Transport security insights

November 2010 Integrated Solutions, Mining (Industry)

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Transport Security Expo and Conference (TRANSEC) held at Olympia in London in September. The conference had a number of streams including NATO shipping, Maritime, Aviation Security, and various technical workshops, all of them well attended. There was also a substantial exhibition space dedicated to showing the latest technology in transport security.

The exhibition was notable for showing a marked increase in certain types of technology. I spent some time in my presentation on human factors, selection and training in aviation security discussing the implications of new imaging solutions that are being implemented at airports and other operations. We are increasingly seeing the introduction of technologies that are presenting different ways of visualising goods and people, ranging from the traditional goods X-ray, to backscatter, to full body low dosage penetrative X-rays, to millimetre wave, terahertz, thermal and infrared imaging, and finally normal CCTV pictures. One of the points I raised was that it appears that there are some core underlying visual analysis skills that apply to these various forms of visual imaging technologies.

Selection of personnel must therefore address these common skills so that you can have a common set of personnel for a range of technology solutions, rather than different people for each technology. We are already implementing such concepts in the mining sector where our assessments are evaluating people for their ability to analyse CCTV, goods X-ray, and full body X-ray images and to move between these technologies. The result in some clients is the ability to detect anything from a pinch of platinum on an X-ray of the body to behavioural indicators on CCTV that show a person is about to commit theft.

The theme of the presentation happened to tie in well with the developments on the conference exhibition floor which showed a substantial rise in the demonstration of imaging solutions of various types. These included a major increase in the provision of full body low dosage penetrative X-rays by a range of developers in countries as diverse as Holland, Belarus, and US. Full body X-rays were pioneered in South Africa and have entered the main stream of security with an increasing number of providers of new low dosage machines. While dominated by X-ray images of internal drug packages, these penetrative X-ray machines were also advertised for the use of weapons and other contraband. While there are big debates on full body backscatter technology X-ray machines at airports at present in the US and Europe, I believe that we will see widespread implementation of full body penetrative X-rays in airports around the world in the next five years. Already a number of speakers were indicating that 'body cavity' bombs represented a potential threat to airport security.

Thermal imaging solutions are also becoming more widespread with an interesting side effect that some of the sellers are not even aware of all the potential applications for thermal cameras. I had a long discussion with one of the suppliers about what possibilities there were for the use of thermal cameras and interestingly enough they had not thought of many of the applications. Perhaps we are more aware of the potential of this technology in South Africa as I know a number of organisations here who are operating these cameras and constantly exploring new ways to apply them. The exhibition of these kinds of camera was in addition to things like explosive detection and the more traditional X-ray machines. One of the new developments was a technology that allows you to represent a baggage X-ray in a three dimensional context, tilting and turning the X-ray image to examine the goods more closely. While detection of liquid explosive remains a priority, it seems that a full solution to this particular problem is still elusive although European requirements show an expectation that working solutions should occur within relatively short time periods in the future.

The developments of new technology were discussed extensively along with a commitment to an aviation 'control point of the future'. We are likely to see an increased emphasis on control points integrating multiple technology solutions. There was also an increasing recognition of the importance of the human factor in ensuring that delivery of systems is effective. Human design issues, the calibre of personnel, and making technology more accessible were all critical areas that were highlighted during the conference. Despite all these new technology developments, it is clear that the human factor is not going to go away, and in fact is probably becoming even more critical and high level in the future.

Dr Craig Donald is a human factors specialist in security and CCTV. He is a director of Leaderware which provides instruments for the selection of CCTV operators, X-ray screeners and other security personnel in major operations around the world. He also runs CCTV Surveillance Skills and Body Language, and Advanced Surveillance Body Language courses for CCTV operators, supervisors and managers internationally, and consults on CCTV management. He can be contacted on +27 (0)11 787 7811 or


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