People Screening: An Overview

Check out our latest research on this topic: Global Homeland Security & Public Safety Market – 2014-2022

The failed Christmas day bombing of Northwest flight 253 has revealed significant lapses in the security measures employed at airports across the globe and has triggered a rush to enforce existing, as well as institute new, more stringent, guidelines. Unfortunately, the flurry of activity is unlikely to translate into a significant improvement in airport security until the administering agencies have access to effective, and cost-effective, technology, and learn to seamlessly deploy this technology with qualified personnel. For an interesting look at one country’s layered approach to airport security, visit: http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/744199. But, before you do, here is a short people screening primer.

People Screening Fundamentals

People screening is the sum of activities designed to confirm the identity of a person, and/or to detect threats such as weapons, explosives, weapons of mass destruction and/or other contraband. The people screening segment of the anti-terrorism industry includes six major modalities:

  • Weapon Detection
  • Explosives Detection
  • Radioactive Materials Detection
  • Biometrics
  • Behavior Tracking
  • Standoff Detection.
People screening activities can be divided into two different domains:
  1. Cooperative Screening – Subjects know and consent to the process, which takes place in close proximity to the subject and may be intrusive, and
  2. Non-Cooperative Screening – Subjects may not be aware that they are being screened, are not informed of, and do not consent to, the procedure(s). People screening technologies are evolving gradually from cooperative to non-cooperative. The ultimate goal in people screening is automatic, open-space, all-threat screening.
Techno-Tactical Challenges An effective people screening strategy must combine human and technological resources to accomplish the following objectives:
  • Detect a suspect and/or his/her actions in sufficient time and at sufficient distance from a target to allow interdiction
  • Neutralize a threat and protect personnel/facility/target
  • Detect behavioral anomalies/patterns
  • Enhance security with minimum disruption to the public
  • Enhance security without violating an individual’s rights
  • Radically improve detection quality (i.e., smart auto-detection algorithms, fused technologies/systems)
  • Develop multiple-threat detection capabilities (e.g., mm wave to detect weapons and explosives, and fused, multi-modal systems)
  • Reduce time and cost per transaction
  • Reduce dependence on operator performance (i.e., increased usage of material identification methods, either at secondary or primary screening cycle)
  • Increase throughput
The future of innovative people screening technologies lies in concurrent efforts to develop five different systems:
  • Handheld systems for Concealed Weapons Detection (CWD) and explosives detection
  • Fixed or mounted immovable CWD systems (e.g., Tripod based systems)
  • Standoff detectors
  • Screening corridors
  • Multi-modal, multi-threat screening systems.

Despite improved, and improving, technologies, particularly in the area of standoff (remote) detection, none of today’s people screening technologies and/or systems are capable of providing consistent, comprehensive and cost effective prevention/detection of most known threats.