Without a working security system, U.K. airports must close
Without a working security system, U.K. airports must close

May 1, 1997 12:00 PM

By law, if an airport's security system in the United Kingdom goes down for 24 hours, the airport must either close or man every airside/landside door. That's simply not acceptable. It is our mission to ensure the security system never fails, says Andrew Fulton, co-managing director with his brother Richard, of CEM Systems Ltd. Since installing its first system at Belfast International Airport in 1987, CEM Systems Ltd. has migrated its Airport2000 system throughout many major airports in the U.K., including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow, Manchester, East Midlands, Luton and Prestwick. On the front line of the systems are more than 150,000 HID Wiegand access control cards read by more than 2,000 readers incorporating HID Wiegand read heads. The three London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - are networked, allowing their 130,000 valid cardholders to go from one airport to another.

We prefer Wiegand because of its high security and durability. Some cardholders have more than 500 transactions per day and these access control cards must provide a five-year life. Also, we need to use cards we can obtain easily. Heathrow alone issues 1,000 cards per week due to staff turnaround at the various airlines, says Andrew Fulton.

Card options control access privileges Each airport in the U.K. has different security needs, but all use the Airport2000 Visual Imaging Pass Production System (VIPPS) in one way or another. VIPPS captures, compresses, stores and retrieves graphical and textual data such as images, logos and signatures. According to Richard Fulton, VIPPS allows the airport to add graphical and textual information to the database, capture images from live or still cameras and photographs, retrieve and update previously entered data, write data to various card technologies and define badge layouts.

In several airports, barcoded cards are issued as temporary IDs for visitors to use on the same system as the permanent Wiegand cardholders. Readers controlling access to restricted areas have two heads: one for Wiegand and one for barcode. In some cases, a visitor barcode is linked to a permanent Wiegand card to ensure the visitor is always escorted. At other airports, valid Wiegand cardholders have barcodes affixed for non-security applications such as vending machines.

At each airport, there are many security levels. At its simplest, the cardholder swipes a valid Wiegand card through the reader, which displays card valid, illuminates a green LED, sounds the buzzer and releases the door lock. The cardholder opens the door and passes through. The reader then sends a card valid - used signal to the system. If the door does not close within a designated time, the reader alerts the system. The next level is the same except the cardholder must also enter a PIN number. For added security at manned points where there are typically no physical barriers, the cardholder presents his photo ID Wiegand card to a guard who swipes it. The reader displays a message indicating the card's validity. Next, the guard checks the photo ID on the card and grants or denies access.

Split-screen techniques also enhance security flexibility. During card production, the image of the cardholder is captured and stored. When the card is used at high-security points that also include video monitoring, the card number is read by the reader and transmitted to the central computer. The stored image of the cardholder is retrieved and displayed alongside the live image received from the entrance camera. The duty officer determines whether the cardholder will be permitted entry.

Other modes are required at doors that must be held open to allow a number of people, usually passengers, to enter a controlled area. In such situations, the cardholder - typically a member of the airline staff in control of boarding or deplaning an aircraft - swipes his card and enters his PIN. The reader prompts the cardholder to select staff, for individual access, or passenger, for multiple throughput. The green LED is illuminated, the buzzer sounds and the door lock is released. In passenger modes, these doors can be held back by holding magnets or, if microwave detectors are fitted, the door remains unlocked but opens only when movement is detected.

The passenger mode is canceled in several ways: the operator can swipe a valid card; a designated time period passes; or the door is physically closed by personnel.

To segregate lobbies and prevent arriving and departing passengers from intermingling, a scenario similar to the passenger mode is used. Two readers are used to control the doors, one for arrivals and one for departures. These readers are interlocked so that if one is in passenger mode, the other can only be in staff mode. In these instances, airline personnel swipe their cards and the process is identical to the passenger mode. However, the other reader displays no passenger access, illuminates its red LED and allows only individual access.

Integration heightens flexibility The integration of the card access system with other technologies provides additional applications and flexibility. At doors where there are card readers and CCTV, the reader alerts the system to activate the CCTV camera automatically to produce a live image for duty officer action. To further enhance security, audio communication between the person requesting access and the duty officer can be established via an intercom fitted to the CEM reader. The duty officer can see and hear what is happening at the station.

At both Glasgow and Stansted Airports, the card systems hold details of card usage at every control point. Card transaction data includes the card number, date and time used, directional status (in or out) and the transaction outcome. This transaction data, besides producing tracing information, is also passed on to a time and attendance system for calculation of working hours. The system can even trace cardholders as the cards are used. Once a cardholder is added to the trace list, the next time the card is used, the system displays a window showing the card reader at which the card is being used.

At Glasgow, CEM Wiegand readers are used to enable or disable check-in desks or baggage belts. Before a check-in desk can be used, the operator must swipe a card. If valid, power is provided to the desk and belt. The system opens the flight information system which displays the active check-in locations for various flights. The data can also be used to invoice airlines for the use of shared check-in desks.

Manchester Airport's system holds financial data relating to the issuance of cards to tenants, contractors and employees. This information is sent to the accounting system to generate invoices. At Heathrow, the system sends broadcast data to the readers and monitor units. For instance, if a quiet evacuation of an area is required, the system is programmed to unlock a number of doors. This means in the event of a threat, the area can be evacuated without having to trigger the fire alarm system to open doors.

A major application at Gatwick Airport now being installed at Heathrow is a loading bridge monitoring system. Sometimes referred to as an air jetty, it is designed to reduce maintenance costs and increase the control of a loading bridge. There had been concern that it was difficult to track the use and status of air bridges. To address this, the system links a loading bridge to a Wiegand card reader. Before the bridge can be used, a valid swipe must be made on the reader. Besides control, the system provides an immense amount of data. Resulting information includes a list of bridges with the number of faults for each bridge, as well as the number of each type of fault over time. The airport knows the hours of operation for each bridge as well as how long each bridge has been in maintenance, standby or fault. A list of operators with their number of faults is also provided.

People monitoring At Gatwick and other U.K. airports, metal detectors count the number of people who pass through each point via an infrared beam. The information is sent via the reader network to the system for the generation of reports on passenger movement patterns. The x-ray machines can also send a contact closure as each bag passes through for screening, allowing baggage rates to be calculated. Such monitoring has highlighted peak times, allowing Gatwick and other airport management to schedule more accurately. According to Andrew Fulton, In today's world, airport security is a deadly serious business. Each airport must be individually analyzed to determine what is appropriate for it. There is no one right answer for every facility.

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