A planned perimeter security system for four airports in the New York area will help solve one of today's biggest aviation security gaps -- the sharing of real-time information across airports.
Both the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and the Raytheon Company [RTN], which is preparing to install its "Perimeter Intrusion Detection System" (PIDS) at New York's John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport (NYC) and LaGuardia (LGA), as well as in New Jersey at Newark Liberty Int'l and Teeterboro (TEB), say the new system will be the first of its kind in the nation. This is because it will integrate data from several types of sensors and funnel the data to the same control center.
Whether new security systems are about perimeters, access control, or something else new and wonderful, data often are not coordinated with other systems at the same airport, or with other airports or transportation hubs in the same region.
For the PANYNJ, PIDS is expected to alert security officials to suspicious goings-on that happen simultaneously or appear to be starting a trend across facilities. Also, if one operator goes off to the rest room or is having lunch, and his/her workstation is initially alarmed, there will be a time-out feature that forwards the alarm to a different workstation after a set time interval.
Then again, if it's a good idea to link four airports in the same metro area, it also makes sense someday to link facilities regionally and nationally. But with the vagaries inherent in today's funding streams, it's not likely that neighboring airports would be able to coordinate their renovations in this way. This is probably an area where the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would have to take the lead.
A TSA spokeswoman says that while the agency is interested in regional communications linkages, but is not yet testing such a system.
Another perimeter security system under construction for the Houston Airport Authority at two of its facilities, George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and William P. Hobby (HOU), and being installed by Honeywell International [HON] (Air Safety Week, Jan. 23), appears to share some data-integration characteristics with Raytheon's New York project.
One big difference between the Houston and New York projects, however, seems to be the two systems' price tags, according to airport security consultant Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation. At $140 million, Raytheon's estimate for the Port Authority is significantly greater than the $3.5 million the Houston system is expected to cost.
"It may well be that the risk of a terrorist attack on New York airports is greater than that of an attack on the Houston airports," Poole says. "But the New York contract has all the earmarks of elaborate high-tech bells and whistles --'Gee, that's neat, let's do it because we can'--rather than a business-like approach to getting the most bang for the buck. Let's hope it does not become the model for perimeter protection."
In response, Raytheon spokesman Lynford Morton tells Air Safety Week that the Port Authority conducted an extensive bidding process with eight companies including Raytheon, using a number of criteria such as the firms' experience and pricing. In the end, the authority "concluded that Raytheon had the best value solution for their specific and unique needs."
Raytheon is planning at least five types of sensors for the Port Authority's airports, including three kinds of cameras, ground-based radar and smart fencing, says Raytheon's Rich Dinka, who is a director for its airspace management and homeland security division.