The global airport market has faced evolving threats over the last decade. The key security challenge that airport operators have to overcome is finding a way to provide robust and effective measures that can prevent and identify the full spectrum of threats. The solutions have to assure passenger satisfaction and legislative compliance at the same time.
"Technology provides a key resource to deter and obstruct threats with criminal intent, and its role and prevalence in airports will only increase," says Anthony Leather, Research Analyst for Aerospace, Defence & Security group at Frost & Sullivan. However, the technological growth has caused problems and controversy, as well as criticism from passengers. The most recent incident involves backscatter technology.
On 14th November 2011, the European Commission adopted legislation that allowed Member States to use security scanners for passenger screening. The released statement however, specifically stated that this did not include the use of X-ray technology and backscatter machines. This led to widespread reports that all backscatter scanners were banned by the EU due to health concerns. The information has been proved incorrect as the machines are currently in the process of further scientific tests by the European Commission.
Having overcome challenges regarding privacy concerns of passengers, these scanners must now prove that they do not cause adverse health effects. The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) assessing the scanners declared that they pose a 'negligible risk'. What this report does signify is that these scanners are still met with scepticism. The debate on its security benefits against its potential impact on passengers continues. The EC's health investigation will significantly impact the future of these scanners in airports throughout the world.
Airport operators have to address all coming challenges in order to ensure airport safety and travellers satisfaction. The new technology solutions should take into consideration functionality, cost and efficiency.
The compatibility of newly procured equipment with existing systems is the greatest consideration for the airport operator. It is vital that new equipment can be easily integrated to fit in to and interact with existing systems to prevent any gaps in security. "Operators want modern and effective equipment, but maturity and proven reliability remain high priorities," explains Leather.
Airport security is one of few markets that has been relatively unaffected by the global economic crisis and expenditure is likely to increase over the coming decade. However, financial consideration will always influence the selection of equipment. Value for money will continue to be a significant driver in the decision making process. Personnel costs comprise the largest proportion of airport security expenditure; however, in some cases modern technology can perform these roles more efficiently and effectively, creating opportunities to reduce cost.
The third issue to consider is efficiency. Long queues to get through check-in and passenger screening have been a feature in major airports throughout the world. Airport operators have increased efforts to reduce queue times. "However, their primary concern is to ensure that security continues to identify the full spectrum of threats while complying with relevant legislation and without impinging on passengers' rights. High reliability of the equipment and clear identification of any threat is vital," comments Leather.
Airports remain a target because of the prestige and level of devastation or impact that an attack can achieve. Technology and security systems have always striven to stay one step ahead of the potential threats. They have now reached a position which challenges those with criminal intent to be one step ahead. "While security can never be 100% effective, further investment, innovation, and advancement in airport security technology will continue to make it very hard for such groups and individuals to carry out attacks," summarises Leather.
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