Technology has shaped the trajectory of the development of humanity and made globalization possible. No geographic or time borders prevent people’s communication or interaction, which facilitates the development of economy, science, medicine, and other spheres. However, the dark side of this process is associated with security issues as offenders also have a plethora of instruments to cross borders, which is specifically dangerous due to the rise of extremism and global terrorism (Smyth, 2019). Governments have to address a serious issue as they need to ensure the free flow of people and ideas, but they still need to enhance their people’s security. Air traffic is one of the most sensitive domains due to the pace of people’s transfer and its increasing role in travel (Prenzler, 2018).
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Airports have become the gates that may safeguard or undermine the security of a country or even several countries. Therefore, it is critical to strengthen the safety of these facilities via the utilization of advanced technologies and the corresponding practices. The present paper dwells upon the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on airport security and border crossing, as well as potential advancements in this area.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is associated with the penetration of technology into all spheres of human life. This revolution is related to machine-to-machine automation, nanotechnology, and gene sequencing, among other technological breakthroughs, and is referred to as “the fusion of these technologies and their interaction across the physical, digital and biological domains” (as cited in Skilton & Hovsepian, 2017, p. 10). Skilton and Hovsepian (2017) add that these transformations in technology are “a part of a wider reshaping of all industries and a new genre of economic, social and societal change” (p. 9).
The term was coined in 2016 by the German government that made Industrie 4.0 a part of their state strategy of development (Skilton & Hovsepian, 2017). The most widely used advances the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought include the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems, nanotechnology, micro- and macro-scale technology. All these novelties are employed to enhance the security of airports across the globe.
Recent Advances in Airport Security and Border Crossing
It has been acknowledged that 9/11 had one of the most influential effects on the development of airports, as well as other aspects of urban infrastructure. Governments recognized the major vulnerabilities of air traffic and started developing new strategies to ensure people’s (and countries’) security (Prenzler, 2018). Some of the primary concerns that can jeopardize airport operations and border crossing include but are not confined to concealed objects (weapons, explosives, illegal objects), concealed identities (fake documents), and the trespass of wanted individuals. Diverse technologies and practices are used to address these issues.
It is necessary to add that a combination of strategies and practices are often employed to make sure that the operation of airports and travelers’ journeys will not be disrupted. An important feature of the novelties in the sphere of security is their rapid spread (Prenzler, 2018). Technologies and standards are often adopted in several countries, which contributes to people’s safety. The standards and guidelines provided by international institutions ensure the development of practices adopted globally (Prenzler, 2018). Biometrical data, for instance, are now utilized in various countries worldwide.
Border Crossing and Biometrics
Although it often seems potentially dangerous, border crossing has become faster and more efficient. Biometric data serve as the central factor contributing to the development of the corresponding systems (Smyth, 2019). Borders are becoming less rigid as many people obtain the status that enables them to travel with less meticulous checks. One of the bright examples of open borders is Europe, with its Shenzhen zone.
EU citizens gained the possibility to travel to different European countries with no or limited checks. EU citizens that traveled within the Shenzhen zone did not have to go through the traditional verification procedures, but only random checks were implemented until recently (Crockett et al., 2017).
Numerous terrorist attacks that took place in major cities, as well as an increased level of criminal activity in European countries, made authorities introduce new rules. One of these novelties involves EU citizens passing the external borders of the European Union based on common rules. Since 2017, all EU citizens’ data are checked instead of the earlier practice of random checks (Crockett et al., 2017). Biometric data analysis ensures enhanced security and improved travel experience for people.
The utilization of biometric information transformed the idea of people’s verification. Instead of checking what people have with them, officers check who these people actually are (Smyth, 2019). This kind of information cannot be easily stolen as compared to identification documents.
Fingerprints remain one of the central features analyzed to verify individuals worldwide. Biometric passports contain this information, which makes it rather easy to examine whether the person has committed any unlawful activities or whether the traveler has the right to cross the border. It is noteworthy that international travelers have biometric passports that help in people’s free movement across borders and enhanced border security. At the same time, additional features such as iris can become a part of people’s ID cards in the near future, which will be discussed below.
