The hidden airport security of 2040

Billy Shallow by Billy Shallow | Jul 15, 2019

Today’s security is capacity constrained, intrusive and treats everyone the same. While there have been recent improvements of late such as those led by the Smart Security programme, the level of innovation in airport security is not the same compared to other industries or transport companies such as Uber or Air BnB.

From the 19th – 21st June 2019, ACI and IATA hosted an event at EUROCONTROL HQ in Brussels as part of the join venture for the NEXTT Programme (New Experience Travel Technologies). The event was designed to foster an innovative vision for passenger screening in 2040.

The three-day event was attended by a unique mix of forward-thinking and innovative regulators, airports, airlines, suppliers, industry experts and academics to create a complete and rounded vision of the future, moderated by ACI World and Augmentiq.

The significant outcomes that stemmed from the meeting showed a willingness and desire to innovate and do things differently based on the digital world progressing.

Air transport in 20 years

The overall forecast from ACI shows an annualized growth of 4.1% to 2040. Climate change and sustainability could have an impact of that with airports and airlines being more responsible about their emissions. For example, in a world first KLM recently asked travellers whether “that meeting could be completed over the phone or whether it was possible to take the train,” instead of flying their short haul hops to aid sustainability. Carbon emissions could have an impact on the number of movements per year restricting the predicted growth.

While climate change is an important topic, air transport is still the most convenient way to get from A to B over specific distances. Airports are expected to transform their offerings to mini cities with convenience being at the forefront of the passenger’s mind as-well as and having everything available under one roof. Customer expectations have evolved rapidly, being dominated by the likes of firms such as Amazon and Netflix – customers want convenience and they want it quickly! This transition is expected to shift over to aviation security. Keeping up with the phygital times is essential.

Security of the future

Although removal of the physical security checkpoint could result in some passengers not feeling as secure as they do today, there is an opportunity to complete screening differently, for example:

  • Consolidated and integrated security systems – Knowing exactly who is turning up can help build a risk score for each passenger prior to them stepping foot into the terminal.
  • CCTV predictive analytics – The use of artificial intelligence to analyse behaviour will be added to the risk score of each passenger.
  • Standoff detection systems – Screening at various points protecting the whole airport infrastructure as-well as allowing greater freedom of movement for passengers.

Customers could expect to be screened at the same time as seamlessly walking from curbside to their departure gate. It is an expectation that frequent fliers are able to turn up later due to advanced technology. That being said, we could also see holidaymakers turn up significantly earlier – to enjoy the airport experience, relax, and allow the vacation to begin at the airport, not when they land on the other side.

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All of these ideas are a vision of what airport security could look like. The industry requires fundamental innovation investment, less prescriptive regulations, and a willingness to listen to customer expectations. Removing physical centralized checkpoints won’t mean a higher risk to travel, it will simply mean a seamless experience. Rest-assured, security will still be there.

Billy Shallow

Billy Shallow

Director, Innovation and Technology
Billy joined ACI World in March 2019 to lead the Smart Security programme. His role focuses on developing and advocating the future vision of passenger and baggage screening for airports. Billy has over 8 years of aviation experience, including five years leading London City Airport’s security improvement programme, as well as international consulting assignments.
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