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New CT Screening Technology Guidance Helps Airports Implement Emerging Technology

Trade association, Airports Council International (ACI) World has launched a new implementation guide for Computed Tomography – or CT – screening technology that can help airports improve efficiency and passenger experience at security checkpoints.

The Advanced Cabin Baggage Screening / Computed Tomography (CT) Implementation Guide was developed with ACI’s Smart Security Management Group, which is comprised of some of the world’s most innovative airports, regulators and airlines. It highlights the key benefits of CT technology for the cabin baggage screening process.

The guide provides a comprehensive summary of best practices and suggested actions, from procurement to installation and operation, that airports should consider taking before and during the implementation of this new technology into their existing operations.

ACI World’s Smart Security program identifies improvements that can be made to the screening process through a combination of existing and emerging technologies.

“Demand for air services will double by 2037 and airports are looking for ways to improve efficiency to prepare to meet this demand,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “CT machines can detect explosives including those concealed in liquids, aerosols, gels, and electronic items. They have the potential to streamline screening processes as passengers do not need to divest these items, while maintaining rigorous security standards.

“ACI’s Smart Security program explores how security checkpoints could be designed by providing airports with operationally viable solutions which help maintain security while increasing operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction.

“Smart Security also looks beyond mid-term solutions and focuses on risk-based security concepts, innovative processes, and advanced screening technologies that will help achieve a truly seamless passenger journey through airports.”

Due to its enhanced detection capabilities and the potential for passengers to keep items in their bags, Australia, Netherlands, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States are among the countries currently leading the way in deploying CT equipment. Other countries and airports are undertaking trials with CT technology, confirming its popularity on the global level for improved security and passenger experience.

“While this is a positive step in making the screening process smoother for passengers and baggage, airports and screening authorities should take into account a range of factors to implement the explosive detection solution for cabin baggage,” Gittens said. “Airports should introduce measures that make most operational and business sense for their particular situation.”

The guidance includes advice regarding procurement of CT systems. One procurement challenge is the number of units available from the manufacturers as several large countries mandating this technology at the same time could result in a challenge in meeting regulated timeframes.

It is also worth considering that trialing CT technology does not necessarily indicate a full willingness to procure. Several airports are trialing more than one CT machine to ensure they have the correct model for their security checkpoint.

The guidance says that when completing the tender process, as there are very few large rollouts globally currently, airports should consider a number of factors when selecting the most appropriate solution for their security checkpoint:

  • Operational performance – Security effectiveness and detection
  • Operational performance – Belt-speed, throughput, false alarm rates
  • CAPEX (capital expense) Cost
  • OPEX (operational expense) Cost (Machine) including maintenance, training and breakdown costs
  • OPEX Costs (Checkpoint) Additional cooling, power etc. within the checkpoint
  • Ancillary costs – Upgrades to algorithm costs etc
  • Physical characteristics – Dimensions, weight, height, noise emissions, heat emissions etc.
  • User ability -Image quality, additional functions, user interface
  • Integration – Assessment of ability to integrate into ATRS and tray types with real life examples of where this has occurred
  • Integration – Centralized Image Processing or remote screening capability if the airport desires
  • Future proofing – Upgrades to cater for new threats or improvements
  • Checkpoint Management System – Data capture on performance and machine monitoring
  • DICOS (Digital Imaging and Communications in Security) compatible
  • Response to breakdown – Time that machine is non-operational. Replacement part availability and costs
  • Machine reliability – Mean time to failure rates
  • Local radiation laws
  • Cyber protection including open architecture – Open Architecture could affect many other considerations in this list. Cyber security should be considered a pre-requisite for installation. It is imperative that airports should understand the maturity of the cyber protection that different suppliers are providing in order to protect the airport and the roadmap into the future. Further-more, cyber considerations should be given to the whole checkpoint and not isolated considering the potential connectivity between systems.

As well as factoring in the time to procure the correct systems, consideration must also be given to allowing time for training and familiarizing staff. New screening technology demands security officers who are capable of learning to work with that specific technology. For example, research indicates that 10 percent of the population is not able to see images in 3D, and it is not feasible to expect officers trained in old-style X-ray imaging to be able to pick up new technology without the correct amount of time to fully learn the systems.

Furthermore, actual operational decision time can often be much longer than the manufacturer’s determined process time, depending on screener curiosity, propensity to use additional screening functions and the way in which the bag has been packed and what it contains.

Read the full guidance here

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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