Founded in 1991, ST Electronics (Satcom & Sensor Systems) is a leading manufacturer and supplier of very small-aperture terminals, satellite network solutions and sensor products. Bernard Lee, vice-president of the company’s sensor business group, and Alan Xavier Tan, vice-president of Changi Airport Group’s aviation security unit, explain how ST Electronics’ new AgilFence PIDS system is benefitting Singapore’s Changi Airport.

What are today’s key challenges in detection at the perimeter fence?

Bernard Lee: Some perimeter systems give a false sense of security because the underlying technology is unable to detect intrusions effectively while maintaining a low false-alarm rate. To solve this problem, we developed our new AgilFence Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS), which was implemented by pioneer adopter Changi Airport Group at Singapore’s Changi Airport in 2011.

ST Electronics’ AgilFence PIDS is unique because it uses fibre-optic sensors coupled with an intelligent signal-processing algorithm. A series of tiny mirror-like sensors known as fibre bragg grating (FBG) are distributed throughout the cable. In the past, FBG sensor cables were considered too costly to produce. The system’s inability to make sense of such a large array of data from various sensors also deterred many companies from investing in this technology. Today, this is possible through new technology that embeds sensors into a single strand of fibre-optic cable. A specific wavelength of light is reflected by the sensors when white light is transmitted along the cable. The reflection sequence is predetermined and, with our unique intelligent signal-processing algorithm, no alarm will be triggered when it is in a steady state.

Other systems on the market can be easily crippled when the cable is cut – but not the AgilFence PIDS. The architecture ensures that cut cables will only affect the section between the cut point and the end of one channel (about 200m); the rest of the system continues to function. Cable breaks can be repaired in an hour.

How are you responding to such challenges?

Alan Xavier Tan: AgilFence PIDS has many advantages over older solutions that have not been so significantly improved. It addresses the flaws of these systems, such as a trade-off in false alarms with a lower level of detection sensitivity. Developers of such systems recognised the difficulty in obtaining optimal performance from both elements simultaneously, which generally results in high sensitivity with a high false-alarm rate or fewer false alarms with low sensitivity.

The AgilFence is different: its FBG sensors detect intrusions while also sensing the environment in real time. Heavy rain or strong winds may disturb the FBG sensors but the system knows that these are not intrusions. When a genuine intrusion occurs, only one or two FBG sensors are affected. The system registers that it is a localised event and triggers an alert, thus maintaining high detection rates without increased false alarms.

How has the service you provide changed over the years?

BL: The AgilFence PIDS has received two awards recently – the ASEAN Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award 2013 and the Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award 2013 for Technology Innovation. These awards recognise our ability to innovate and tap into advanced sensor technologies in order to provide a highly reliable system.

ST Electronics has launched a new free-standing radar solution. With good reviews from users in Asia, we expect to complete our first overseas reference site for our new cost-effective and highly accurate AgilFence Radar Perimeter Intrusion Detection System by the end of 2013. This is a short-range radar that electronically scans distances of up to 150m with a refresh rate of 50ms.

What separates you from the competition?

AXT: In 2010, Changi Airport Group conducted extensive market research into effective perimeter security systems and, following a detailed consultancy study, was convinced of AgilFence PIDS’s superiority. We considered a few ‘must-have’ requirements, including consistent detection, low false-alarm rate and effective integration with CCTV, as well as immunity to electromagnetism, radio frequency interference and lightning, which are important factors in an airport environment. In trials, the AgilFence PIDS outperformed other available microphonic or fibre-optic solutions.

Do you have any interesting new projects in the pipeline?

BL: We have received enquiries from various markets such as Africa, Australia, China, Latin America, Russia, the UK and the US. ST Electronics is optimistic that more airports will soon be upgrading to more cost-effective and accurate PIDS solutions to enhance their security and reduce manpower.