Understanding Interoperability

Understanding Interoperability

Today’s travel has changed dramatically

Since 9/11, travel through the world’s busiest airports has changed dramatically. Security professionals are focused on extensive security investments to protect these “Soft Targets” from threats, including terrorist attacks, crime, theft and vandalism. Security professionals tasked with protecting these facilities must comply with updated rules and regulations while addressing the needs of individuals and airlines.

Physical security is not the only focus in today’s assessed threats. Network security is as crucially pivotal as physical security. The approach to “harden” airports requires security staff to investment in technology that offers greater protection, intelligence and IT effectiveness.

A co-sponsored study by the Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) and the Airports Council International (ACI), in association with Airline Business, highlighted that airports now place a priority on IT infrastructure for physical, cyber and network security. The 2016 Airport IT Trends Survey found that 50 percent of respondents rated cyber security investments a top priority, up from 37 percent in 2015. The result: Airport officials are now taking a proactive approach to security solutions.

Airports continue to deploy advancements in passenger processing technology, such as self-service kiosks and mobile-friendly services. According to the survey, innovative technology will grow over the next five to 10 years. This technology will include wearables, biometrics, context-aware services and robotics. But none of this will be possible, without collaboration between operations, security and IT leadership.


Security and IT have traditionally operated in separate silos. Security staffs are responsible for visitors, staff and asset safety. The IT department monitors and protects networks from bad actors looking to cause harm. We have to come to a point where the two converge.

Devices have moved to the network-centric, providing communications between multiple systems that form a cohesive approach to overall security, from “Concept to Completion.”

Analog systems are being replaced by IP video surveillance solutions that provide multiple layers of intelligence by providing greater functionality that includes system management, accessibility from remote secure locations, and smart devices that have the capability of interoperability. To create a comprehensive holistic strategy applied to security (both physical and electronic), IT and operations must collaborate in the design and implementation and ConOp (Concept of Operation) of all security and surveillance solutions.

The collaboration of security officials and responding agencies is crucial in the event of an emergency situation. Interoperable video, alarm and communications information becomes critical live saving data when sharing between police, government agencies, emergency services, and airport operations is possible. This IT interoperability creates an informed, fluid response with rapid forensic processes and greater situational awareness for all organizations involved. Multi-disciplined, layered security strategies augment personnel abilities allowing operators to engage in real-time monitoring and situation awareness management while supporting investigative and forensic needs.


Over the next five to 10 years, airports will invest significant amounts of capital on transforming security that will streamline passenger travel through networkenabled systems. Biometrics provide faster and more secure passenger processing. According to the SITA study more than one-third of airports will invest in single biometric travel token projects in the next five years. Customs officials have begun piloting programs that use biometrics to screen people upon entry, allowing for a process that reduces wait times.

Intelligent biometric technologies use physiological characteristics for identification, such as, fingerprints, facial recognition, hand geometry and iris scan features. Using biometrics at airports can enhance security, speed clearance and alleviate delays, as well as increase the passenger experience.

Using these types of technology with video surveillance data, security staff can more quickly gather relevant information about an incident to expedite investigations or mitigate a potential threat.

In order to use these technologies to their fullest capabilities, airports must provide the necessary concepts and interoperability to achieve integration and automation. Involving the IT department at the inception of a project is critical to success.

Another piece of technology making its way into airports is context-aware services, technology designed to combine mobile location data with services needed by passengers. Flight delays or congested security check points can be reported to a passenger through mobile device as they move through the terminal, supplying them with the latest information.

These types of technology investments are helping to improve airport services and increase security in busy airports.


A major issue for airports around the world is the question that arose after the downing of a Russian aircraft in Egypt. The question is “Who is around my plane, who is on my runway?” With the advent of new technology born on the battlefield to identify cellular triggers linked to IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices). This new methodology now allows security and IT to deploy a system that identifies individuals on the runway by placing their cellular data as a tag above their image on the IP CCTV system.

All employees carry their cell phones onto the runway; these cell phones are registered with runway operations for mass notification, which is already in place. The ConOp is to assure the proper individual is at their post, for instance if a baggage handler is found near a fueling area the operations team is notified to find out why, if four individuals get out of a van and only three have cell phones the person without the second level of identification becomes the Area of Interest (AOI) for system operators.

The perimeter is also of utmost concern, individuals will jump the perimeter fence, and they will not have identification; however they usually have a cellular device to send photos to the group they are involved with. This system will detect the cellular device entering the geo-fenced perimeter of the airport facility and trip an intruder alarm as well as slewing imaging devices to visually track the actor.


Combining innovative security technology with intelligent video surveillance can provide all levels of law enforcement with more effective data than they have ever had before; allowing law enforcement personnel to make more informed decisions. The video surveillance solutions of today are capable of providing security departments with more actionable intelligence and video analytics are creating business intelligence with this data to optimize operations.

Analytics provide operators with unique information about a person, either staff or a traveler’s path through a terminal, as well as give operations manager(s) a view into traffic flow within a specific area to proactively identify potential security concerns or issues of congestion. Using this information, airport operations management can streamline operations and deliver greater capability and increased ROI.

It is critical for the IT department to be involved in securing the networks on which this information is shared. The threat of data breaches, along with the rising cost of addressing these breaches and security incidents, are pushing more and more security strategies to the top of the operations agenda and security planning initiatives.

As director of government practice & law enforcement, for IC Realtime, I have the unique opportunity to collaborate with leaders in specialized security operations and bring together like-minded companies and people. The company has strategic partnerships with MutuaLink the leader in Inter-Operable communications allowing us to share voice, video and data through their platform. MutuaLink allows dissimilar methods of communications to be shared with a point and click ease; this allows IC Realtime to transport our images and situational video to users cellular, tablet and ground-based computers.

Also partnering with Persistent-Telecom, which allows IC Realtime to implement Persistent Vision, mentioned above in the “Who’s on My Tarmac?” section. This advanced convergence of video and cellular data will have a tremendous impact on airport security providing greater situational awareness and tracking of bad actors and controlling illicit activities. Persistent-Telecom also provides satellite back-haul should there be any type of network communications failure for all integrated systems. There are also added feature sets that will provide greater capabilities for “Active Shooter” situations.

Also working with BluTek Solutions to provide a tethered balloon system that provides a rapidly deployable platform for “Surveillance from Altitude,” which will provide additional protection at special events, hard to servile areas and border protection.

Through the methodology of cooperation, expect a significant impact on how security is deployed and shared.

Collaboration is the key to a holistic approach to security, with partners willing to take the next step bringing security and IT together we can make a difference for the changing landscape of the treats we face as security professionals.

It takes leadership and innovation, which we have and are implementing. The future of security is here now.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Security Today.


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