Do you remember the scene in the original sci-fi film ‘Total Recall’ where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character walks though a security checkpoint without stopping as it X-ray scans his body searching for weapons?
Well, airport security isn’t quite there yet, but it may be about to take its first step in that direction thanks to a new technology that claims to be able to identify weapons hidden under people’s clothing as they walk through checkpoints.
And the unique technology is currently under trial at a handful of international airports where it is being used to provide an additional layer of security against landside attacks.
Developed by UK based security technology company, Digital Barriers, the new technology is called ThruVis and utilises a highly sensitive camera capable of detecting hidden objects such as weapons, explosives and drugs.
Its creators envisage two main ways of deploying it at airports – at entrances to terminal buildings to identify threats before passengers reach the traditional security checks and as a secondary check of airport staff when they pass in and out of secure areas.
Digital Barrier’s chief executive, Zak Doffman, says: “Our highly sensitive camera solution can be covertly deployed at airport entrances to spot items concealed under a person’s clothing before they reach baggage points and security chokepoints.
“Once deployed, it will spot hidden explosives and liquids, with recent tests having a 100% success rate in identifying anyone carrying a hidden weapon or suicide vest. The solution does not replace an airport’s existing security infrastructure; rather it acts as an additional protection that can extend the airport’s secure zone as far as the terminal entrance.”
ThruVis works on the TeraHertz frequency, meaning that unlike X-rays it has no harmful effects to the human body and does not reveal anatomical details.
The technology is currently being trialled at transport terminals in the US and the UK and is already in use in the Middle East and Asia.
The sound of music
London City Airport (LCY) in the UK came up with a novel way of making the security screening process a little less hassle this summer by serenading passengers with music!
In a first for the UK, LCY played a mixture of ambient electronica and upbeat acoustic music at the main security checkpoint and it proved to be a big hit with passengers.
Melanie Burnley, director of customer experience at London City Airport, explains: “It takes passengers just 20 minutes or less to get from the front door of London City Airport to the departure lounge, and we wanted to enhance the customer experience with a soundtrack to security.
“So far we’ve had a very positive reaction to the musical addition – from staff and passengers alike – with Ed Sheeran currently the most popular artist.”
Music psychologist, Dr Stephanie Bramley, an Honorary Research Fellow in the Psychology of Music at The University of Sheffield, says: “Music is a flexible resource which can be used to serve a number of functions in retail and commercial environments.
“In an airport, playing music which is subtle, fits in with the overall ambiance of the security search area, is deemed to be familiar and is liked by passengers, might act as a positive distraction where passengers focus on the music instead of the time spent completing the security search process.
“The music at London City Airport may also enhance the passenger experience by helping to create a pleasant environment and potentially improving their mood.”
A new checkpoint concept, which it is claimed could halve the time spent in security by millions of passengers at airports around the world, is being trialled at Shannon Airport in Ireland.
Shannon is the first airport in the world to trial the new pre-clearance checkpoint, which was developed as part of the EU funded XP-DITE project.
The new approach being pioneered at Shannon – Europe’s first US pre-clearance airport – combines the European and US Pre-clearance checkpoints, replacing the two separate checkpoints which are used at present with just one.
The Shannon trial will show how a checkpoint can be designed to comply with two different sets of regulations (EU and the US TSA systems). It is the first combined checkpoint of its kind in the world and has been designed to improve customer experience. As a result, passengers flying to the US will no longer have to queue up twice for separate security checks.
Niall Maloney, the gateway’s airport operations director, says: “The elimination of the additional security measures in the US Pre-clearance facility in particular is a significant advancement in improving both our passengers and customer airlines experience.”
Mark van den Brink, XP-DITE project co-ordinator, says: “Designing and evaluating airport checkpoints at system level gives the possibility to assess new approaches to airport security, which could maintain a high level of security while improving the experience for passengers and reducing costs for operators.”
Ten major airports across Europe and around the world are looking to adopt the pre-clearance approach, which could benefit some 20 million US-bound passengers per year.
Bigger and better
Gatwick Airport claims to have opened a world-leading new security area as part of its reinvention of the North Terminal, following the successful implementation of the technology in the South Terminal.
The £36 million project is a major part of the airport’s growth strategy as it claims that the investment in the state-of-the-art facility will halve the time it takes passengers to pass through security, while maintaining the strictest security measures, and allow Gatwick to screen up to 5,000 passengers per hour.