Automated Border Control (ABC), as well as semi-automated border control, is instrumental in detecting potential hazards without making people stop in some areas, which contributes to the undisrupted work of airports. Smart gates are becoming more common in airports worldwide due to their efficiency and the overall positive attitude of passengers (Mohamed, Gomaa, & El-Sherif, 2018).
This instrument is already used in such facilities as Cairo International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, among others (Mohamed et al., 2018). Smart gates, also referred to as e-gates, involve the fusion of different technologies as they mainly check whether the biometric data of the passport the passenger provides at the entrance match the facial characteristics of the holder of the document (Royakkers, Timmer, Kool, & Van Est, 2018).
The smart gate utilizes facial recognition and iris recognition to check passengers’ identities when they pass through. Instead of waiting in lines for the check-in conducted by an officer, people can pass through gates and complete the procedure within 15 seconds (Khi, 2020). These gates improve the flow of passengers as one officer can simultaneously supervise the operations of several e-gates.
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This technology takes different forms in diverse countries, depending on the passenger flow and other factors. For instance, in Dubai, Smart Tunnel, an e-gate, is more integrated into smart technology compared to other facilities. The Emirati government announces its intention to make Dubai a travel hub that is technologically advanced, and, thus, safe (Al Shouk, 2017). In Dubai International Airport, people do not need their passports at the entrance of e-gates but can use their smartphones if they have the application Smart UAE Wallet (Mohamed et al., 2018).
However, this technology is widely employed for citizens of the host country or those travelers who have the corresponding agreement with an airport to use this check-in instrument. For instance, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia launched registered traveler projects that imply the provision of certain cards with passengers’ biometric data (Labati et al., 2016). As mentioned above, smart gates are positively viewed by passengers, which makes this technology develop at a high pace (Mohamed et al., 2018). Existing e-gates show the potential for further development in terms of the management of passenger flow, security, and service quality.
As far as security is concerned, this advancement enables immigration officers to verify passengers’ identities. It is noteworthy that smart gates are associated with high-level accuracy because biometrical data is used. The human iris is unique, and the algorithms utilized to analyze facial features and iris have proved to be effective, which makes this technology a potential area of further improvement (Mohamed et al., 2018).
Lykou, Anagnostopoulou, and Gritzalis (2018) note that some security concerns associated with this technology are yet to be addressed. One of the primary threats to the effective use of e-gates is an unauthorized modification, including but not confined to the manipulation of information at airports’ sensor data, IT systems, and central reservation systems (Lykou et al., 2018). Attackers can delete or alter software or hardware, and corruption can be a considerable issue as well. Hence, smart gates are becoming more widespread worldwide, but further improvements in the technology are necessary to ensure the security of people and infrastructure.
Although smart gates are regarded as the most efficient ABC system, other structures are utilized in different countries. Fingerprint recognition remains a common method of identification. Airports in different countries use ABC that can be a part of smart gates, lanes, kiosks, or specific areas (Labati et al., 2016). Although such aspects as iris and facial features can also be examined, the focus is still on fingerprints that are considered to be the most reliable method of identification.
Human fingerprints are unique, and the technology aimed at analyzing this feature is mature, which makes it applicable in airports. Many countries rely on this method of safeguarding their airports and borders since the technology hardly needs considerable investment. At the same time, some issues often arise mainly due to inappropriate implementation. For instance, if an individual’s hands are dirty or too moist, the system may fail to verify the person (Labati et al., 2016).
The screen can be contaminated with other people’s fingerprints, which can make the procedure more complicated. Nevertheless, these situations are manageable, so fingerprint verification is one of the most applicable strategies in airports worldwide.
Other methods are under development as air traffic officials try to employ diverse strategies and systems to enhance security. Scanning is a widespread technology because it enables immigration officers to identify hazards or potential threats within a short period of time. Luggage scanning has been in place for many years, and its efficiency has been acknowledged. Scanning is based on the use of X-rays or non-ionizing radio waves that provide 3-D images (Moskvitch, 2015).
Some of the latest advances in this area include an auto-scan system that assesses the objects on the luggage belt and highlights the items that can be potentially hazardous (Moskvitch, 2015). For example, this technology is employed in Schiphol airport (Amsterdam, the Netherlands). Security managers stress that this tool is more efficient than conventional X-ray scanning because the operator needs to focus on a limited number of objects instead of trying to spot potential threats among other things (Moskvitch, 2015). Travelers find this procedure time-consuming but necessary for security reasons, so immigration officers and authorities try to optimize these procedures.
