Over 90% of the world’s busiest airports rely on Smiths Detection equipment and more than 75,000 X-ray systems have been delivered worldwide in almost every country in the world. Heidi Gibson asked senior programme manager at Smiths Detection Hans-Joachim Schöpe to share his insights.
Question: I believe that you were responsible for designing the world’s first automatic explosive and liquid detection system called aTiX. Can you briefly describe this system in lay man’s terms and then explain why it was or still is – so revolutionary.
Answer: The HI-SCAN 6040aTiX is an advanced multi-view X-ray system for the automatic detection of solid and liquid explosives in cabin baggage. The detection performance of HI-SCAN 6040aTiX is far superior to other automatic systems, including lower false-alarm rates. Using advanced computer technologies, complex analyses can be carried out in real-time, maximising baggage throughput without hampering normal checkpoint procedures. It was the industry’s first system to achieve ECAC LEDS Type C Standard 2 certification for screening of liquids, and has since gained LEDS Type C Standard 3 as well as EDS CB C1 and C2 for cabin baggage.
Question: Turning to the company’s checkpoint CT scanner called CTiX. I understand that this machine makes use of AI techniques or artificial intelligence called ‘deep learning’. Can you describe what this is and how this works and why it is of benefit?
Answer: HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX is the first security system from Smiths Detection to use CT technology for the passenger checkpoint. It has both EDS CB C3 approval in the EU and TSA AT-2 certification in the US. Baggage can be scanned without removing electronic devices and liquids which in turn, expedites screening and makes the whole process less stressful for passengers. Simply handling fewer trays can significantly increase throughput. At an impressive 0.2m/s the CTiX belt speed will also keep things moving.
Typically, X-ray scanners provide 2D images from fixed generators and detectors. Unlike these conventional scanners, in a CT the X-ray generator and the detectors are mounted on a gantry, which rotates at a constant speed as the baggage is carried through on the conveyor belt. It spins around the object taking hundreds of views at slightly different angles and then reconstructs the raw data into volumetric 3D images. The comprehensive data collected is used to make more precise measurements and very accurate judgements on substances within the bag.
Further developments will focus on the ability to detect prohibited items such as guns and large knives, potentially removing the need for operators to review every generated image.
Deep learning is fundamental to artificial intelligence (AI) and Smiths Detection took this approach in developing the iCMORE Weapons system – collaborating with customers and security authorities to build a huge library of images from which the algorithm could ‘learn’ from. This results in accurate, reliable and powerful detection based on proprietary raw data, providing invaluable support for security operators, customs officers and other controlling authorities. The additional detection capabilities reduce the burden on all image analysts and are particularly helpful for less experienced operators.
iCMORE Weapons was developed for aviation and urban security applications such as: airport passenger checkpoints, customs, prisons, conference centres, concert venues, amusement parks or anywhere large numbers of people congregate. iCMORE Weapons delivers a high probability of detection and low false alarm rate – improving security, whilst also increasing efficiency and throughput. Automatic detection algorithms also support risk-based screening by revealing risks based on the individual requirements of controlling authorities – they are adaptable to different security levels. Adding iCMORE Weapons does not affect any regulatory certifications or approvals and little or no training is required.
Once an item has been scanned, the image is sent to an external computer where it is analysed by the iCMORE Weapons software. Any potential threats are framed and shown on the main system screen in tandem with the images from the explosives detection scan.
Question: As the world turns more and more to digital experiences and more functions are taken over by machines. How long do you think it will take before we hand over complete control to machines? Or do you think that humans should always have the ‘last say’.
Answer: Currently, each and every scanned image at security checkpoints needs to be assessed by a member of staff, whereas in hold baggage screening, only suspicious images are sent to an operator for analysis. We are optimistic intelligent algorithms could lead to an even more automated screening process at checkpoints as well. We think human intervention will remain necessary for the next couple of years, but it’s good to see more steps being taken into positioning AI as an assist for enhanced security. It will certainly ease the burden off image analysts, and help them to be more productive and accurate in their decisions.
Ideally, we want a world where operators don’t have to spend time going through each and every image but, instead, can focus on analysing the ones that raise alarm. Ultimately, checkpoint security needs the strongest combination of skill sets to be successful. Together, we can enhance the detection process, through the positive attributes of both parties. In working as one, a system based on man and machine can be far more consistent as well as infinitely more thorough.
Question: Why is it SO important for technology to improve security, efficiency and passenger experience?
Answer: In the face of increasing passenger numbers, new regulations and ever evolving threats, airports are constantly challenged to maintain operational efficiency whilst striving to improve security effectiveness. The security checkpoint is a critical point in the passenger journey and the correct strategy here can be pivotal to the broader operation of an airport.
Question. What advice do you have for AFRICAN airport CEOs on which technology to use that will make passenger experience pleasant and less cumbersome?
Answer: When approaching checkpoint design, installation and maintenance from an overall perspective, consideration is given not only to how the complete system can function smoothly and efficiently, but also how it integrates with the whole kerb to gate experience. Get it right and the result will be high levels of security; a cost effective process; improved on-time performance for airlines; increased passenger satisfaction; and sustainable business growth. Technical solutions supported by operational analysis should be tailored to meet the specific business and regulatory requirements of each airport. The building blocks (e.g. sensors, baggage handling and management software) may remain constant but there are significant differences in how they can be configured, deployed and operated. Combining the most suitable technical solution with the appropriate processes and fully trained security staff for individual airports delivers both operational and economic benefits.