Phase One of the project was completed in February this year, with five new security lanes, and the final phase is now complete as a further five lanes are open for passengers to use.
Each lane has seven ‘loading points’, reducing queue times and increasing the number of passengers able to prepare their belongings for the screening process at any one time. There are also dedicated lanes for premium travellers, families and passengers with reduced mobility.
On entrance to the security area, passengers will now pass through a set of 17 new e-gates, which will also help to reduce the build-up of queues and speed up the process of passing through security.
Gatwick’s head of security, Peter Lederer, says: “This state-of-the-art facility is the culmination of several years of planning and development and provides us with some of the most sophisticated airport security measures in the world.
“Direct feedback from both security staff and passengers was taken on board when designing the technology to ensure it provides the safest and most efficient experience possible. This facility will ensure we are able to screen 95% of our passengers through security within five minutes.”
Meanwhile in Canada, Montréal Trudeau is being used as a test bed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) for a new pre-board screening line that it believes will help transform the passenger experience at airport security.
According to reports, the new line is part of a CATSA Plus concept that involves bringing together several equipment and process innovations that it has successfully trialled over the past few years to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its screening operations.
Angus Watt, president and CEO of CATSA, says: “CATSA is always looking at innovative concepts that can contribute to a better screening experience while ensuring the highest level of security.
“CATSA Plus focuses on improving customer service and passenger flow and enhancing security.”
The new line being trialled at Montréal-Trudeau’s screening checkpoint ‘A’ (Domestic/International) includes features such as motorised rollers, a remote X-ray viewing room, an automatic bin return system, and improved divest and repack stations for passengers.
According to CATSA, the trial will allow it to fine-tune the system, if required, before the first full deployment in Canada of a complete CATSA Plus checkpoint in the new International Terminal at Calgary International Airport at the end of October.
Earlier this year Singapore Changi tested a new 3D screening technology that if claims if successful could mean that passengers no longer have to remove laptops and other electronic devices from hand luggage at security checkpoints.
The trials involved the use of computed tomography (CT) security screening for hand luggage.
Alan Tan, CAG’s vice president of aviation security, says: “At Changi Airport, we take safety and security seriously and are committed to maintaining the highest standards.
“We work very closely with the authorities to review and adopt new advanced technologies and process innovation to improve security screening and enhance the passenger experience at Changi.
“The data and passenger feedback we collect from the trials will help us assess the effectiveness and operational efficiencies of these new systems, before we ascertain their suitability for implementation at the airport.”
Travelling through Dublin Airport has become that little bit quicker and easier following the completion of a €15 million project to modernise the Departures Floor and Security Screening area in Terminal 1.
A significant part of this investment relates to the delivery of 15 new automatic tray return system (ATRS) machines in the passenger security screening area.
The new ATRS machines are six metres longer than the previous machines. This additional length includes a parallel loading area at the start of the lane giving extra preparation space so that up to four people can load trays comfortably at the same time.
Earlier trials of the new system have shown faster passenger processing times while complementing security compliance procedures.
“We understand the security screening process can be a stressful element of the departing journey and we are constantly looking at ways to improve that area in particular,” says Dublin Airport’s managing director, Vincent Harrison.
“We are confident the new ATRS machines, which are much quieter and more efficient, will improve the overall ambience of the area giving our customers a better experience,” he added.
Meanwhile in the US, this July the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (ATL), announced its lowest security wait times in seven years after processing 96% of the passengers using its main checkpoint in under 20 minutes.
The figure also represents consistent improvement in previous months’ security wait times as 73% of June’s wait times were below twenty minutes and 63% of May’s wait times reached the sub twenty-minute level.
Mary Leftridge Byrd, the TSA’s federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, says: “This is a true reflection of the strength of partnership and collaboration with the airport and airlines.
“The success over the summer travel period certainly includes the hard work of every staff member and facet of the TSA Atlanta workforce and support provided by our headquarters. It’s been all hands on deck.”
The airport cites a number of different factors that have contributed to the decline in wait times.
Delta Air Lines financed the construction and implementation of two new innovation lanes at the South Security Checkpoint,which have improved screening efficiency by 30%.
In addition, the Transportation Security Administration has added canine teams, reworked staffing schedules and increased staffing levels at the airport.
Communication between ATL and TSA also remains strong, says the airport, noting that officials speak with their colleagues daily, while front line employees of both the airport and the agency communicate throughout the day.