We wanted a big picture perspective of aviation security technology, so we interviewed Steve Wolff. After leading Marketing and Engineering for Quantum Magnetics and founding InVision Technologies, he is now an independent consultant, editorial board member of Aviation Security International Magazine, and vice chair of the Concealed Explosives Detection Workshop.
DeteCT: You work with airports, airlines, and regulators worldwide. For readers who don’t travel as much as you do, what are you seeing now in aviation security that is interesting or innovative?
SW: One trend is that airports are more focused on what I call the “feng shui” of the checkpoint. By that I mean trying to make the passenger and operator experience at aviation checkpoints as calming and stress free as possible.
DeteCT: A calmer checkpoint! That’s a great goal. Which airports are examples of this and how are they doing it?
SW: Two examples are Gatwick and Schipol, each in somewhat different ways. In addition to new screening technologies, they’re applying lessons from the retail and hospitality industry: more elegant designs, natural style lighting, more soothing colors, more space to divest, better signage—even plants.
SW: There is research that the calmer passengers are, the happier they are, and the more likely they are to spend money at the airport. Second, from a security and operations standpoint, the calmer and happier passengers are, the easier it is for checkpoint staff to spot more harried or nervous travelers who might warrant additional scrutiny. It also makes to have a less distracting working environment for the operators.
DeteCT: What other security related trends are you seeing?
SW: In Europe, airports are implementing remote operator image screening for the checkpoint. In other words, sending all images of screened bags to a room filled with operators who inspect images continuously. This model is the standard for inspection on hold baggage, and now it is being adopted for carry-on baggage screening because it can improve operator productivity and make checkpoints more space efficient. The challenge is being able to network and share images effectively.
DeteCT: It helps if you have an interoperable software architecture—if I can put a plug in for Analogic’s ConneCT. Speaking of ConneCT, why has checkpoint CT received so much momentum lately. What do you think is driving that?
SW: Experts have known for a while that 3D checkpoint CT is an excellent technology for threat detection. But two things are now accelerating broader airport adoption of checkpoint CT. The newest systems, like Analogic’s ConneCT, are lighter, smaller, and quieter than first-generation checkpoint CT systems. Airports can deploy them in place of less capable X-ray systems.
Second, passenger growth is straining airport checkpoints. Airports in the Middle East and Asia have double-digit annual increases. Traditional checkpoints based on 2D X-ray have high false-alarm rates, and passengers need to divest liquids and electronics. The only way to handle this growth is to add more lanes, which is costly and requires more space. Checkpoint CT can eliminate divesting, thus reducing the number of trays per passenger and increasing throughput without adding space. This is becoming a very attractive way of handling this growth in traffic.
DeteCT: This is a challenging but exciting time in aviation security technology. Steve, thanks for your insights.
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