Integrating Security

Integrating Security

Tying checkpoint screening into the control center

Security checkpoints are some of the most publicly visible and heavily used components of today’s security infrastructure. Whether airports, stadiums, ports or border transit points, in many ways checkpoint technology is the linchpin for effectively protecting people and property.

This technology has become more powerful and sophisticated. However, security checkpoints are often viewed as barriers and disruptions to the free flow of people and goods—functioning as bottlenecks instead of gateways. As populations continue to grow, many institutions and agencies are considering how to update the security infrastructure to accommodate more people and sustain security and safety. Airports, major public events, transportation networks all need to be able to screen thousands of bags, people and vehicles so that they can gain entry into the secured area on time.

Aviation passenger numbers are expected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, more than doubling today’s traveling public. There needs to be new solutions to make travel for bona fide travelers less burdensome and complicated. Plus, the costs of delivering streamlined safety and security at airports, border points and seaports have to go down.

Better integration of checkpoint technology into overall security operations can help address these issues, making passage easier and more efficient, and aiding in the flow through checkpoints. In addition, checkpoint technology also offers opportunities to capture and utilize highly useful information that can be of critical value to an entire operation.


It is useful to consider the different ways individuals interact with security checkpoints, in order to appreciate how their technology could be leveraged to enhance overall operations.

Consider a fan attending a Major League Baseball game. It’s possible this fan has downloaded the team’s smartphone app, which he uses to purchase a ticket on the spur of the moment one evening. At the stadium, he parks in a lot with CCTV security cameras.

At the ticket gate, he provides his ticket and is processed through the gate’s metal detector. Because he has the smartphone app and has registered with the team through it, his travel through the gate and security checkpoint could be the starting point to enhance his stadium experience. Once cleared through security, the fan receives a personal message welcoming him to the game, an automatic download of that night’s program and digital coupons for discounts at the concession stands or the team store. All of this customer service could be triggered at the security checkpoint.

Another example of leveraging better checkpoint integration is at border entries. In some regions with heavy cross-border commercial traffic, significant delays have mounted—and revenue has been lost—due to erroneous or incomplete cargo manifests, customs declarations and confusion about which containers or vehicles need to be scanned and which do not.

By using a comprehensive, integrated customs clearance process, 100 percent of inbound, outbound and transit cargo vehicles could be scanned and their X-ray scans matched up with all necessary documentation. Not only does this have the effect of increasing the speed, predictability and transparency of customs clearances; it creates a strong incentive for trade companies to be fully compliant with their documentation, and allows for better trade flow and revenue generation.

These two examples demonstrate how checkpoint information, when combined with other sources of information and integrated more fully into security center operations, can help:

  • Overall efficiency and effectiveness of security operations.
  • Aid in cost control and planning efforts.
  • Optimize revenue streams.
  • Improve end user experience of security operations.


There is potential value for using checkpoint technology as a more strategic asset for security operations. However, the way current checkpoint technology is engineered and deployed creates certain obstacles to effective integration.

Recent years have seen a multiplication of systems to handle different requirements, often from different regulatory bodies and in response to new threats or risk factors. Airport checkpoints have seen the addition of full-body scanners and explosive detection systems to X-ray machines, photo ID checks and biometric scanning. All these systems are generating data—but how useable is it?

In addition, there are other security systems such as security cameras deployed throughout a terminal that are also generating data—data that is being delivered to the security control center in parallel with the checkpoint information, not necessarily integrated with it.

This fragmentation occurs in other settings as well. Port security operations, for example, include more than security screening and cargo inspection activities; there are physical security operations (like CCTV and access control) as well as customs/trade compliance and on-site employee security and gate management.

All these “security” tasks are separate, requiring individual staff, training and infrastructure for each process. Each of these processes depends on another aspect of port security—like security screening and cargo manifest examination. To ensure the most efficient detection of threats and contraband, security screening operators should be able to easily compare cargo manifests with screening equipment images.

If these processes are not necessarily synchronized, missteps can occur, leading to screening operators not receiving the right information in time (or not at all). Not only does this increase the potential for threats and/or contraband to slip through a port, it also means that port operations have a more difficult time analyzing and reconciling checkpoint data with other sources of information, to address potential future risks or improve overall port management.

