Sometimes, 'Integrated' Airport Security Also Means 'Integrated' Vendors

Increasingly, security firms are striving to meet U.S. airport operators' needs by installing the most integrated, comprehensive security systems possible. But their approaches vary.

In one instance, two video surveillance firms, St. Louis-based Cernium and Atlanta-based VistaScape, publicly announced April 18 that they are developing an integrated system to incorporate their respective signature products, Perceptrak and SiteIQ. Once the combined system is ready to roll, it will cover the entire airport grounds, from the front of the terminal to the outermost bounds of the perimeter.

But over at Vidient Systems, Inc., its CEO, Brooks McChesney, says that the firm's SmartCatch product is already doing all that by itself at Salt Lake City Int'l Airport (SLC), San Diego Int'l (SAN), San Francisco Int'l (SFO), and Tallahassee Regional (THL). Moreover, Vidient isn't looking to partner with other video surveillance firms, but with "other security-sensor companies that give us access and interfaces to devices that can extend our platform beyond video," McChesney tells Air Safety Week.

Meanwhile, the financial consulting firm of Frost and Sullivan, which follows the aviation-security industry (among others) said in early April that the worldwide market for layered, integrated airport security solutions is getting quite bullish. Such solutions "will require a combination of technologies ranging from those used for the outermost part of the perimeter to internal operations at the command, control and communications center," the firms says. Also, "innovative technologies, particularly intelligent video surveillance systems, are becoming an integral part of mainstream airport security." Such a market analysis fits both the Cernium-VistaScape partnership and Cernium's solo game plan.

The former also can be seen as a marriage of two complementary technologies. Whereas Cernium's Perceptrak goes close-in for a threat analysis, VistaScape's SiteIQ scans for the big picture.

Perceptrak's strength is a form of "behavior recognition" that can not only be applied to people, but also to vehicles. It detects 16 different types of "behavior,| including the old stand-by that earlier systems focused on -- wrong-way motion -- as well as newer behavioral categories, such as various forms of erratic movement.

SiteIQ detects and track objects -- either vehicles or people -- over large outdoor spaces, to see if they are violating pre-set user-defined security zones.Last year, SiteIQ was installed at Boston's Logan Int'l (BOS), where the system is keeping an eye on ships in the harbor, as well as on vehicles and people.

Technically, the difference between the two technologies comes down to the number of pixels used. Perceptrak needs a lot to properly analyze the behavior of people and objects in the video image. SiteIQ can get by with just a few pixels, or a small fraction of the total image, to detect something suspicious out on the edge of the tarmac, Cernium CEO Craig Chambers explains to Air Safety Week.

So, combining Cernium's "micro" focus with VistaScape's "macro" emphasis should provide airport operators with an ongoing, up-to-the minute security picture, the CEOs of both firms agree. In the many talks Cernium has had with its customers and potential customers, it's become clearer that what airport operators really want is one system with multiple capabilities, VistaScape CEO Glenn McGonnigle tells Air Safety Week.

Otherwise, if the system for accessing the perimeter is completely distinct from the access-control system and both are separate from something else, this results in "swivel chair integration" problems for the human operators, McGonnigle says.

Chambers cites a well publicized incident from a few years ago in New York, when some recreational boaters with some kind of problem or emergency stumbled ashore and wandered onto the tarmac. They also went unnoticed by airport authorities for a long time. But under a scenario like a Cernium- VistaScape system, the perimeter breach would have been detected immediately, and shortly after, airport management would had information indicating that the intruders were acting more like lost souls than like terrorists.

Or, instead of proceeding from macro to micro information, a new event might first get picked up by the close-in behavioral analysis data, as with the detection of a passenger's wrong-way motion at a concourse exit, McGonnigle says. Such data then needs to be quickly coupled with a bigger picture, like what exact exit and concourse the behavior is occurring at.

Meanwhile, Vidient's McChesney agrees that integrated systems are what airport operators need. But "Cernium and Vistascape's partnership tells me that they acknowledge that they lack the capacity and technology to undertake an entire airport by themselves."

Both Cernium's Chambers and VistaScape's McGonnigle declined to respond to McChesney.

The problem many vendors are having is that they have long focused on one piece of the technological pie or another, McChesney adds. But Vidient has "been working feverishly" to do just that. In Tallahassee, the firm integrated data from a variety of sensors -- not just video -- and is fused it all onto a common "video backbone," McChesney says. So, command-center personnel in the center do not have to toggle between data streaming in from two or more situations to figure out what's actually going on.

"From day one," Vidient has worked at being able to combine different types of detection onto a common platform. Right now, "We believe we're the only ones that can do the entire facility," he says.

Another point McChesney makes is that a fully integrated airport security system is not just video. This includes data from sources such as GPS, worker card readers, biometrics, and license-plate recognition, to name a few.

For his part, McGonnigle agrees that thorough surveillance is not just about video cameras. Many firms, including his own, he admits, have been a little guilty of over-hyping the potential benefits of video analytics used alone. But it's becoming clearer that video is just one part of a comprehensive solution.

In a related development, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on April 12 distributed a "Request for White Papers for Airport Perimeter Security," seeking the development of more innovative technologies and the support of $4.7 million in new funding, according to the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA). The white-paper submission deadline is rapidly approaching -- on May 5. For more information, or to obtain a copy of the TSA request, ACI-NA recommends contacting Charles Chambers, cchamers@aci- na.aero, or Elle Han, ehan@aci-na.aero, who are both at (202) 293-8500.

>>Contacts: Ken Vondrasek, Cernium aviation systems manager, (314) 968- 5454 X103, kvondrasek@cernium.com; Wade Coleman, VistaScape communicaitons, (678) 919.2363; wcoleman@vistascape.com; Jan Wiedrick-Kozlowski (communications for Vidient), 585-392-7878, jkozlowski@newventurecom.com

[Copyright 2006 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.]

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