Go With the Flow

How GRB airport uses video analytics to detect reverse flow on the concourse

You’ve seen it happen before. Passengers are deplaning and straggling down the exit corridor. Suddenly one of them reverses direction. Is he simply going back to retrieve a forgotten cellphone? Or, are his intentions more sinister? Who can be sure? But the moment this person goes against the flow, an alarm goes off at the airport public safety command center and the adjacent TSA security checkpoint. Officers are dispatched to the exit lane and all travelers are required to exit the concourse. How is this immediate, real-time alert possible? The airport is using sophisticated video analytics embedded in its video surveillance system. In this era of heightened vigilance, airports like Green Bay Austin Straubel International (GRB) are recognizing that adding analytics to their video surveillance system is a powerful force multiplier.

Analyzing Potential Threats

“Ten years ago when we modified our concourses we put in some exit lane technology to provide security without having to station a person at the door 20 hours a day,” said Tom Miller, director for Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport. “But as that technology neared the end of its lifespan, we were starting to get a number of irregular alarms.”

In 2015, GRB decided to replace its old technology with savVi, Agent Vi’s on-premise video analytics platform. The analytics work in conjunction with high-definition Axis network video cameras and a Milestone XProtect Video Management System to detect individuals going the wrong way on concourse exit lanes and Security Identification Display Areas (SIDA). When an event occurs, savVi automatically sends a visual and audio alert to TSA agents and the airport Public Safety Command Center. At the command center, a live-view of the event automatically pops up on the video wall. With multiple cameras trained on the area, security is able to ascertain whether the individual made contact with anyone else in the vicinity.

Coverage from Tarmac to Tower

Video analytics is just one part of a comprehensive security system GRB uses to protect more than 350,000 passengers, 185,000 pounds of air cargo and thousands of commercial and charter aircraft annually. The two-runway airport is served by three major airlines, American Eagle, Delta, and United/Continental Airlines, that provide 30 daily departures and connections to destinations around the world.

The airport also hosts a number of support businesses: a parking lot facility, car rental agencies, a restaurant and lounge, gift shops and two Fixed-base Operators who provide maintenance, airline and general aviation refueling, charter services and pilot training. The FAA and the TSA have regional bases of operations at the airport and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has offices in the terminal to clear corporate aircraft entering the United States from around the world.

“We’ve deployed more than 140 HDTV-resolution Axis cameras throughout the airport,” said Mark Hall, the electrician and system installer for the Green Bay airport. “We put them just about everywhere: on our tower, in the parking lot, in the terminal building, at our vehicle drive-through gates. Basically, we cover everything inside the fence except the restrooms.”

While GRB standardized on the Axis network cameras product line, the airport availed itself of a wide variety of camera models and features to address their coverage goals for each location under surveillance. For instance, to monitor passenger foot traffic through the exit lane corridors, the airport uses a combination of Axis indoor HDTV-quality fixed dome network cameras and thermal network cameras integrated with Agent Vi’s video analytics. To monitor the airfield, GRB installed an Axis outdoor-ready HDTV-quality PTZ dome network camera with 20x zoom on the roof of the terminal. To deter theft and vandalism in its vehicle storage areas, GRB installed Axis one-megapixel day/night fixed dome network cameras in their vehicle maintenance and Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting facilities. To monitor concourse gate rooms and curbside passenger drop-off/pick-up areas, GRB uses Axis light-sensitive, HDTV-quality fixed dome network cameras with P-iris control for optimal image quality in all lighting conditions.

GRB uses Axis thermal network cameras on the runways to monitor the movement of airplanes, service vehicles and personnel. savVi, Agent Vi’s software, analyzes the camera images to differentiate between people, vehicles and static objects. savVi automatically sends an alert to security personnel when it detects people present in a vehicleonly lane or other restricted area.

Taking an Intelligent Approach to Security

Even with a TSA presence, local airports face many of the same challenges as their larger hub-based counterparts yet possess fewer resources to deal with them. Finding ways to quickly neutralize insider threats and tighten concourse security with limited budgets and personnel have become hot topics for action.

What many smaller airports like GRB are learning is that adding video analytics to their surveillance systems provides the essential force multiplier they need for early detection and rapid response to potentially threatening situations.

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

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