Fortunately, cooperative efforts are underway to improve the flow of users through checkpoints, which can lay the groundwork for greater integration of checkpoint data into security operations. Trusted traveler programs make it possible for travelers to complete a single government background check and, once approved, go through an expedited security checkpoint that does not require them to remove belts, jackets or shoes, and laptops and electronics can remain in carry-on bags.

Some customs organizations are using a similar technique called pre-risk analysis, which involves using data from known shippers and other sources to plan which vehicles or types of shipments should be scanned, to help reduce bottlenecks for over-the-road cargo shipments. This is a predictive technique that is an alternative to 100 percent scanning and, while effective, there is still a potential for gaps that could be exploited.

These are solid efforts, focused on solving checkpoint bottleneck issues and introducing the use of digital information to enable better and more efficient decision-making in the security realm. There are technology-based approaches, focused on leveraging the data generated by the checkpoint, that when implemented well can create a powerful and versatile resource to enable the security director to have high throughput, better security and improved experiences for the end user.


Security operations generate continual streams of data, but these streams can have separate paths, formats and recipients in the security center. The next step is to build on the efforts to streamline the flow of traffic through checkpoints, elevating the value of the information delivered through multiple data streams—the checkpoint and other security data sources—into actionable data.

Bundling these streams of data and standardizing their formats are two important steps that can help eliminate barriers to efficiently delivering relevant “rich” data to security center managers, reducing complexities and helping improve operations across a facility or enterprise.

Currently, checkpoint systems providers can deliver their information into security center systems, but that scanning information is, for the most part, delivered in isolation and without purpose. Matching it up with other information is key to creating actionable data in the control center.

Progress is being made on industry cooperative efforts around enhancing checkpoint data integration; checkpoint equipment providers are working with global agencies to find ways to advance integration on a wider scale. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed plans to support an Open Screening Systems Architecture that will enable integrated security systems at the airport. Another example is the effort by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and multiple suppliers to create a unified file format so that the X-ray image data from cargo screening systems can be easily bundled with other important customs and shipment data.

Suppliers are working to integrate data files from all NII scanning events captured at the designated locations throughout each scanning location; this would then allow these images to be viewed and bundled with other data at a control center. This unified file format allows for a seamless integration across different manufacturer’s equipment—both scanning viewing software and integrated data management systems.

By bundling X-ray scans with other data associated with that event, the file would include the results of any adjudication decisions. This concept could also allow for data sharing across different agencies, without the need for specific tools in each location other than a unified file viewing mechanism. This kind of cooperative industry effort creates a framework for future opportunities to bundle even more checkpoint data into complete, actionable information for security center managers.

For example, agencies and commercial enterprises are looking for easier ways to bundle cargo manifests and customs declaration information with cargo scanning X-ray images. In fact, this kind of integration has been accomplished at some port and over-land border operations. Implementing this integration has led to a more transparent and consistent method of maintaining border controls, increasing correct tax collection and helping improve border security.

It has made it possible to efficiently implement screening 100 percent of cargo, which in turn has led to improved levels of compliance with manifests, customs declarations and revenue generation.


Those responsible for selecting and purchasing security checkpoint solutions have in the past focused on more basic issues when making buying decisions: costs, ability to physically fit into checkpoint locations and compliance with the latest regulatory requirements. Now is the time to be asking how your security screening technology fits into the whole security picture and what should you be able to accomplish by integrating it into the control center.

By viewing checkpoint systems as strategic contributors of actionable data to security center operations, security center managers and decision-makers should consider several questions, in order to make the most effective investment on decisions about checkpoint technology:

  • Does the technology have remote capabilities, and how can I incorporate that into my security center operations?
  • How is this technology going to fit into my total security operations, both in terms of IT/interface/file format issues, and enhancing my operational efficiencies? How much effort will it take to accomplish this integration?
  • How do we design the checkpoint system to move traffic through as quickly as possible, while at the same time accomplishing all the necessary security checks?
  • Now that the checkpoint system offers relevant data, what will we need to do to use that data to proactively improve operations, planning, cost control, training and optimization of revenue streams?

This is a different way of approaching decisions about checkpoint technology selection, and provides the opportunity to evolve the concept of operations (CONOPS) of many different security organizations. Ultimately, security center directors should be seeking checkpoint solutions that function as more than a gate that has to be manned and managed; they have the potential, with the right vision and integration, to be critical contributors of the data your security operation needs to maximize its value and create better customer experiences.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Security Today.


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