The ultimate airport security checkpoint might be closer in reach than one would expect. Seamless, less intrusive, quick and efficient security operations are part of the vision under the European Union’s XP-DITE project.

XP-DITE is part of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s biggest Research and Innovation programme. XP-DITE’s main goal is to create viable solutions for the ever-changing aviation security environment, with greatest focus on airport security checkpoints.

XP-DITE has strong ambitions to stimulate long-term improvements to efficiency, passenger experience and overall security, all the while addressing the interests of airports, regulators, manufacturers and passengers alike.

On May 31, 2017, XP-DITE participants hosted a debrief at Schiphol Airport on the 5-year long project.   My key take-aways are summarized below.

  • Call for system-level and outcomes-based paradigm.

Checkpoint performance is best analysed by looking at the functioning of the checkpoint as a whole instead of focusing on individual parts as is currently the norm. AVSEC regulations prescribe detection equipment and screening processes, often without taking into account other issues that airports care about: operational efficiency and passenger experience. In addition, current regulations are often complex and inflexible. By examining how checkpoint components interact with each other across multiple levels, the AVSEC community can enhance system-wide efficiencies and overall resilience in the network. In an ideal world, regulations would articulate a certain security performance level. How this level is reached would be up to each individual airport.

  • Technology solutions are out there.

Technology is not letting us down in the sight of evolving security threats. Manufacturers are capable of developing new technologies to make air travel more secure, yet they can’t and won’t push the envelope on development without clear longer-term incentives in place. From non-intrusive detection technologies to sophisticated biometric identity validation devices, coupled with ethical design and evaluation tools, viable and system-level checkpoint solutions are in reach.

  • Future implementation approach is unclear.

It’s unclear what comes after XP-DITE. One of the greatest successes of XP-DITE is simultaneously its greatest challenge; cooperation between/among the many stakeholders. XP-DITE generated a great number of ideas and outlined how new and emerging technologies could be effectively deployed, but there is no roadmap to implementing the vision. Generating a paradigm shift is not an easy task, especially if everything hinges on the question: who will drive this effort? There is no clear answer at this stage. Although all stakeholders have a role to play, without a clear identification of who will contribute to a broader initiative and how, XP-DITE risks being just an expensive research project.

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