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Airport Security Data Storage Improvements

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

Safe air travel is a vital component of life today. In fact, airports are so important to modern life that they are considered a part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. As such, they must be protected and monitored carefully. Every time an airport is the backdrop for violence, such as last years terrorist attack in Brussels, it underscores the importance of proper security and surveillance systems and processes, and can sometimes expose areas where improvement is needed.

Bill Flind, CEO of Ipsotek, an Advanced Video Analytics vendor commented, “While it is essential to capture as much video data as possible, the challenge is to make that video useful in achieving an improvement in situational awareness. All too often it is the case that a bad thing has already happened and the video footage is only then being used to assist the authorities in trying to work out what happened and who did it. With the skillful use of advanced analytics technology integrated with the CCTV and data storage systems, the security personnel can be immediately alerted to security breach events in real-time, thereby often providing the opportunity to take preventative actions. It stands to reason that such technology is essential. If an airport has several thousand cameras feeding back to a control room with a video wall of circa 20 screens, it’s unlikely that the operators are going spot the critical events as they are happening.”

Security systems are in place to protect people and property. In the aftermath of a tragedy we are compelled to improve our systems by applying lessons learned and through the use of technology. Airports worldwide are doing just that in hopes of heightening security protection at critical ingress points and preventing future attacks.

Tightening Airport Security

Airports offer of confluence of distracted travelers that can be exploited by adversaries and authorities continue to seek new and better ways to monitor and secure these ports through the use of remote video surveillance and analytics. In some respects, airports are similar to borders. They represent a type of boundary, serving as a key point of entry for international travelers and a foundational part of our society.

Besides being a critical infrastructure component, airports are congregation areas for large, diverse crowds. Travelers from across the country and all parts of the world intersect at international airports, creating a target-rich environment for terrorists and a security challenge for authorities. According to the "Airport Video Surveillance and Security Report 2016,” from IHS Technology, airport security officials must protect not only passengers and visitors, but also aircraft, terminals, parking facilities, fuel facilities, airline buildings and power supply facilities.

Video surveillance is an integral part of airport security systems. Cameras are placed throughout airport facilities to monitor crowd activity, perimeter gates and fencing, security checkpoints, baggage handling, hallways, seating areas, entrances and exits. Live streams are monitored continuously with the help of video analytics. Facial recognition technology helps identify known criminals and suspects, while also recognizing employees with authorized access to areas. Virtual trip wire analytics notifies security personnel when boundaries have been crossed and behavioral analytics algorithms help detect packages which have been left-behind and other unusual behaviors.

Monitoring suspicious activity over time, tracking movements of watch-list suspects and sharing information between agencies are vital in the effort to provide better security at borders and airports. Carrying out those activities is complicated. Success depends on good information from a variety of sources, one of which is video surveillance footage. Authorities use real-time analytics as well as analysis of past footage in their efforts and that makes video storage an important component of today’s surveillance systems.

An example of a forensic requirement is explained by Flind, “Ipsotek is deploying face recognition systems into airports where the key data from every face is recorded along with the location and time data, and links to the relevant normal CCTV footage for forensic analysis. We are successfully capturing most faces that enter or pass through the airport, and that data is being constantly gathered and stored. This allows a situation where a relevant stakeholder can say 'we have just become aware of this particular person who is perceived as a threat, and we want to know if they have been in the airport, and when that was, where they went, who with, and what they were doing.'”

In this scenario, the new image of the person is scanned into the system, which then searches through all the faces that have been seen in the airport, finding any matches and then displaying the instances of those matches with the facial shots and the overview video (before and after their face was captured), along with the time stamps and location data. Flind explained “We are helping solve a real world problem here. Bad people rarely just turn up somewhere for the first time and commit terrorism and it has often been the case that security services will subsequently say that they were aware of a particular individual before they acted. So it is incredibly useful to be able to test an environment like an airport to see whether or not that suspect has already visited, and if so, when and where, and who was with them.”

Three Factors that Impact Security Video Storage

To heighten security at airports, authorities are installing more cameras. Camera technology is becoming more advanced with higher resolution capability; panoramic viewing; integrated audio, chemical, infrared and thermographic sensors; and onboard analytics. The combination is resulting in a growing volume of streaming video that must be ingested and stored. Where will this video be stored and how much capacity is needed? The answer depends on a variety of factors, but here are three considerations before making a video storage decision.

- Retention Time

Retention time can have a dramatic impact on the amount of storage needed. The longer you plan to keep the video footage, the more storage capacity you will need. How long are you required to keep video? How long do you want to keep it?

Due to regulations and litigation, retention time is increasing. In 2016, the state of Georgia passed HB 976 requiring law enforcement to retain video from body-worn and vehicle-mounted devices for a minimum of 180 days. In addition, any video recording related to a criminal investigation or pending litigation must be retained for 30 months.

When determining retention time policies, complying with regulations is one consideration, but it’s not the only one. As we have seen in law enforcement and other industry applications, such as retail, video is an asset that increases in value over time. The quality of the information derived from analytics increases as we observe people and patterns over longer periods of time. That requires video to be kept longer than some regulations dictate and should be factored in when making retention policy decisions.

- Accessibility

Some storage architectures make it easier than others to search, retrieve and share archived footage. However, there are many options from which to choose: enterprise DVRs, boxed appliance NVRs, PC-based NVRs, enterprise storage platforms, tape, and cloud storage.

Before selecting a solution, you should consider the question of accessibility. Who needs access to your video footage and how quickly will they need it? Does the video need to be shared with other agencies? The answers will help guide your decision.

- Cost

Budgets are a factor in almost every purchasing decision. There is a limited amount of capital available, at least in most cases, and you want to get the most for every dollar you spend. Storage can account for up to 60 percent of the typical budget for video surveillance system implementations. That’s because high-performance disk is more expensive than tape and many choose architectures based on high performance disk. A good design principle is to size disk storage to meet your ingest performance requirements and then build out your long-term retention capacity using tape or cloud. That approach minimizes your storage costs while still delivering the performance you need.

Find a Balance

Video surveillance is a vital tool for law enforcement and airport security officials. Cameras are more powerful and affordable than ever. The expanded use of surveillance along with new video analytics is a powerful combination in the effort to improve security.

However, new technology has an impact on video storage. Making a storage decision means striking a balance between retention time, accessibility, and cost. Not all storage solutions are the same, so it’s worth your time to understand how each solution works in order to make the best decision for your situation.

Credit:, CSIS, Council on Foreign Relations, IATO, Aviation Pro

© 2019 De Angelis & Associates.


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