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Aviation Security in 2020

By Kelly Hoggan

Digital information support of aviation security promises to greatly expand in 2020.

By its nature, information technology, or IT, has always benefited from a host of protective measures that collectively fall under what’s called “cybersecurity.” Protecting networks from intrusion or exploitation is a prime focus of cybersecurity and the mechanisms for doing so are constantly evolving to meet various threats. The need to be flexible and forward-looking to meet a host of current and future threats is no different when it comes to physical security, especially at airports. So just what will airport security look like in 2020?

A Digital Transformation

Physical security systems at airports, such as access control points like employee security bypass doors, will increasingly be bolstered by what are called “risk-adaptive technologies.”These technologies are increasingly making use of artificial intelligence, which gives them the ability to nearly instantly analyze vast amounts of information about people taken from a dizzying array of digital sources and integrate all that data into a single, or unified, platform. With that information in hand, an airport’s physical security system linked with an information unification platform could examine employee or passenger behaviors, such as on social media, and then factor the data into the access permissions it makes regarding them.

These systems assign risk to any given person, whether airport employee or airline passenger, on a constantly evolving and updated basis. The risk any given person poses to an airport’s security system might vary from life event to life event or even from day to day or moment to moment, in extreme cases.

Unification Platforms

In today’s modern airport environment a huge number of cameras are watching seemingly everyone at all times. But security unification platforms take advantage of far more than just camera feeds; in 2020 they will also increasingly incorporate data taken from any number of sources, including social media and government-maintained databases. All that data is then analyzed and a prediction made regarding an air traveler going through an airport security checkpoint, for instance. Generally, most passengers will of course be allowed to enter the departure gate areas so that they can board their flights after appropriate physical screening. But there will also be cases where this or that passenger may be denied entrance or at least have to undergo additional heightened security scrutiny. These unification platforms will give a boost to airport security, both in terms of screening passengers but also in making sure that employees with access to secure areas are not only allowed there but also don’t pose any current risks.

Security versus Privacy

The above evolution in airport security for 2020 doesn’t come without its concerns, including in the privacy arena. Figuring out how to balance the need for security at an airport and on the airliners arriving at and leaving from it is of paramount importance. However, the ability of airport security systems to analyze and predict risk means that a type of “safety adjusted privacy” environment can be created. So, the privacy of any individual airport employee or passenger is assured and is only examined more deeply if the data from a unification platform and the oversight administrators charged with ensuring privacy reveals the need to do so. The ability to safeguard the privacy of a flyer or an airline or airport employee while also assuring the highest levels of security, by taking advantage of ever more powerful digital information platforms, is just one reason why 2020 promises to be a breakout year for aviation security.

Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 400-plus commercial airports.

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