Security in the Fast Lane
Preventing terrorism and crime are just two stops on the route to secure transportation
- By Debjit Das
- Nov 01, 2011
Transportation systems are vital to our nation’s economy, defense and
quality of life. Globally, the growing dependence on transportation
networks has made transportation infrastructure among the most
important assets to protect. Because they are inherently open and
decentralized, transportation networks continue to be prime targets
for acts of terrorism, crime and other destruction—making security threats real, a
quick response difficult and the maintenance of overall safety challenging.
Officials have recognized the critical need to develop preparedness strategies
and deploy next-generation video surveillance solutions in response to this challenge.
Cities worldwide are re-evaluating public transportation networks to prioritize
objectives, policies, actions and technology that improve the security of transportation
infrastructure. At airports, seaports, highways, bridges, tunnels, and rail
and train stations, a common goal is evident: to minimize security threats and
maximize the ability to mitigate damage that could result from terrorist attacks or
other major incidents.
The Threats Transportation Networks Face
In today’s complex society, the threats to public transportation, aviation and the
mass transit industry have increased sharply. Terrorists, vandals and criminals
have identified these systems as high-profile targets; attacks on these facilities can
cause a large number of casualties, damage to critical infrastructure and widespread
panic. In recent years, these threats have translated into attacks in various
corners of the globe, resulting in tragedy and extensive damage.
Today, the public transportation industry faces threats similar to those the aviation
industry faced when terrorists first began targeting its planes. Over the years,
the aviation industry has implemented regulatory measures and innovative security
technologies to enhance safety and security. In contrast, the public transportation
industry is limited in its ability to protect passengers, employees and facilities.
With a lack of regulatory measures and manpower, there is little passenger
screening, and most security systems are implemented to combat criminal acts and
vandalism but not terrorism.
Because of this, fear of crime and terrorism among commuters and travelers
is on the rise. And that cannot be mitigated without security measures, which are
astonishingly poor in some instances. For example, the alarming lack of operating
surveillance cameras obstructed investigation of a New York subway murder
in March 2010. Less than half of the 4,313 security cameras in the subway were
operating properly at the time of the attack, and, according to the New York Daily
News, detectives are still unable to identify the offender.
Violence and criminal activity directed against mass transit workers, passengers,
facilities, vehicles and infrastructure compromises the safety and security of
transportation networks. Further, transit vehicles and stations routinely serve as a
canvas for graffiti artists, costing transit authorities millions. The Los Angeles Office
of Community Beautification spends more than $7 million annually for graffiti
cleanup, reported Mass Transit magazine, and in 2006 Chicago spent $6.5 million
on graffiti removal, according to Green Eco Services.
False litigation claims pose further challenges for aviation and transit authorities.
In one instance, a mother accused Transportation Security Administration
officials of separating her from her child while they were going through a security
checkpoint. Surveillance videos helped refute the claim by clearly indicating that
she and the child were never separated.
The mere presence of a comprehensive
video surveillance system can help
reduce crime and theft, prevent terrorism
and safeguard passengers. However,
technology solutions aimed at combating
such threats must be tailored to the
unique nature of transportation networks
and keep pace with sophisticated
terrorism while helping to prevent traditional
vandalism and criminal activity.
Technology to Combat Threats
Today’s world requires comprehensive
security solutions to protect airports,
railways, bridges, ports and more from
sabotage, terrorism, theft and vandalism.
Transportation authorities are
seeking advanced technology platforms
such as video and physical security
information management systems
(PSIMs), facial and license plate recognition
applications, video analytics and
data analysis, and other solutions to
improve operational efficiency and provide
real-time intelligence to respond
immediately to events. These complex
video surveillance systems can help to
ensure the safety and comfort of millions
of travelers every day.
As a sector, the transportation industry
is quickly becoming one of the
frontrunners in adopting IP-based systems.
Recent advances have brought
forth numerous advantages, such as
high-definition cameras, 24-hour remote
monitoring with open-platform
video management software and the
ease of integration into current infrastructure
and business systems.
In addition, surveillance systems
throughout the transportation industry
are adopting analytics. This sophisticated
software can, among other things,
perform behavioral and facial recognition
analysis to monitor crowds and automatically
identify events and suspects.
This is a huge step toward proactive security
and crime prevention.
Let’s take a closer look at some of
the technologies transportation networks
around the world are deploying.
Video Management and Analytical
Platforms: According to IMS Research,
the video surveillance market will be the
fastest-growing segment in the transportation
industry between now and
2015. This growth will evidently stem
from transportation authorities’ need
to deploy reliable VMS platforms to
detect emergencies rapidly, notify the
appropriate agencies and first responders,
and initiate effective action. With an
open architecture-based VMS platform,
authorities can visually monitor conditions
and alerts in real time, issue timely
advisories, and quickly dispatch public
safety and other emergency personnel
as needed. Additionally, transportation
authorities can capture activity reliably,
comply with recording-retention requirements
and export video for use by
other agencies in legal proceedings or to
mitigate liability and risk.
Capturing video is critical, but it is
just one aspect of the overall surveillance
system. Manually scanning banks
of recorded video is time-consuming
and ineffective. Deploying key analytics
applications can help enhance situational
awareness and transform threat
detection from a manual, resource-intensive
operation to an efficient, accurate
and automated process.
