According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 2017 marked the first time the number of air travelers exceeded 4 billion worldwide. This global travel figure equates to more than half the world’s population, as of April 2019, having taken to the skies in a single year. With so many people flying, and with aviation security still a top priority of governments, airports and airlines, the need to efficiently and effectively screen air travelers is greater than ever. Fortunately, advances in security technology are making it easier to do so.
Computed Tomography Scanning
Originally developed for medical diagnostic purposes, computed tomography (CT) scanning of airline passengers’ checked baggage made its first appearance early in the 1990s. Over the years, however, technological improvements have been making it easier to apply CT scanning to air travelers’ carryon bags as well. Today’s CT scanners are faster, more efficient and more precise than ever, and their use holds the promise of rapidly processing even greater numbers of passengers through security checkpoints.
Smart Security Programs
Airports always value being able to move large numbers of air travelers through their security systems with as little muss and fuss as possible while also ensuring the highest level of screening effectiveness. An increasingly effective method for security screening air travelers is to combine biometric assessment with artificial intelligence. When used correctly, AI and biometrics may allow screening in mere seconds of any given airline passenger going through an airport security checkpoint, even if they have carryon luggage.
Biometric screening itself involves such computer-and-data-based techniques as facial recognition, eye retina scans, fingerprints and even the way in which each person walks, which is unique to them only. Aviation security technologies can take security screening even further, though, with what’s called “risk-based screening,” or RBS.
Assessing Travelers on Risk
Differentiating airline passengers and then applying particular security screening processes based on the risks to aviation security they may pose is already being done to one degree or another. Such screening typically involves what security experts call a ‘risk score,’ which itself is based on an analysis of a variety of factors associated with an air traveler as he or she enters the airport security system. For example, a passenger’s travel destination, whether they paid with cash, a credit or debit card, or some other form of payment, whether they checked any luggage and how frequently they fly all goes into a risk score. Today’s computer systems can quickly access all that information, process it and render a score in seconds and then determine the proper level of security screening for each flyer.
Data is Key
Applying effective aviation security screening that’s also extremely efficient at moving many flyers through airport security means any systems doing so will need to access huge amounts of data. Just how such data is compiled, stored and then utilized poses questions for both privacy advocates and security experts alike. What’s for sure is that global air travel numbers show no signs of weakening anytime soon. Managing and protecting travelers’ data will be crucial in ensuring the integrity and reliability of every aviation security system currently in use as well as those coming online soon.
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.