Trends in Airport technology

Heading into the American Association of Airport Executives’ annual conference, AIRPORT BUSINESS probes the industry for the latest and greatest in airport technology, from wireless solutions to video security. Today’s industry buzz-phrases include...

Faith Varwig, principle of Faith Group, LLC, says the company has six closed-circuit television (CCTV) projects going on currently. “By far right now, that’s the biggest tech push our company is seeing.

“The TSA is pushing a significant amount of recovery act money into CCTV installations, many focused at baggage and security checkpoints, but in other cases, other locations as well.”

Airport size is not a factor when it comes to this issue, adds Varwig. “We’ve seen everything from Category 3 to Category X airports taking advantage of this,” she says. “But there is a hook … the TSA would like airports to share the CCTV surveillance video with the agency, and that’s very controversial among airports.

“The issue is, how will the video be used? Who is allowed to see it? Will images be printed, stored, or forwarded?”

Some airports are accepting the funds and allowing TSA to do what they will with the video, explains Varwig. The larger hub airports are much more opinionated about what to allow the TSA to look at, she says.

Operational advantages to CCTV are many, including security and passenger processing rate analysis. Comments Varwig, “There are many advantages to implementing CCTV; it’s the argument about who owns the video that is interesting.”

Another thing to note, she adds, is that the airport has to sign on for all of the operational and maintenance costs for the system. “TSA is actually unloading their previous cost structure onto the airport,” says Varwig. “Airports have to maintain the system, expenses which could cost some 10 to 15 percent of the total system installation.

“Implementation of CCTV also has a direct impact on command and control centers; the more cameras you have, the more you need some kind of intelligent video application that can turn the camera from a forensic tool into a proactive detection tool.”

After deciding to move forward with a CCTV project, relates Varwig, selecting camera technology that allows flexibility is key. Because new screening technology is consistently introduced to the security checkpoint setting, Varwig says Faith Group is being pushed to look for camera technology that allows the airport to have the greatest flexibility in terms of viewing angles without having to go back to move the hardware. Some airports may have a combination of camera types at any one location just to meet the need required for that location, says Varwig.

Wireless technology;Operations consolidation

The second biggest technology push at airports is the continued improvement toward wireless technology, and being able to cover more points of the facility with a wireless mesh network, explains Varwig.

“More operators want to push data to the people in the field ... to PDAs and laptop computers,” she says. “In order to do that, you have to have a wireless infrastructure that not only covers the physical buildings, but the site as well.”

Comments Varwig, “There is also a lot of investment in new technology to enhance the operator’s situational awareness and ability to record events taking place at an airport. Many airports are upgrading their computer aided dispatch system, which is part of the record-keeping side of things.”

Another major trend involves migrating all stand-alone networks into one large virtual local area network (VLAN) — or group of hosts with a common set of requirements that communicate as if they were attached to the same broadcast domain, regardless of their physical location. A VLAN has the same attributes as a physical local area network (LAN), but it allows for development of a more robust system architecture at a lower cost due to the requirement of less switches and servers.

“When these systems emerged, they were bought individually and on their own LANs,” explains Varwig. “They all had separate workstations; airports are now looking at migration to more of a virtual environment. VLANs allow those who need access to certain data to attain that data quickly regardless of their location.”

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