Next-gen checkpoints: Integrating data for insights, efficiencies

Today’s security screening practices and systems – whether at airports or entrances to government facilities – get the job done, but not without a great cost to operators, authorities and those passing through today’s growing number of checkpoints.

Given a security threat climate that continues to worsen, together with the public’s growing dissatisfaction with wait times and intrusive screening measures, the current model for security is not sustainable into the future.

However, agencies need look no further than equipment already in place at checkpoints to help increase efficiency.

Checkpoints at  event venues, border crossings and other security boundaries generate a massive amount of data every day.  And when  systems and solutions at these checkpoints are integrated, this wealth of information can provide tremendous value in both cost savings and increased efficiency. The problem is that much of the data that is collected ends up sitting in silos – providing limited strategic value to agencies.

Governing agencies and organizations need to integrate their systems – from X-ray machines to passenger and cargo manifests – and store the accumulated data centrally so that real-time decisions can be made and performance advantages realized.

Integrating systems

When looked at separately, data generated from X-ray machines, metal detectors and baggage screening equipment has little to no strategic value to checkpoint officials and security personnel. However, when linked together, these various sources of data provide a holistic view of the checkpoint – allowing operators to make decisions that affect the security bottom line and keep those passing through happy.

Additionally, integrated data can help manage personnel. Take a checkpoint at an airport: when determining queue management and load scheduling, the system can look at the flight departure database to predict the load on downstream checkpoints, allowing operators to schedule the right number of staff at the right time.

This use of data to determine how to best deploy personnel can be used across security checkpoints regardless of the agency or industry. When fused together, a  summary of the data can be presented to checkpoint managers in a dashboard, which can be quickly scanned to help make real-time decisions.

Managing data

The key to unlocking this information, and the decisions that can be made from it, are a direct result of information no longer being confined within different technologies.

Big data methods — the ability to analyze otherwise inactive datasets — are critical to creating more efficient security checkpoints.

But much of the big data from airports, event venues and military checkpoints still requires legacy technology to access it. Integrated data needs somewhere central to live – and no number of log files or hard disks are going to be sufficient. In many cases the best option will be to migrate to a cloud infrastructure.

Cloud computing and cloud storage is cheaper and more efficient than data warehousing, and it removes the constraints of storage capacity – allowing all data to be aggregated and stored from one location. Having data stored centrally allows it to be distilled for an enhanced level of security and improved management, allowing for on-the-fly decision making from operators and authorities.

Additionally, the collected data allows for greater in-depth analysis and creates the opportunity for monthly and yearly comparisons. Looking at different combinations can create more efficiencies and be used for predictive purposes.

While security has been a topic of concern when it comes to cloud storage, it is actually safer than storing information at disparate data warehouses. Moreover, using a combination of secure links, encrypted data and data compression can ensure that the datasets are secure and only accessed by the intended operators.

Tomorrow’s technology today

A data-driven checkpoint isn’t a distant concept – it is here, it’s just a matter of putting to work data an agency or airport already has. In the next decade, data will grow by a factor of 40 and agencies have already begun looking at big data from checkpoints and how it can be used to better manage operations.

In the not too distant future, everything from threat detection reports, persons screened, baggage notes and more can, and should, be consolidated to provide a clearer picture of security operations. Diving deep into this metadata of day-to-day actions can establish patterns and allow venues, airports and  border crossings to create the next generation checkpoint – one that is operationally advanced and secure without being invasive.

About the Author

Andrew Goldsmith is vice president of global marketing for Rapiscan Systems Inc.


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