Another scan-based technology is more controversial, which led to its prompt development into a new form. Full-body scanners, introduced in 2007, gained their momentum in 2009 after a failed attempt to blow up a plane in the USA (Moskvitch, 2015). The attacker tried to conceal the explosive in underwear, which proved the vulnerability of metal detectors (Moskvitch, 2015). Air traffic officials started replacing or complementing metal detectors with full-body scanners.
One of the inconveniences associated with this method was quite long waiting time as the system triggered an alarm when detecting a suspicious object, so many passengers had to go through additional checks. Nevertheless, the technology was instrumental in identifying potential threats, which was the highest priority.
However, the most significant concerns emerged in the 2010s when people started wondering about the extent to which the scanning revealed their bodies. The demonstration of the image led to the complete disappearance of these systems from airports worldwide as people on the screen were nude (Moskvitch, 2015). It is noteworthy that after the discussion of the issue, the majority of UK passengers did not mind the system much as they placed the major value on the security.
Only 33% of people emphasized that this system was inappropriate as it violated people’s privacy rights (Moskvitch, 2015). Nevertheless, these concerns were sufficient for the replacement (or removal) of this equipment. A new type of full-body scanners has been employed in some airports. The scanner displays “a cartoon-line body image” that highlights the suspicious elements only (Moskvitch, 2015, para. 12). This advancement met favorable reviews from passengers, so it becomes more common in different airports.
Big data management made the developments mentioned above possible since scanning, e-gates, and other systems imply the collection, analysis, sharing, and storage of a substantial bulk of information. Big data is significant data sets, as well as instruments to manipulate them (Smyth, 2019). Therefore, effective data management is the premise for the achievement of the goals established to enhances travelers’ security at airports and when crossing borders (Smyth, 2019). Biometric and personal data should be properly stored in safe databases that can be accessed by authorized individuals when needed.
Big data implies automated information analysis and manipulation, which reduces errors (that are common for humans) and decreases costs considerably. Information can be accessed from diverse sources and is shared by different systems. IoT that is one of the most rapidly evolving technological advances relies heavily on big data. Devices are connected with databases that contain a large amount of data related to different areas of people’s life. Any breach or error can result in considerable issues, including increased waiting times, additional checks, data (and even identity) loss, fraud, and other serious problems.
Although unprecedented advances in the sphere of big data have been apparent, serious concerns arise. Smyth (2019) argues that one of the major issues regarding this aspect is linked with the legal domain. The researcher emphasizes that security procedures are mainly related to access, while no sound regulation of data analysis and sharing is available thus far (Smyth, 2019). People provide their consent to make some of their biometric or personal information available to a particular authority. Nevertheless, the procedures and methods involved in data analysis and further sharing between different systems are rather obscure for people, which can cause legal constraints in diverse situations. Security issues are also topical since offenders have access to advanced technologies as well.
Potential Areas of Innovation
The verification of documents is a considerable concern due to the availability of sophisticated technology that can be utilized for different types of fraud. The verification of identity in airports is essential as the ability to track former offenders can enhance security substantially. Blockchain can become an effective solution to this problem. The system will imply the use of principles of blockchain, which are immutability and decentralization (Khi, 2020). Each passenger’s biometric data will be validated, and every validation will be recorded. These records will be stored and processed to identify the reputational value of the passenger (Khi, 2020).
In simple terms, every successful validation will build a high reputational value, which will make this passenger’s travel experience more comfortable as this person may require less time to undergo control procedures. Khi (2020) stresses that data security issues do not arise as blockchain technology presupposes multiple layers of checks and security measures. The system can hardly be breached due to the bulk of data to be analyzed to locate initial (or necessary) bits of information.
Blockchain technology can become the backbone of a new system of passengers’ identification and self-management. Potentially, passengers will be able to verify their identities from home and skip certain control procedures at the airport, which will improve their travel experience (Khi, 2020). This system can also reduce the load of immigration control points and improve security at airports. At present, only the holder of the ID cards from specific airports can travel using some elements of this technology. Such passengers book their flights and verify their identities before they reach airports (Labati et al., 2016). When these travelers come to the airport, they go through e-gates or other types of ABC without the need to wait in long queues.
