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Usefulness of video at airports extends beyond security

Video surveillance can help to determine who and what is causing airport ground damage

Video cameras are great tools for security at airports, but increasingly cameras are offering operational benefits, too. Anthony Incorvati, business development manager, critical infrastructure and transportation, Axis Communications, says cameras at airports today are often used for operations rather than (or in addition to) security. For example, cameras mounted at departure gates are not installed for security but rather for operations and maintenance, as a tool to help airlines meet their goals for on-time departure. The cameras might ensure that gate agents are processing people properly inside the terminal, or view how ramp crews might be causing a delay. Are food service and fueling suppliers delivering on time or late?

There are other operations benefits, too. For example, a major airport in Texas mounts cameras at the entrances to restrooms with the primary purpose of counting people, says Incorvati. When a certain number of people have entered the restroom, it triggers an alarm to the Operations and Maintenance department to send a cleaning crew because the restroom has reached a maximum number of uses.

“We are also seeing cameras initially installed because of security that are now being leveraged by others at the airport – risk management, operations – and that’s where you see return on investment (ROI),” says Incorvati. “It might be paid for by security, but it’s used by others – more and more users and uses, and not traditional ones.”

As an example of the growth of video uses, Incorvati points to a “major East Coast airport” (in the United States) where he sees exciting trends related to implementation of IP video in the airport sector.

About 10 years ago, this airport had probably around 70 analogue cameras covering the entire property. In 2013, Axis delivered its 1,000thcamera to the airport, and expects to deliver another 250 this year, and another 750 over the next four to five years according to the strategic plan. Eventually there will total about 2,000 cameras at the airport.

An airport’s IT organisation often drives camera deployment, bringing various users of video surveillance to the table

“If you think about who would be the main power users of the video surveillance system at this airport, your first thought might be the TSA, or Customs and Border Patrol, or airport security,” says Incorvati. “However, because of IP video, there are becoming more users and uses for the system. The users include folks from operations, maintenance, risk management, the airlines, etc. What’s happening is, IP video offers better image quality and can be easily distributed and managed. The maintenance director might say, ‘this image looks great, I want a camera over here now.’”

Another use for video at airports is to monitor possible airport ground damage to aircraft, which can cost millions of dollars a year. Video surveillance can help to determine who and what is causing airport ground damage, whether it’s a crew member, a fuelling truck, or the plane itself driving into something.

An airport’s IT organisation often drives camera deployment, bringing various users of video surveillance to the table. Although TSA funds pay for technology deployed in passenger screening areas, the systems are often implemented and managed by the airport, and the video can be used by other organisations in the airport.

High-profile intrusions at airport sites around the world highlight another critical need at airports – perimeter security.  While most issues around security checkpoints and screening passengers in airport terminals have been resolved, there remains tremendous vulnerability where protection is still needed: at the perimeter. Many airports have little more than a chain-link fence between the Air Operations Area (AOA) and publicly-accessible areas, making it too easy for an individual to gain access to the runway, employee areas or parked aircraft, says John Romanowich, CEO, SightLogix, Inc. Actual incidents like this are continuing to make headlines.

“In reality, it’s harder to get a bottle of water through a security checkpoint than it is to climb the fence at many airport,” says Romanowich. “On the positive side, technology now exists that addresses the need for accurate perimeter security. This technology is now increasingly coming down in cost, making it more likely to be deployed.” SightLogix provides smart thermal cameras that combine heat sensing and video analytics to detect intruders; high accuracy eliminates problems of high nuisance and false alarms, which operators eventually ignore.

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