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How to cope with increasing pax numbers with fewer screeners

Smiths Detection Group Ltd Stand: D60

Meeting the growing demand for air travel in the face of severe staff shortages throughout the industry has proved challenging; and certainly highlights the importance of maximum efficiency and effective utilisation of resources. New and emerging security screening technologies deliver the highest safety standards combined with exceptional performance – driving productivity up and costs down.

Many airports are already taking advantage of developments such as automatic tray return and CT screening at the passenger checkpoint is also gaining traction. Both offer key operational benefits by expediting the screening process, increasing throughput, making better use of resources, lowering per capita costs and improving the passenger experience.

However, by further leveraging data, AI, automation and connectivity, the latest technologies are set to take efficiency to completely new levels. Central screening & management software and regulatory approved automated detection of prohibited items are key examples of new and exciting capabilities.

Central screening & management

System management solutions offer a range of modules designed to improve both security and operational efficiency.

Flexible, efficient image analysis

Multiplexing (also known as central image processing or CIP) facilitates a flexible ratio of operators to lanes so resources can be optimised to meet the peaks and troughs of demand and individual operational objectives. X-ray images taken across the Airport are sent to analysts based in a location away from the checkpoints and given to the first available person with no specific lane assignment. Multiple images can be reviewed simultaneously by multiple analysts, removing the need to pause conveyors during the inspection process and ensuring the optimum use of the equipment. Using a Wide Area Network (WAN), images can be securely transmitted for analysis between airports, regions and even continents.

Expanding the scope of CIP is one of the key drivers in the introduction of Open Architecture (OA) to the airport environment. ‘Plugging together’ hardware, software and algorithms from different suppliers will support central processing of images generated by fleets of screening systems from different manufacturers. Multiplexing across several security lanes, airports and mixed fleets  is undoubtedly the way forward.

Detailed insights support critical action

Data is playing an increasingly important role in the management and performance of the security  process. The same software solution used for central image processing can also offer applications providing an intelligent source of data-driven management and performance insights – which, in turn, help to reduce operational expenditure; support resource optimisation; and enhance security.

For example, key performance indicators (KPIs), such as images per passenger, analysis of recheck time etc., are calculated and also consolidated to present a quick overview of the overall efficiency and load of the checkpoint – supporting fast decision-making and action to remove bottlenecks. The performance data also identifies opportunities to automate, streamline and generally improve productivity.

There are already combined hold-baggage screening and checkpoint systems delivering management and performance data. In future, more complex data exchange between the two screening areas has the potential to improve security even further and generate additional operational benefits.

Adding functionality

The modular nature of central screening and management solutions enables additional capabilities to be integrated as needed – including third party applications. For example, passenger flow management technology will deliver real-time data during the security screening process, generating insights critical to operational planning and decisions such as how, when, and where to deploy staff, or whether to open an additional checkpoint lane.

Off-loading and rescreening unaccompanied baggage can be a time-consuming and costly process so the ability leave it in the hold can generate significant financial and operational benefits. Since changes to the baggage reconciliation rules, an Unaccompanied Baggage Inspection (UBI) application can now be used to quickly find the original images of the screened baggage and transmit them to operators for further inspection and risk analysis.

Heading towards alarm only viewing

The large volume of data generated by the screening process is being used to develop deep learning algorithms to automatically detect prohibited goods such as guns, knives and other sharp objects.  They play a significant role in improving security and efficiency by supporting image analysts and reducing the risk of human error – but the most exciting potential for these algorithms is ‘alarm only viewing’ of X-ray images at the passenger checkpoint.

This has been talked about for some time but is now starting to become a reality as regulatory approval for these Automatic Prohibited Items Detection System (APIDS) algorithms gets underway.  While the exact regulatory framework for alarm only viewing is yet to be finalized, it will definitely include combinations of APIDS and EDS CB standards to allow for different degrees of automation.

Therefore, anyone investing in new checkpoint technology now or in the near future, should bear in mind that CT will be the most efficient, flexible and future-proof X-ray technology to handle alarm only viewing. Upgrade options will be available for conventional X-ray systems (CXS) but the benefits will be less significant. Some CXS scanners can be upgraded to EDS CB C2 and if used in combination with APID algorithms may well be certified for alarm only viewing. However, operators will still be required to view a percentage of images.

Image sharing

Once implemented, OA will also facilitiate data sharing between airports and mixed fleets. Forwarding security images to destinations would expedite screening at transit airports as it could be carried out while passengers are still in the air and not restricted to tight, on the ground transfer windows. Departure screening images would also provide valuable information to customs, police and other agencies at the arrival point and support efficient allocation of screening staff

There is undoubtedly much to look forward to and in the meantime, Smiths Detection can advise on ways to improve efficiency through effective resource deployment and best practices. In addition, technology is readily available for re-screening unaccompanied baggage without unloading; and existing automatic detection algorithms can be used to assist operators with fast and accurate  image analysis.

For the medium and longer term, please get in touch to find out how central screening & management solutions and APID algorithms could transform your passenger security screening  operations.

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