Integrated Airport Security Can Mean Integrated Vendors

Tie-ins between competing vendors pushes forward options for cutting-edge systems

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 and people.

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, McGonnigle says.

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