UK Trade Shows Raise Border Challenges

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

A pivot towards digital platforms that use data to create information that can enable better decision making


Recent events WA have attended highlighted the desire from key decision makers and organisations to start integrating more advanced technology in security procedures and growing interest in digital platforms.


At a presentation at the Smart Borders Conference in London the UK Minister for Immigration the Rt Hon Caroline Noakes MP highlighted the strategy for UK border security. With the growing challenges the UK border faces and resources at its disposal, the Minister raised the need for a risk-based approach and that ‘technology is moving faster than we can imagine and that the UK must keep moving.’


This theme was further consolidated through presentations from Ukraine’s Integrated Border Management Programme, EU-LISA Project, and discussions between US representatives from Customs Border Protection, US airlines and airport stakeholders. The major themes centred around using technology as an enabler to gather data that can then be used to instruct a number of operational processes, from security screening to streamlining resource allocation to improving the experience for arriving passengers.


At the International Security Expo in November 2018, the growing theme of using more technology to collect, analyse and disseminate data was clear. Many of the speakers across the seminar programmes highlighted the importance of this topic moving forward.

The Department for Transport emphasised the critical nature of data and suggested this will become predictive in the future. The Civil Aviation Authority raised the issue of digitalisation in the aviation industry and the need for real time data, risk analysis and dashboards to understand and highlight risks. A presentation on Australia’s border security discussed a need for an integrated and automated border using data fusion to help identify any threats coming into the country, and how to prioritise screening and deployment of security resources to protect against them. An interesting point that was raised was who collects and manages that data, and the potential for an increasing role for the private sector. There are of course challenges with the sensitivity of the data collected, but this could see a significant shift in the future of borders.


To enable these processes, adoption of more advanced technologies must continue. The use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), IoT devices, block chain, cloud and augmented reality in security is not a new idea and has been long discussed. While adoption of these is gaining traction, WA believes they are being underused due to budgets, reluctance to invest and integration issues.


However, the requirement from the end user and security operator community is clear and the industry is beginning to respond.


Smiths Detection presented ways that AI and ML would improve aviation security and demonstrated how they are integrating this into their screening offering. Utilising AI and ML on screening solutions would benefit three areas. Security hardware insight improves availability of machines. Passenger Insight through risk-based screening drives differentiation of screening requirement for passengers thereby improving experience of security. Finally, luggage insight will move beyond just images and improve threat recognition. Clearly these are appealing for screening operators. However, the challenge remains on industry to demonstrate how these new technologies and solutions will benefit operators, be easily integrated and solve the issues that they currently face.


It is easy for operators and industry to simply say that more advanced technology is required, but it must be acknowledged that implementing these is not a straightforward process.


Investment in digital platforms drives other considerations such as security of the data, encrypted communications to allow secure data sharing and a review of current ICT systems. In many cases standard operating IT systems are still outdated and to include more advanced technology would require a total overhaul of the system. A good example of this is the Met police. Whilst they continue to pursue a digital strategy, at the beginning of 2018 London’s Mayor office responded to a question and admitted that over 18,000 computers were still running on Window XP (first released in 2001), preventing some of the new applications from working properly.


Industry has a strong role to play to help end users engage with new technological solutions. More case studies and education on how they will benefit operations and increase security is required to help greater organisational buy in and more motivation to utilise the tools. Reassurance that new solutions will not disrupt operations or cause down time is another area that needs to be raised. It is also important to note that responsible investment and procurement must continue. Organisations need to buy technology that is going to actively improve their operations, rather than simply buying advanced digital solutions because they can and feel they should.


Of course there will be challenges along the way, however with the emerging threat environment, pressure on resources and changing operating environment, technology has to be at the centre of the response. From the messages being delivered at these trade shows, it feels like the security industry is beginning to take steps in the right direction.

© 2019 by Westlands Advisory Ltd

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