The aviation industry operates in an environment of constant change and this is especially true of security. Growing and developing threats result in new demands placed upon airports by legislators, which, in turn, require updated and compliant technology. Furthermore, passenger numbers are increasing while the space available for security remains the same, putting pressure on airports' ability to maintain passenger experience and flow. There is a requirement to achieve everything - compliance, new technology and passenger experience - within a cost window. In short, managing airport security is no easy task.
An understanding of the individualities of each airport is pivotal to solving this intricate puzzle. "Maybe through the eyes of a traveller, any airport looks the same," says Gunther van Adrichem, founder of consultancy Point FWD. Most passengers know the airport processes well: arrival, check-in, luggage drop off and security. Despite the familiar nature of these procedures, each one is unique and intimately tailored to the individual airport - particularly when it comes to security.
"There's no two airports alike - the demographic is different between two, the flight schedules are different, the type of technology used or preferred is different," says strategy consultant Robert Schuur.
Van Adrichem agrees, noting that airports will choose to focus on different key performance indicators (KPIs) and that no ready-made solution exists. "We really have to understand the strategy of the specific airports to help them with a tailormade solution for their security checkpoint," he says. "Some airports are looking for the cheapest solution, some are looking for the quickest solution, [and] some are looking for the solution with the highest passenger experience." In all cases, flexibility and innovation are key to ensuring a security system that responds to the needs of each airport environment.
As the former security R&D manager at Schiphol Airport, this is an area in which Van Adrichem has front-line experience. Point FWD, which he founded in 2011, offers airports, governments and organisations a holistic and datadriven consultancy service for security checkpoints. "We help them understand their local situation; we assist them in gathering data points and doing a very thorough analysis on their current situation," Van Adrichem explains. The next step is to transform this analysis and data into improvements to the system, advising on the types of technologies the airport could make use of, and how these technologies and the supporting infrastructure should be implemented. Point FWD also advises on legislation, modelling responses to legislative changes.
In order to cater for different airports with differing priorities, the company focuses on the collection of data, making use of information provided by the airport and their own measurement sensor suite. "We're really data-driven consultants," Schuur says. Modern security checkpoints create a large number of data points: X-rays, walk-through metal detectors and security scanners provide information, while other factors - such as the decision times of security operators, the number of bins passing through the system, waiting times and the number of people in an area - are also measured.
All this is combined in a data-handling tool that transforms separate data points into dashboards, offering insights into the operation of the security checkpoint and providing a highly accurate overview of the entire process. This information then allows refined and specific enhancements to be made, with their efficacy analysed in real time, near real time and postevent. For instance, a change implemented in one security lane can be scrutinised and compared with the performance of the lanes surrounding it.
"We want to have as many data points in the checkpoint as we can to continuously help the security operator and management [to] understand the performance of that checkpoint, the performance towards throughput, but also waiting times and all the KPMs that you can get," Van Adrichem says. A significant amount of time is spent assisting airports in the implementation of improvements to the security checkpoints. "If you move from a bicycle to a motorbike, you need to stop pedalling and hit the throttle."
Transforming security is not limited to new equipment. Van Adrichem notes that the amount of energy that needs to be devoted to the human element of security is often underestimated. "No matter how much technology you deploy at the checkpoint, it's always going to be operated by security agents," he says. Point FWD provides workshops, classes and on-the-job training for operators, and, during the implementation of new systems, the company monitors performance in order to identify successes and allow personnel to learn from each other. Elsewhere, collaboration with other companies who focus on airport planning allows visibility across the airport, providing information on flow and the arrival of passengers to the security checkpoints.
For the future, Point FWD continues in the pursuit of innovation. A partnership with Xandar Tech, a South- Korean software company offers the possibility of measuring movement so accurately that an individual's heartbeat could be detected, with significant implications for the detection of smuggling or the illicit movement of people. "Were a tech-driven company and we're always on the lookout for technologies that are going to shake things up," Schuur says.