Video analytics helps authorities
pinpoint events and activities of
genuine importance, including camera
tampering, perimeter intrusion,
loitering-detection, left-behind objects,
equipment removal and secure-area
access. Recent advances in analytics
technology have provided authorities
with the ability to integrate VMSs with
license plate and facial recognition platforms—
providing even greater detail
and investigative data. As such, deploying
a comprehensive IP video portfolio
that addresses virtually every aspect
of video surveillance—including video
capture, video viewing and video analysis—
enables transportation networks
to use and share data more effectively.
Enhanced Awareness and Response
with an Integrated Platform: A myriad
of security systems and sensors safeguard
transportation networks, including
access control, identity management,
building management, panic/duress
alarms, fire alarms, elevator controls,
biometric scanners, video surveillance
and video analytics. These systems typically
perform a specific task and operate
in their own proprietary environments
with virtually no working knowledge of
one another and limited interactivity.
The result has been an inefficient,
piecemeal approach to security. Bringing
together information from all of
these separate security systems to form
comprehensive, well-coordinated security
plans and responses to incidents
requires considerable, often manual, effort.
The overwhelming amount of information
often makes it impossible for
authorities to determine quickly how to
respond most efficiently.
Some of the most effective video
systems also incorporate a PSIM that
synthesizes information from security,
safety and building management systems.
A PSIM enables users to view and
analyze information to identify situations
and people of interest more efficiently.
It also allows first responders
and outside agencies to initiate rapid,
effective response. By centralizing security
system planning and monitoring
and providing standard operating
procedures, simulations and reporting,
PSIM systems enable organizations to
improve the speed, efficiency and intelligence
of response while reducing costs
and minimizing compliance risks.
Regulating Access and Identifying
Authorized Personnel: Transportation
hubs can be the size of a small city,
with thousands of passengers passing
through each day. Most of these facilities
are open 24 hours, and they guide
the transfer and movement of people
and goods. In such facilities, monitoring
restricted areas for potential security
breaches is critical to ensuring the
safety of travelers and staff.
To ensure an efficient transportation
environment, technologies such
as identity management and access
control help prevent the unauthorized
movement of people within such
restricted areas as control rooms, utility
closets, maintenance facilities, staff
lounges, baggage handling areas, concessions
and catering delivery. Further,
in addition to simply restricting access,
these technologies can help authorities
respond quickly to incidents by creating
the ability to lock down certain areas
or, conversely, unlock affected areas
in case of emergency.
Geographic Information System
(GIS) Technology: GIS enhances
situational awareness for critical infrastructure.
When GIS is integrated
with video management software and
cameras, security personnel can pinpoint
first responders’ locations while
maintaining a complete view of activities.
Adopting GIS technologies can
help security personnel make the right
decisions more quickly.
Ground- and water-based radar systems
are also being deployed in conjunction
with GIS applications to monitor
grounds and perimeters, and to protect
vulnerable resources. These systems help
detect potential problems and emergencies
and initiate effective action.
Intelligent Edge Devices: A variety
of technologies are essential to ensuring
a safe and efficient travel experience. In
order to increase situational awareness
and effectively monitor entrances and
exits, passenger waiting areas and other
sensitive areas, officials must deploy a
comprehensive video security platform
in tandem with state-of-the-art intelligent
Integrated with a VMS platform,
industry-leading encoders and decoders
are key to ensuring superior imagery
and optimal bandwidth usage. Deployments
that feature high-definition
camera technologies provide enhanced
image clarity and detail while reducing
the total number of cameras necessary
to monitor the area efficiently. With an
effective VMS, personnel can identify
critical details to help facilities improve
safety and security while increasing the
quality of evidence gathered and reducing
In a geographically distributed transportation environment, wireless
devices can be employed to transmit
images from virtually anywhere. These
devices are critical to connect surveillance
cameras in locations where deploying
wires is cost-prohibitive or
impossible. Wireless video surveillance
combines outdoor wireless transmission
with networked video surveillance
to provide a powerful solution that
overcomes challenges unique to the
transportation sector, such as distance,
lack of network infrastructure and inclement
A Step-by-Step Guide to Ensuring Safety
Technology is vital to ensuring safety
across transportation systems; however
there should also be a detailed, systematic
approach to transportation security.
Such a plan should work in conjunction
with individual transportation networks,
the Department of Homeland Security,
Department of Transportation and other
federal agencies to outline processes
involved in preventing, mitigating and
responding to an intentional disruption
and ensuring the freedom of movement
for people and commerce.
A quick checklist of items to consider
when outlining a security plan includes:
- Assess the security of current infrastructure.
- Outline capital and operational improvements
- Coordinate a response plan that establishes
procedures for appropriate
interaction with state and local law
enforcement agencies, emergency responders
and federal officials.
- Determine a strategy and timeline
for conducting any needed training.
- Determine the procedures, including
evacuation and passenger communication
plans, for responding to a terrorist
- Plan for appropriate backup systems
to monitor the operation of the
network’s critical elements.
Taking Security to the Next Level
Often considered to be among the
busiest places in the world, transportation
networks see thousands of
people and tons of cargo coming and
going in a single day. These networks
represent a fundamental component
of global commerce and critical infrastructure.
In an economy that depends
on the safe, efficient flow of goods
and people, maintaining transportation
security is critical to the world in
which we live.
Although portions of the global
transportation network have undergone
heavy scrutiny as worldwide terrorism
has increased, systems remain
vulnerable to acts of crime and terrorism.
With the advent of advanced
technology and increasingly sophisticated
video surveillance, PSIMs, GIS,
analytics and access control platforms,
authorities now have powerful tools to
protect these critical assets.
This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Security Today.