Interoperable Airport
The Airport of the Future

The Airport of the Future will adopt, integrate, and deploy the latest technologies from vendors to improve security, lower acquisition cost, reduce operational burden, and enhance passenger screening and the overall travel experience.

A heterogeneous environment better equips airports to deal with continually changing threats – in a highly efficient manner – by leveraging expertise and knowledge obtained at each screening stage. To fully harness the power of existing and evolving screening technologies, it is imperative to rapidly develop and deploy integrated solutions that increase the ability to detect threats while reducing costs.

While a wealth of sensor technologies and threat detection systems exist, a framework for supporting effective vendor-neutral interoperability of technologies is lacking. The airport IT systems of the future will be vendor-neutral, utilize standardized communication protocols, and feature interoperable technologies that are centrally managed.

Stratovan Corporation is leading the way in translating this vision into reality. We are developing standard communication protocols, software platforms, and freely available software to facilitate the adoption of the technologies needed to operate an efficient, effective, and secure airport.

Benefits of the Airport of the Future

The Airport of the Future benefits each stakeholder in the following ways:

For the TSA it will:

  • improve passenger protection by screening for multiple and evolving threats as quickly, efficiently and unobtrusively as possible
  • enable the incorporation of new technologies that facilitate and improve detection capabilities as threats evolve and emerge
  • support interoperability to lower device acquisition, operational labor costs, and system updates headaches to rapidly respond to new and evolving threats (with minimal vendor involvement)
  • integrate new concepts, such as risk-based passenger assessment, into the screening process to improve efficiency, reduce operational costs, and minimize passenger burden

For airports it will:

  • minimize the burden of security on passengers and commerce, while reducing operational costs and the space needed to house screening devices
  • support central management to limit the training staff need on a variety of independent systems
  • increase confidence that system faults won't significantly disrupt air travel and commerce

For vendors it will:

  • allow them to introduce new, innovative products into airports quickly and with fewer hurdles
  • reduce time-to-market and regulatory hurdles
  • streamline the deployment process

For passengers it will:

  • reduce checkpoint divestiture by accurately assessing passenger risk on a per-passenger basis
  • lead to a safer, more rapid, efficient and unobtrusive screening experience

Current Challenges

The following roadblocks impede interoperability in today's airport security environment:

1) Screening devices are not connected to a common network and cannot communicate with one another, preventing collaborative and data-rich screening assessments

2) Screening devices from different vendors connected to a common network cannot communicate with one another because they don't share common communication protocols or infrastructure

3) A lack of workflow management and device decoupling leads to inflexible systems and bottlenecks in screening processes

4) Currently, the distributed IT management of an array of incompatible and isolated security devices increases the operational costs of screening workflows by complicating tasks such as:

  1. Addition of new security devices
  2. Removal or replacement of devices
  3. Handling of faults and being fault tolerant
  4. Load balancing of devices
  5. Enabling the scalability of the screening workflow

Lack of technology interoperability, inflexibility in selecting vendors, and passenger satisfaction are key factors documented in the 'TSA Trade Space Framework' and captured in the Transportation Security Strategic Capability Investment Plan Office of Security Capability (May 30, 2014).

Lack of technology interoperability, inflexibility in selecting vendors, and passenger satisfaction are key factors documented in the 'TSA Trade Space Framework' and captured in the Transportation Security Strategic Capability Investment Plan Office of Security Capability (May 30, 2014).

Technology Capabilities for Transitioning to the Airport of the Future

Technology in the Airport of the Future will have these capabilities:

1) Unified network:

screening devices will be connected via a single, secure, and standard Ethernet network within the airport to support sharing information from one device to another through standardized communication protocols. Any device that makes a screening decision, or has access to information that could be utilized to perform a fused screening analysis, will be connected via the screening network.

2) Plug-n-Play:

connecting a new screening device to the screening network will not require manually reconfiguring more than one other screening device. A new screening device must be able to obtain an IP address, register itself with a central control system, and be ready to perform immediately within the screening process. Devices have to be nearly Plug-n-Play, while considering cyber security issues. They need to broadcast their capabilities to a central control system and be configurable remotely.

3) Central management:

a centrally configured, managed, monitored and operated system needs to drive the screening process. From a single workstation, an operator will be able to access every security device connected to the screening network to manage, configure and monitor each device. This will accelerate the process of delivering new capabilities, and drive standardization and reduce complexity, to support the TSA’s strategic need to substantially reduce lifecycle costs.

4) Fault-tolerant behavior:

the screening process must be able to continue to operate even if a device fails.

5) Decoupling:

screening devices will have the ability to update to new security and/or detection capabilities, independent of all other systems.

6) Risk Adaptive:

screening devices must support adaptive screening levels and respond appropriately in order to support risk-based screening.

7) Monitoring:

screening devices will automatically report status and performance metrics to a central FCAPS (fault, configuration, accounting, performance, and security)-based management system. Centralized data analytics will improve security capabilities and response times, addressing the requirement for reducing operational cost.

8) Resource efficiency:

the screening process within an airport will utilize devices and personnel in a resource-efficient manner by load-balancing work across devices on the screening network

9) Cyber security:

screening devices on the screening network need to be protected by network configuration and secure inter-device communication protocols to protect screening integrity

Stratovan’s Blueprint for Transitioning to the Airport of the Future

The main software challenges encountered in standardizing – and thus transitioning – to an interoperable airport are:

1) Standardizing image data acquired by screening devices

2) Standardizing non-image data acquired, gathered, or produced by screening devices

3) Directing dataflow between devices to facilitate the screening workflow

These challenges are addressed by establishing standardized communication protocols between devices.

These protocols include:

a) NEMA DICOS:

this protocol standardizes the image data format of data acquired with EDS, AT, AIT, and QR systems and handles threat detection reports (TDR) from devices based on this image data.

Stratovan's DICOS Toolkit provides a common platform for communicating image data in the DICOS format and transferring this data between devices in a standardized way.

b) Stratovan’s Screening Workflow Protocol (SWP):

SWP is a communication protocol that gives vendors the ability to connect screening devices to facilitate a logical, efficient, seamless, vendor-neutral and interoperable screening workflow. Currently under development, SWP facilitates communication between each screening device and the central command and control system (CCS). SWP defines messages transmitted between each device and the CCS. Each device has a set of messages that facilitate that device's role in the screening workflow.

Screening device roles are precisely defined within the screening workflow so that any vendor's device adhering to the SWP standard can be utilized.

Stratovan's DICOS Toolkit (and eventually the SWP) empower the TSA to deploy new capabilities and upgrades quickly in response to new and evolving threats without incurring infrastructure restructuring costs. DICOS and SWP make adding, upgrading, and replacing screening devices, and getting them to work together, extremely simple. Furthermore, SWP enables centralized management, monitoring, and configuration that is fault-tolerant, load-balanced, and scalable.

Interoperable airports, utilizing open and standard communication protocols, shorten the path to market for products, enabling the TSA and airports to use the latest modern technologies to handle emerging threats while reaping the operational efficiencies these innovative solutions can deliver.

DICOS

Free, high-quality DICOS library

Digital Imaging and Communications in Security (DICOS) software library and conformance testing suite to facilitate the conversion between native security vendor data with the DICOS format.