JUNE 3, 2002 - John Croft — Even when the right people with the right credentials are allowed to go through the right airport doors, the wrong things can happen. That's because friend and foe alike are too often able to slip through supposedly secure portals by "piggybacking" or "tailgating" through the door behind the credentialed employee. Such a low-tech loophole can outsmart high-tech smart cards designed to boost security by authenticating via biometric signature that the cardholder has access to the secure area.
Sept. 11 aside, there's been pressure to solve the problem for years. In a stinging 1999 report by the U.S. Transportation Dept.'s inspector general, special agents were able to penetrate secure areas in eight major airports, eventually boarding aircraft uncontested. Sixty-eight of 99 unauthorized entries were "tailgates" and would have been prevented if employees had ensured doors had closed behind them after entering the secure area (anywhere past the security checkpoint).
It appears that airports will now have another option that lets computers put a stop to the practice with an "intelligent" video system being marketed separately by ADT Security Systems and Honeywell in partnership with Seattle-based Newton Security Inc. Last year, Loronix Information Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Verint Systems Inc., began marketing a digital video-based system able to count the number of people passing through a door via advanced tracking algorithms.
The Tailgating Detection, Alarm and Recording system, or T-DAR® , is an $8,000-hardware/software package that combines Newton's machine vision technology with two specialized overhead stereo-optical cameras and one generic "scene" camera to detect and track the movement of people passing through secure doors and passageways. If two bodies are spotted where only one should be, T-DAR® issues an alarm and rolls videotape during the unauthorized entry.
"The system gives us proof of who it was, time of day and the card number of the legitimate guy," said J. Leonard Wood, ADT's manager of aviation services. ADT officials teamed with Newton to demonstrate the system at the American Assn. of Airport Executives conference in Dallas late last month, drawing the attention of about 60 airport directors and roughly a third of the 3,000 or so attendees, Wood said.
The machine vision software, originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and put to use in the manufacturing industry by affiliate Newton Labs, is best known for its quality control functions in assembly lines. For instance, one manufacturer uses the software to make sure juice bottle caps are tightened correctly and another uses it for quality control on a plastic catheter assembly line. Newton developed T-DAR® about a year ago to address a longstanding problem in the security industry--freeing security guards from having to study video monitors for the rare anomaly.
By itself T-DAR® is primarily a detection system, but when combined with a "mantrap" device, a double-door entry corridor where the first door must be secured before the employee can pass through the second door, it can also be used to trap an unauthorized entrant.
The National Safe Skies Alliance, a non-profit security testing and evaluation organization funded by the Transportation Dept., recently completed tests of the T-DAR® system at an employees-only American Airlines baggage door at Orlando (Fla.) International Airport. ADT officials said the tests were very successful.
© June 3, 2002 The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.