Designing the future of airport security

Angela Gittens by Angela Gittens | Mar 2, 2020

Since it was launched in 2014, Smart Security has had the vision of passengers proceeding through security checkpoints with minimal inconvenience, allocating security resources based on risk and optimizing the use of airport facilities. Last year, it set an even more ambitious objective to deliver a walking-pace, seamless passenger experience at airport screening checkpoints and moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to airport security.

The Smart Security project continues to promote concepts and solutions that strengthen security, take a more risk-based approach, increase efficiency and enhance the passenger experience. It does so by bringing together a coalition of leading airports, regulators and airlines that not only look at the technology and processes available today but also looks much further ahead. That look culminates in the Smart Security Vision 2040, set for release later this month.

Smart Security – Vision 2040

Innovations such as artificial intelligence, the use of big data and stand-off detection will radically transform our approach to aviation security and the way we screen passengers and baggage. These are the kinds of solutions adept for the challenges of tomorrow.

Aviation security has typically been one of the slower elements in society to introduce innovation. Vision 2040 is all about changing this situation, challenging the way we do things today and creating a much-needed quantum leap towards sustainable passenger and baggage screening.

In order to define the future of passenger and baggage screening, Smart Security has been researching the market, seeking views from several industry experts in the field to start to evaluate what aviation security screening can look like. Research has included focus groups, workshops and interviews with a range of stakeholders. This has helped gather ideas on how to shape the future in a sustainable and cost-effective manner that strengthens security and provides superior levels of service for passengers.

Vision 2040 begins by exploring macro and micro level trends affecting airports, such as traffic growth, sustainability, passenger expectations, and evolving security threats. These, the Vision elaborates, will imply securing the whole airport infrastructure, to allow passengers to walk through screening with their luggage. This will be achieved by shifting measures off-airport and through pre-screening, moving away from the single point of failure that checkpoints have become.

We hope Vision 2040 will inspire a range of stakeholders, from airports to governments and manufacturers, to engage in thoughtful discussions about how best to achieve a better airport security future.

The document is intended to be continually edited and updated, and your input will be integral to its evolution. Please share your opinions, comments and questions with us at

Innovation within an adaptable, flexible security framework

In line with the philosophy of Smart Security and its Vision 2040, ACI World is a strong proponent of outcome-focused security. To keep up with growth in air service demand, changes in threats and risks, as well as technological evolution, the aviation sector needs an adaptable, flexible security framework within which innovation can thrive. In other words, regulators should provide a strong framework but leave space for airport operators to innovate within that framework.

But a more flexible regulatory framework requires accountability from operators. It requires, understandably, that operators demonstrate that they manage their security risks appropriately on a day-to-day basis. The effective management of security requires that airport operators manage the provision of security services in a systematic, business-like manner.

The Management of Security Handbook

ACI World will release in April 2020 The Management of Security Handbook First Edition 2020, which provides avenues through which operators can move from a reactive, compliance mindset to a more proactive mindset.

Security is often considered through its individual components – for instance, hiring the right people, training them, making sure mitigations are in place and working effectively, and checking compliance through quality control.

The handbook helps airport operators link all these elements together, making sure they feed into each other and help manage risks on a continuous basis. It addresses the major opportunities that data can bring to help an airport adjust its posture in response to new security risks, sometimes in real time. When security is treated as a business, airport managers have a strong basis from which to take their decisions and can adjust them dynamically.

Training courses are available on topics presented in this handbook via the ACI Global Training curriculum. These are offered either in training centers or by means of in-house training courses tailored to members’ particular operational needs.

ACI also offers an implementation guide to Advanced Cabin Baggage Screening Computed Tomography.

Angela Gittens

Angela Gittens

Director General, ACI World
Angela Gittens began her tenure as Director General of ACI World in 2008. She was formerly airport CEO for Miami and Atlanta and Deputy at San Francisco International Airport. In other roles, Gittens led HNTB Corporation’s airport business and strategic planning practice and, at TBI Airport Management, she oversaw the transition to private ownership of London Luton Airport and managed operations contracts at several airports in the US and Canada. She is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and has served on numerous aviation industry boards and committees.
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