “watchers” and as “detectors” each with their own specific settings and triggers, as well as incorporating a layer of intelligence with third party analytics and applications. Similar to an app on your mobile phone, video analytics each have their own unique benefits to specific situations, such as forensic processing or real-time detection.

With the right analytics, airport officials can arrange for a number of actions to take place after an event or trigger—an alarm can go off, personnel can be alerted, a video clip can be sent, and doors can shut. Analytics can also be used to help manage queues and lines at the airport. The applications can provide a range of information, such as predicted wait times, the number of passengers being processed per minute, and heat mapping to better understand overcrowding and distribution of crowds. This type of information can ultimately help improve the customer experience.

After a successful pilot, a major North American airport is now moving forward with the deployment of IP cameras at the entrance of all of the restrooms— all for operations and maintenance purposes. Thanks to automatic people counting analytics that resides on each camera, when a certain number of people have entered the restroom, an alarm is triggered indicating to maintenance staff that it is time to send the cleaning crew.

Analytics make the whole airport smarter, not just the security department.

Real Airports, Real Examples

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Belgrade, Montana connects travelers with southwestern Montana, Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky ski resort. When the airport went through a redesign they transitioned their surveillance system from analog to IP. The switch makes it easier for the public safety officers to monitor multiple feeds at once and keep watch over the entire airport, indoors and out. Jacksonville, Florida-based infrastructure design consultant RS&H recommended Axis network cameras to complement the exacqVision Enterprise VMS software and RS2 Technologies access control being installed by Illinois-based systems integrator Video and Sound Service Inc. The airport is able to use its resources more effectively, and it has greater control over video and who can access it. The system has helped make the airport more secure as it continues to grow.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the sixth-busiest airport in the world—third in the United States—and is operated by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). The airport runs more than 600 flights daily through almost 75 air carriers. Airport officials decided a security upgrade would provide public safety, operations and maintenance with more effective systems and technology. Unisys advised LAWA to go with Axis network cameras, recording to Hewlett-Packard servers and HID Global readers for access control, all of which are managed by NICE Systems VMS. The upgrade was well received and the airports video system grew from their existing 800 analog cameras to today’s 3,000-plus IP-based camera system. The image quality was nearly unrecognizable to the airport’s prior analog footage, which was grainy and fuzzy. The entire project was a perfect case study for other airports considering upgrading their surveillance and security systems.

Miami International Airport (MIA) underwent a major renovation this year, and it installed cameras specifically designed to detect intruders, as well as monitor checkpoints, increase intelligence and work in low light or changing light conditions. The system is one of the most advanced in the country, and the airport uses advanced video analytics applications on new cameras inside the terminal and on the airfield.

Denver International Airport (DEN) in 2013 began an ongoing strategy to rip and replace all of its analog cameras with IP technology. The airport went from a little over 250 cameras to approximately 1,300 (including TSA’s equipment). The system includes a good mix of fixed-view cameras and pan/tilt/zoom equipment.

Where to Begin

Modern airport security is one of the most important, dynamic and complex challenges of our generation and cameras play a key role in the overall strategy. Beyond security, they also present a huge opportunity to create smarter, more intelligent operations.

The first step for airports looking to switch to IP is finding a security partner and integrator that can guide you through the options for cameras, applications, analytics and overall strategies. A knowledgeable integrator can help airport officials create a plan that addresses its unique needs and specifications. With a well-developed plan in hand, the airport team can launch an upgrade that makes the most use out of all of the intelligence and innovation the new technology provides.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .


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