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"Sometimes, 'Integrated' Airport Security Means 'Integrated' Vendors"
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Sometimes, 'Integrated' Airport Security Means 'Integrated' Vendors
Air Safety Week
Increasingly, security firms are striving to meet U.S. airport operators'
needs by installing the most integrated, comprehensive security systems
possible. But their approaches vary.
In one instance, two video surveillance firms, St. Louis-based Cernium and
Atlanta-based VistaScape, publicly announced April 18 that they are
developing an integrated system to incorporate their respective signature
products, Perceptrak and SiteIQ. Once the combined system is ready to roll,
it will cover the entire airport grounds, from the front of the terminal to
the outermost bounds of the perimeter.
But over at Vidient Systems, Inc., its CEO, Brooks McChesney, says that the
firm's SmartCatch product is already doing all that by itself at Salt Lake
City Int'l Airport (SLC), San Diego Int'l (SAN), San Francisco Int'l (SFO),
and Tallahassee Regional (THL). Moreover, Vidient isn't looking to partner
with other video surveillance firms, but with "other security-sensor
companies that give us access and interfaces to devices that can extend our
platform beyond video," McChesney tells Air Safety Week.
Meanwhile, the financial consulting firm of Frost and Sullivan, which
follows the aviation-security industry (among others) said in early April
that the worldwide market for layered, integrated airport security solutions
is getting quite bullish. Such solutions "will require a combination of
technologies ranging from those used for the outermost part of the perimeter
to internal operations at the command, control and communications center,"
the firms says. Also, "innovative technologies, particularly intelligent
video surveillance systems, are becoming an integral part of mainstream
airport security." Such a market analysis fits both the Cernium-VistaScape
partnership and Cernium's solo game plan.
The former also can be seen as a marriage of two complementary technologies.
Whereas Cernium's Perceptrak goes close-in for a threat analysis,
VistaScape's SiteIQ scans for the big picture.
Perceptrak's strength is a form of "behavior recognition" that can not only
be applied to people, but also to vehicles. It detects 16 different types of
"behavior,| including the old stand-by that earlier systems focused on --
wrong-way motion -- as well as newer behavioral categories, such as various
forms of erratic movement.
SiteIQ detects and track objects -- either vehicles or people -- over large
outdoor spaces, to see if they are violating pre-set user-defined security
zones.Last year, SiteIQ was installed at Boston's Logan Int'l (BOS), where
the system is keeping an eye on ships in the harbor, as well as on vehicles
Technically, the difference between the two technologies comes down to the
number of pixels used. Perceptrak needs a lot to properly analyze the
behavior of people and objects in the video image. SiteIQ can get by with
just a few pixels, or a small fraction of the total image, to detect
something suspicious out on the edge of the tarmac, Cernium CEO Craig
Chambers explains to Air Safety Week.
So, combining Cernium's "micro" focus with VistaScape's "macro" emphasis
should provide airport operators with an ongoing, up-to-the minute security
picture, the CEOs of both firms agree. In the many talks Cernium has had
with its customers and potential customers, it's become clearer that what
airport operators really want is one system with multiple capabilities,
VistaScape CEO Glenn McGonnigle tells Air Safety Week.
Otherwise, if the system for accessing the perimeter is completely distinct
from the access-control system and both are separate from something else,
this results in "swivel chair integration" problems for the human operators,
Chambers cites a well publicized incident from a few years ago in New York,
when some recreational boaters with some kind of problem or emergency
stumbled ashore and wandered onto the tarmac. They also went unnoticed by
airport authorities for a long time. But under a scenario like a Cernium-
VistaScape system, the perimeter breach would have been detected
immediately, and shortly after, airport management would had information
indicating that the intruders were acting more like lost souls than like
Or, instead of proceeding from macro to micro information, a new event might
first get picked up by the close-in behavioral analysis data, as with the
detection of a passenger's wrong-way motion at a concourse exit, McGonnigle
says. Such data then needs to be quickly coupled with a bigger picture, like
what exact exit and concourse the behavior is occurring at.
Meanwhile, Vidient's McChesney agrees that integrated systems are what
airport operators need. But "Cernium and Vistascape's partnership tells me
that they acknowledge that they lack the capacity and technology to
undertake an entire airport by themselves."
Both Cernium's Chambers and VistaScape's McGonnigle declined to respond to
The problem many vendors are having is that they have long focused on one
piece of the technological pie or another, McChesney adds. But Vidient has
"been working feverishly" to do just that. In Tallahassee, the firm
integrated data from a variety of sensors -- not just video -- and is fused
it all onto a common "video backbone," McChesney says. So, command-center
personnel in the center do not have to toggle between data streaming in from
two or more situations to figure out what's actually going on.
"From day one," Vidient has worked at being able to combine different types
of detection onto a common platform. Right now, "We believe we're the only
ones that can do the entire facility," he says.
Another point McChesney makes is that a fully integrated airport security
system is not just video. This includes data from sources such as GPS,
worker card readers, biometrics, and license-plate recognition, to name a
For his part, McGonnigle agrees that thorough surveillance is not just about
video cameras. Many firms, including his own, he admits, have been a little
guilty of over-hyping the potential benefits of video analytics used alone.
But it's becoming clearer that video is just one part of a comprehensive
In a related development, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
on April 12 distributed a "Request for White Papers for Airport Perimeter
Security," seeking the development of more innovative technologies and the
support of $4.7 million in new funding, according to the Airports Council
International-North America (ACI-NA). The white-paper submission deadline is
rapidly approaching -- on May 5. For more information, or to obtain a copy
of the TSA request, ACI-NA recommends contacting Charles Chambers,
cchamers@xxxx na.aero, or Elle Han, ehan@xxxxxxxxxxx, who are both at (202)
Ken Vondrasek, Cernium aviation systems manager, (314) 968- 5454 X103,
Wade Coleman, VistaScape communicaitons, (678) 919.2363;
Jan Wiedrick-Kozlowski (communications for Vidient), 585-392-7878,
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