Leveraging wide area networks to boost airport efficiencies

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Understanding what ‘wide area networks’ (WANs) are and how they work can be crucial in unlocking operational improvements at the security checkpoint.

Author

Darren Durham

Product Manager

My journey into aviation security began in 2008. Along the way, I’ve been helping to develop passenger software solutions, predominantly for checkpoint areas. While networking of screening equipment and in particular CIP has been an important topic for some time, the use and benefits of WANs has not. However, understanding what they are and how they can be used, can play a beneficial role in unlocking operational improvements.

Moving to centralised solutions

When we talk about WANs, we are essentially talking about the connectivity between one or more remote sites or systems. The technology used to implement a WAN varies in both cost and complexity, often depending on the geographic locations, size of link required (bandwidth), type of link required and if redundancy or fail-over needs to be considered.

When implementing CIP across a WAN, there are also operational considerations that can help address cost and complexity. Firstly, speed is crucial, especially given that an X-ray image has to be ready for analysis without introducing additional delays.

The latency – the delay in data transmission – requirements can help identify the type of link required. Another important factor to consider is the amount of bandwidth or size of the link. This is often established by looking at the volume and frequency of the data being transferred across the WAN.

This can be modelled and simulated to provide an accurate view of the necessary bandwidth. Finally, there’s the question of redundancy – depending on the type of operation a backup circuit may be required. A well-designed system can have built-in redundancy to continue operations in the event of a failure, but this should also be investigated.

A different perspective

Although it may seem complex, it really isn’t and shouldn’t stop an airport exploring the benefits of centralised screening operations across a WAN. Centralising valuable resources can bring huge operational advantages and a rapid return on investment.

Our solutions are designed to connect all the equipment at the checkpoint to centralise the image analysis process (CIP) and system management, as well as the performance and operational data. By utilising or implementing a WAN, the system can be centralised over one or more sites, meaning that the operation is streamlined and controlled. The flexibility of the system also means that the CONOPS can be configured from site to site.

Today, it is still fairly common for agents to perform various roles at the checkpoint. One of their chief responsibilities would be to screen passenger luggage for prohibited items. However, with remote screening, we’ve managed to decouple that function from the lane. This allows agents to focus on – or even specialise in – screening luggage from any location.

In well-lit rooms away from the stress of the checkpoint, agents can spend more quality ‘time on task’ and improve the levels of accuracy. Take this concept one step further and it quickly becomes clear that screening staff no longer have to remain within the walls of an airport.

By pooling resources, multiple lanes can be screened from a single location, and there are countless combinations. Fewer operators at the checkpoint also means less touchpoints for viral transmission. In streamlining the process, it also creates a more seamless and pleasant experience for passengers.

Linking to individual requirements

Our experience has shown us that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to security checkpoint technologies, and the same applies to operations on a WAN. To understand and address individual requirements, we partner with our customers and help design the solution that is best suited to their operations and objectives.

For example, is an airport looking to make cost savings or improve efficiencies? With a networked system, administrators can pool data and compile reports from a central location in one easy step. Another crossover would be into recruitment. If an airport finds it easy to recruit staff in one region, but not in another, they might consider centralising activities where there is easier access to personnel.

As with any IT-based solution, the more data generated, the better. So, how many screening machines and operators does an airport have? What is the desired – or expected – hourly throughput at the lanes? Our role is to help identify these requirements and implement a solution that delivers tangible and measurable benefits.

A positive example in Iceland

It’s great to see that some airports are already exploring opportunities to deploy WAN more effectively. Take Keflavík Airport in Iceland, for example, which is connected to the Reykjavik and Akureyri regional airports by a WAN. By pooling the images from all three sites to one screening area at Keflavik Airport, staff at the regional airports are freed up to focus on other activities. This not only upholds the highest level of security, but it has also led to increased efficiencies in terms of manpower.

Looking ahead

Given the benefits of WAN remote screening, we can expect the concept to expand in coming years, whether to centralise the image analysis process for a higher number of airports or perhaps to move the screening area outside of the airport’s premises altogether.

Whatever the desired WAN concept, we have to be flexible and offer various configurations – whether that’s co-creating with a larger airport, or acting more as a partner to a smaller airport. If we’re clever about how we build these systems, airports of all sizes can benefit, regardless of the resources available to them.

Check-in Podcast

I have discussed this topic in Vanderlande’s Check-in podcast as well. Listen to the episode here:

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