Smart airports for seamless travel – WCO transcript

Smart airports for seamless travel

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2016 there were a staggering 3.8 billion air travelers, a number it predicts will balloon to 7.2 billion passengers by 2035—a near doubling of current levels. Large airports are increasingly introducing innovation and technology that is changing the way we work, move, purchase goods etc. Are Customs and border agencies keeping up with these changes and making full use of API/PNR, biometrics, robotics and other technological and other developments that can speed up the movement of passengers?

Smiths Detection was invited to speak alongside customs specialists from three airports in Australia, Brazil and Dubai on what it means to be a smarter airport and how to achieve in providing a seamless travel experience. Tim Norton, our Global Market Director for Ports & Borders, stated that whilst airports continue to invest heavily in new technologies, the pertinence of heightening passenger experience without compromising security standards, while meeting compliance and regulatory standards was also discussed.


How can X-ray scanning equipment support customs and other border agencies in speeding up the movement of passengers at airports? What kind of a future in airport security do you see with the influx in air travels?

Tim Norton: “Being the leader in aviation security, Smiths Detection has led the way with reliable Computed Tomography (CT) based X-ray screening systems such as ECAC EDS CB C3 approved HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX carry-on baggage scanner and the ECAC EDS Standard 3.1 approved HI-SCAN 10080 XCT and CTX 9800 DSi hold baggage screening systems. With screening systems such as the HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX, travellers no longer are required to remove their electronic devices and liquids from bags. This means that checkpoint security checks now can be as simple as putting down your bag into the scanner, walking through the body screening system and collecting it. There isn’t any time wasted to remove these items and the inconvenience in doing so is fully eliminated.

With CT technology, operators can look at 3D images which they can rotate, zoom in and out, and analyse to help them make decisions better. This will reduce secondary checks, and hence, eliminating operation bottlenecks while streamlining the checkpoint operation.

However, it is the time for airports and customs to look beyond conventional screening systems, to prepare themselves for the future.”

What role do you see for the use of robotics by customs at the airports? Can you share the technology that you had mentioned prior to this plenary talk with everyone, the one that will transform and help airports and customs?

Tim Norton: “Besides installing cutting-edge scanning devices that are in line with regulatory standards, airports customs should look at embracing emerging technologies such as image enhancement add-ons, auto threat detection algorithms, and artificial intelligence. To be a sustainable airport ready for the future, a major digital transformation in airports and customs administration is imminent.

The influx in airlines has brought about the pressure for airports to keep up with the burgeoning numbers of travellers. And to do so, technologies that best help airports work smart, improve security, and deliver good passenger experience must be implemented.

Dubai Airport is a great example of state-of-the-art technology early adopters. And while we actively adopt and implement technologies to improve airport operations, we must always maintain security standards with customer experience on top of our minds. Simply said, we must continuously strive for high security level coupled with a good passenger experience by eliminating inconvenience that is brought about by security checks.

Customs, airports and administrators are all looking for different things in their security clearance. Imagine a major airport in Europe with multiple routes to a major city in the United States being able to share images and data sources, which can be filtered through cognitive services that are trained with A.I. to look for different things. Wouldn’t this significantly enhance the way we work? This greatly promotes collaboration and sharing of information in real-time, all while knowing that the technology can be fully customised according to what my security operation needs.

There are massive amounts of data out there. And airports and customs know that they are not fully tapping and capitalising on the data that they have. Any technology adoption will not reach its full potential if we don’t study and analyse data. It’s the MVP in digital transformation. Without data analytics, there is no way a security operation can be scaled to new heights, there is no way to tackle the influx in air travels—in a smart and efficient way no less.

At the end of the day, technology is still just technology. We believe in helping operations transform digitally so that it is prepared for what is to come. We want to enable customers to make data-backed business decisions that will improve the state of things. A security operation will not scale up if we are not able to step up with a business transformation overhaul and harness the full power of technologies.


Tim’s speech was paraphrased for clarity and brevity. To view a full video recording of the WCO IT/TI 2019 Conference & Exhibition Plenary Session 3 on “Smart Airports for Seamless Travel”, click here.

Find out how risk-based screening can help enhance your airport security whilst improving passenger experience.