Security Sparks Growth
Advances in video management software and systems integration are creating positive new uses for video data at airports—well beyond security
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Apr 01, 2018
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
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
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
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
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Security Today.