Security Sparks Growth

Security Sparks Growth

Advances in video management software and systems integration are creating positive new uses for video data at airports—well beyond security

According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), national and foreign airlines serving the United States in 2016 carried an all-time high of 932 million domestic and international passengers—with a total of 9.7 million flights. This was a 3.8 percent increase over the previous record high of 897 million reached in 2015.1 That is a lot of customers on the move.

Many airports today—traditionally spaces where travelers were content to buy a book and stare at the departure boards—are starting to look a lot like shopping malls. In addition to the expected newsstands, simple cafes, and locally-made gift shops, they are now being joined by national retailers, food chains and other services. PDX airport in Portland, Oregon, even features a small, independent movie theater and a collection of the city’s popular food carts and, of course, some great local brewery stands.

The strategy makes sense. With the decline in shopping mall popularity and a rise in online buying, many businesses are desperate for busy new places to set up shop. And, with air travel at an all-time high, many airports are working to upgrade their terminals, making them more comfortable, competitive and profitable for all involved.

With all this growing activity, existing video systems are being tapped to assist in this effort.

“As video becomes smarter, and as cameras come down in cost, many people are asking, ‘Can we add a camera here? Can we use a camera to perform a new function?’ Cameras aren’t just serving the purpose of security alone. The use of video at airports is becoming quite varied,” explained an airport video security technician.

Advancements Elevate Beyond Security

Public safety sits at the heart of airport operations. From the control tower to the tarmac, from the terminals to the taxi curb, airports are constantly adapting to meet potential threats identified by the security leadership and federal authorities. At the same time, they note that advances in software and systems integration have created uses that go beyond security.

“There has been a real philosophy change at airports,” added a veteran aviation/IT specialist. “As airport executives see the multiple benefits of video management systems, we’re being asked to find new and better ways to use and grow our business all the time. It’s a natural expansion of the system’s technology.”

The expanded role of cameras and open platform network VMS like Milestone XProtect, is helping airports leverage video data in many new ways.

Retail and vendor management. Running a business in an airport can be tough. Many retailing problems are unique to airports, such as how to get merchandise through Customs and security and onto a selling floor that is compact and limited in available space. Dealing with longer business hours, the density of walk-through traffic and the greater potential for shoplifting requires monitoring. Video systems can help businesses and retailers in airports to manage these unique concerns by providing alerts, video verification of incidents, video integration with point of sale systems for transaction checks, and general surveillance for improving and streamlining front- and back-of-house operations.

Parking fraud & driver management. Airports have huge parking lots and structures to maintain—with thousands of parking spots not uncommon. Unfortunately, a typical occurrence is for some drivers to use the lots without paying by enlisting a friend to obtain a new parking stub. A driver in long-term parking would use a new stub to pay for 15 minutes of parking, and the friend then claims he lost his ticket. In response, airport security teams are working to reduce fraud and recover lost revenue by digitally recording license plate numbers and associating them with the stubs.

Ride share verification. As large cities begin to impose fees for ride-share drivers directly through smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft whenever their phones’ GPS indicates they’re at the airport, a level of verification has been needed. To resolve disputes from drivers claiming they were there for personal business, airports are using high-definition, curbside cameras and video management systems to retrieve time-stamped images of license plates and people entering cars. Additionally, License Plate Recognition (LPR) video analytics help curbside management systems automatically request additional taxi cabs from the waiting lot when needed, as well as ensure the correct charge for rideshare and taxi services who conduct business on the property.

Managing baggage. With thousands of suitcases to be managed, video monitoring at bag handling areas allows the airport operations division to watch for congestion and dispatch staff as needed. During an event where there was a glitch with a TSA baggage screening system, one airport granted video access to the airline and terminal involved, so they could monitor all the luggage as everything had to be pulled and rescanned. The video provided information to the affected airline’s incident commander so he could see what was happening with the different rows of luggage, and it also provided visual data to the emergency operations center, where the staff could monitor the situation from their point of view.

Perimeter protection. Airports are often early adaptors of leading technologies designed to detect and report on anomalies in the process of managing people, vehicles, and aircraft. One example is the use of new Doppler-radar detection systems such as SpotterRF to quickly identify people or vehicles approaching the fence line of the airport, or rogue objects on the widespread property and runways.

Mobile access. Managers today don’t necessarily have to be in the facility to monitor events at the airport. Top executives can access live camera feeds on their mobile devices using a Milestone Mobile client accessible through a VPN. With mobile video monitoring, security and operations teams alike can have video system access from their tablets or smartphones for situational awareness, and technicians use mobile access for troubleshooting or checking and adjusting camera settings and positioning.

Open Platform Design

Enlisting multiple camera models and legacy equipment to meet these new challenges would not be possible without an open, adaptable system for networked video management. It no longer makes sense to have the disparate systems of yore. There’s technology available, like service-oriented architecture, where data can be managed from a central location but distributed to multiple sites and systems for various uses.

Many airports around the world have selected the Milestone XProtect open platform for its flexibility to operate with multiple third-party solutions. XProtect is compatible with more than 6,000 security and surveillance devices from more than 150 manufacturers. Alliance partners include providers of network video cameras, encoders, DVRs and NVRs, storage equipment, alarm and detection systems, video analytics, GPS technology, laser scanners, emergency call boxes and much more.

Planning for Expansion into the Cloud

Since adopting Milestone video management software several years ago, one airport customer is now replacing older analog video monitors with advanced workstations for their new terminal displays. That security team is also converting the airport’s analog cameras to IPbased digital cameras, and moving video storage to the cloud. Several potential improvements in airport operations can be identified to justify such an investment, including more cost-effective use of video analytics to monitor crowds and dispatch ground transportation more efficiently.

New license plate recognition technology can replace a parking vendor’s aging system, opening the possibility of managing access for valet drivers taking vehicles off-site for cleaning and oil changes, generating another revenue stream for the airport. On the public-safety front, analytics can help spot security threats like oversized trucks among the millions of vehicle trips recorded at an airport annually.

The needs of different airport departments will continue to evolve, which can be met by a philosophy that is as much about operations and service as it is about IT. The cameras may look the same as in recent years, but what they accomplish can be shaped by open platform software to the future demands of airports, through new ways to manage and add to their data.

As one airport’s IT manager summed up the situation, “I see this new approach as a way to grow our technology presence and help solve problems by building with a focus on multi-purpose solutions. And with open platform video management, we’re very excited about the future.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Security Today.

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