Data-driven, proactive airport security solutions take flight

The deployment of the vaccine in the United States has given many industries affected by the pandemic a much needed boost, and the airline industry is no different. In March 2021, the number of air passengers reached its highest level in more than a year, exceeding 1.5 million. And on April 22, data from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints showed an annual increase in passenger throughput of 92%. After a full year of not traveling to maintain social distancing guidelines during the pandemic, a newly vaccinated public is ready to resume air travel and make up for lost time, leaving many industry analysts to hope for a recovery – but this poses a critical question for airport managers: are their facilities ready to welcome passengers safely?

To regain public trust and protect the well-being of employees and passengers, airports need up-to-date facilities that provide highly connected and data-driven environments. Studies show that airports are prepared to do just that; airports around the world spent $ 3.5 billion on IT in 2020 and are expected to budget as much or more in 2021. By integrating powerful digital solutions, airport executives can maximize non-aviation revenue opportunities, streamline the experience passengers and ensure safety and security at every point of contact.

With a presence in more than 200 North American airports, experts at Johnson Controls have witnessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the airline industry. With travelers returning to airports this summer, now is the time to invest in a safer, more modern airport.

Proactive security tools are essential for the safety of travelers

As airports face new threats, from cyber attacks to viral pandemics, the time wasted relying on a purely reactive strategy can be disastrous. Fortunately, there are new technologies on the market that enable proactive security. By integrating advanced digital solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, security managers gain a better understanding of all facility operations, allowing them to stay ahead of any security risk.

Thus, airports have seen the demand for identity management tools explode. Contactless access control relies on powerful yet respectful facial recognition technology to provide security officials with advanced knowledge of people entering different areas of the airport. Facial recognition solutions can be easily integrated into existing video surveillance systems or as part of a self-service kiosk. In addition, 64% of airports plan to open automatic boarding gates using biometric and identification documents before 2030. By replacing physical passenger tickets with digital biometric technology, airports can strengthen processes security while streamlining traditionally busy boarding processes to improve the traveler experience. For additional surveillance, TSA associates can also reference heatmaps to monitor where crowds and bottlenecks are occurring, allowing them to quickly engage to disperse individuals before the situation escalates.

These proactive security solutions drive key results. In addition to their impact on overall safety, they have other powerful benefits, including:

  • Slow down the spread of viruses: Minimizing face-to-face human interactions is a key feature as airports strive to limit the spread of disease. And by creating hands-free experiences, airports can mitigate the potential for surface contamination between passengers and employees.
  • Revitalize a key source of income: Proactive safety can also have a positive effect on non-aviation revenue generation. The faster and more efficiently passengers can be dealt with, the more time they have to shop, dine and explore the terminals.
  • Stimulate sustainable practices: With technologies such as advanced access control and a connected dashboard, airport managers can calibrate energy use based on foot traffic and occupancy. Safety managers can integrate their building management systems with those of other airport operations managers, giving a complete picture of energy consumption and enabling optimization and forecasting of sources.

By investing in proactive solutions, airports can strengthen their security processes and gain increased awareness of potential threats while creating a more enjoyable experience for their passengers – it’s a win-win.

Powerful analytics allow airports to expect the unexpected

Airports have long used risk algorithms to stay prepared for unforeseen emergencies. But as risk scenarios evolve over time, risk awareness and active response technologies must evolve accordingly. By leveraging digital twin technology, airport security managers can create a live digital replica environment by applying internal and external facility data. This allows security managers to run innovative and highly accurate models and algorithms to take into account the greatest risks facing their airport. These templates ensure that security managers are prepared for any scenario and can guide them when designing their security systems. Digital twin technology can even help airports locate the source of costly and panic-causing false alarms.

Analytics are quickly becoming a key element in how airport executives can understand and better serve their customers. Using AI-powered data analytics, security officials can predict and understand passenger behaviors at the airport, and pattern recognition tools can automatically recognize and report suspicious passenger activity to staff. safety before the situation becomes dangerous. In addition, by understanding the factors that most influence shopping, dining and passenger enjoyment, airports can rethink the layout of halls for greater customer satisfaction and revenue generation while maintaining the best possible safety of their premises. category.

While data is a key part of any modern airport’s operations, it naturally raises cybersecurity concerns, especially as the public returns to air travel after a long disruption, resulting in a significant influx of passenger data. . With the right cybersecurity program, however, these vulnerabilities can be identified and eliminated. Currently, 83% of airports plan to implement a major cybersecurity program, of which cyber analysis is a key component. A trusted partner can work with airport executives to identify gaps in their system and create a cybersecurity program tailored to their needs, allowing them to integrate new technologies without fear of a cyber attack.

Create a streamlined emergency response through integration

An increase in the number of passengers can complicate the emergency response processes at airports; A larger number of passengers unfortunately creates a greater potential for accidents and violence, and also equates to more people requiring evacuation. However, just as airports can implement proactive solutions to predict and analyze security threats, they can also install creative and integrated incident identification and response systems for comprehensive, real-time emergency response. . Whether the emergency involves a fire, intrusion, gun violence, or just suspicious behavior, security systems can be automated and connected to enable a streamlined and automated response.

By integrating security solutions on a single network, multiple systems can communicate with each other for maximum efficiency. Mass Notification Systems (MNS), including text alerts, digital displays and kiosks, can be integrated with alarms to provide evacuation advice to passengers and employees. MNS can also instantly alert local first responders, providing them with detailed information about the situation so they can formulate a plan to best protect employees and travelers. Surveillance cameras can also be integrated with alarms to automatically lock and unlock entrances and exits based on the response required for the incident, preventing individuals from moving towards danger.

In an emergency, every second counts. Through integration, airport emergency response processes are streamlined and automated, eliminating human error as a risk factor and ensuring an orderly evacuation process that can save lives.

Data-powered security is allowed to take off

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, passengers returning to airports in the coming months will naturally have heightened expectations for airport safety and efficiency. To allay concerns and regain public confidence, passengers will expect to see and focus more on their well-being and comfort, in addition to impenetrable safety. Airports cannot afford to default.

By implementing the latest advanced security solutions, airport executives can create an enhanced environment powered by data and optimized for the well-being of travelers. From contactless access control to digital twin analysis, airports can once again welcome travelers with a safe, healthy and enjoyable passenger experience that is even better than they remembered.


Ramsey Nuwar is Vertical Market Director, Transportation for Johnson Controls, the global leader in smart, healthy and sustainable buildings. Ramsey’s 30 years of experience have involved all aspects of the global aviation industry. For the past 12 years, he has focused primarily on North American airports, providing leading passenger handling services.

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