Historically, physical security has lagged information technology or IT security in terms of automation of many of its processes and this is no different where aviation and airport security are concerned. But 2020 promises to be a breakout year when it comes to finally automating large swathes of the airport security process, including the physical screening of air travelers. Plus, the need to automate physical security at airports will become even more important as the number of people who fly grows more and more with each passing year.
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
As with any aspect of security it touches, whether in information technology or the physical work performed by people, artificial intelligence or AI is set to begin making a difference in aviation security. Airports and agencies such as the US Transportation Security Administration already monitor almost every employee and passenger traffic area through a variety of means, including physical activities performed by guard-type personnel. But many airports, which already maintain surveillance of their terminals and tarmac areas via closed circuit television camera (CCTV) systems, will benefit greatly from advances in AI being applied to those camera systems.
For one, new AI-reliant CCTV systems will be able to monitor passenger traffic through airport security checkpoints and make recommendations to supervisors regarding staff adjustments. AI will assist security checkpoint supervisors and managers in placing the right number of screening officers at any given point in the passenger screening process based not only on passenger count but also the number of carryon bags and wheelchairs in the line. Having the right number of screening personnel when and where they’re needed will keep checkpoint lines moving smoothly and quickly. Plus, security personnel can be redeployed when and where they’re needed most, cutting down on redundancies and increasing personnel efficiency.
Wait Time Reductions
No flyer likes spending a long time waiting in an airport security line. With the help of artificial intelligence, air travelers will spend much less time in security lines and there will be no loss of security at any point, either. AI working through those ubiquitous airport CCTV cameras can send passengers constantly updated information, via an easily downloadable smartphone or tablet application, as to how long they’ll have to wait in a TSA line, for example. It can even allow flyers to reserve a spot in the line and enter it at just the right time, all while advising them about just what items they can and can’t bring along in their carryon luggage.
Streamlining Physical Security Tours
Airports have many controlled-access or secure areas that the general public isn’t allowed to enter and they all must be patrolled or physically monitored by security personnel. Additionally, security personnel must observe the activities of airport employees working in those secure areas, not only for security reasons but for their safety, given ramp and tarmac areas are filled with industrial equipment and passenger airliners.
Artificial intelligence in 2020 will begin giving airport security departments the ability to easily and constantly monitor secure areas, not only for threat detection but also incident response, such as employee workplace accidents and the like. Working through those CCTV cameras, AI can send the right amount of guard personnel out on physical security tours wherever and whenever they’re required. This is because artificial intelligence has an already demonstrated high ability to pick out just which people, such as individual passengers and airport employees, should be in any area of the airport at any given time and it can quickly dispatch security personnel in the event someone is where they shouldn’t be.
Exciting Developments Ahead
The ability of AI to improve already formidable security processes is going to be one of the most exciting developments for airport security in 2020. Passengers will benefit from spending less time in security lines and TSA and other security personnel will appreciate AI’s ability to make recommendations as to personnel and staffing assignments as well as make nearly instantaneously reconfigure checkpoint lines for optimum passenger flow. Finally, the safety of airport employees as AI helps monitor their activities out in busy tarmac areas will receive a boost. In all, there’s no real downside to the coming automation of airport security via AI and a host of upsides.
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.