The successful integration of blockchain into ABC systems requires certain changes in the air traffic security system. Identity verification and validation need a considerable degree of standardization of biometric and personal data (Khi, 2020).
Although some bits of information are common for control systems across the globe, airports often analyze specific types of data. For instance, in smart airports, e-gates serve as the primary ABS with the focus on facial features and iris recognition, while other facilities use less sophisticated ABC systems concentrating on fingerprint recognition (Mohamed et al., 2018). Therefore, it is critical to develop a standardized scope of features and data to be analyzed.
Data sharing and security can be seen as the most sensitive aspects of ABC. Countries have centralized data management systems that are closed for external use, which makes international passenger identification more time-consuming and challenging (Khi, 2020). The development of a database that can be used by any airport or the corresponding department of this facility could optimize the identification process.
Clearly, security concerns arise as such a database can be a target of various offenders, which can pose a threat to thousands of people. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, blockchain technology can mitigate such risks due to its decentralized nature. Some airports announce their preparedness to participate or their involvement in the projects aimed at the development of such a system. British Airways, Geneva Airport, Heathrow Airport, Miami International Airport, and an IT company look into the possibility of using blockchain in identification-related operations (“10 technology trends for airlines and airports in 2018,” 2018). Hence, in several years, the first projects associated with blockchain incorporation in airport ABC will appear.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of things (IoT) is another breakthrough associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it is paving its way into air traffic steadily. It is also regarded as the technology bridging the gap between data, people, and facilities (“10 technology trends for airlines and airports in 2018,” 2018). One of the areas researchers consider in relation to IoT is luggage management. It is already employed in airports, but it is not available to passengers (Singh, Meshram, Gujar, & Wankhede, 2016).
Smart airports start utilizing this approach and enabling their travelers to get larger control over their luggage. For instance, travelers can track their luggage with the help of an application they can download on the smartphones or even other wearables (Ferrag, Maglaras, & Derhab, 2019). ID cards and similar smart technologies facilitate the development of these systems, as passengers’ identities and a considerable amount of data are already available (Singh et al., 2016). Therefore, passengers can receive access to the information regarding their luggage, which will improve their travel experience, reduce the rate of damaged and lost baggage, and will have a positive impact on security.
At the same time, the deepening incorporation of IoT into airport infrastructure is associated with increased security concerns. Malicious attacks and breech can disrupt the work of some equipment (for example, luggage belt) or even the entire system (Skilton & Hovsepian, 2017).
Attackers can use the vulnerabilities of the current advances in this sphere and use them to achieve their goals. In order to mitigate related risks, researchers and IT companies work on the improvement of security. ARM holdings, UK-based developers of chips, emphasize that hardware, as well as software, should be properly protected (Skilton & Hovsepian, 2017). They have already developed effective protection from hackers on their chips, and they are committed to further research in this area.
MRI for Luggage
Modern travelers have been accustomed to leave all the liquids behind when entering airports. In 2006, several British residents were arrested after their failed attempt to detonate hydrogen-based explosives on their flight to the USA (Prenzler, 2018). The attackers thought that liquids were not detectable and would remain unnoticed in Heathrow. This case led to the ban of liquids on board in many countries and later development of the restriction of the quantity of liquid (Prenzler, 2018). In addition to certain inconveniences for passengers, the current restrictions still leave some concerns regarding security.
Research into the development of a sound method to address the problem has been in place. For example, Mexican researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a potentially effective instrument (Moskvitch, 2015). The system, called MagRay, was preliminarily aimed at dealing with healthcare issues. MagRay is a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance (utilized in MRI scanning) and X-rays. The system can discriminate hazardous liquids from benign content. Several trials implemented in Mexican airports revealed the benefits of the use of this tool, but the project is currently short of funding, which means no tests at the moment (Moskvitch, 2015).
Nevertheless, the progress achieved in this area suggests that the issue can be solved in the near future as researchers have already implemented important tests unveiling the benefits and possible downsides to be addressed.
Unmanned Land Vehicles
Despite the rapid development of unmanned land vehicles, this technology at airports is only emerging. However, air traffic officials are optimistic about the use of these systems that can substantially improve security at airports and enhance the efficiency of their operations. Al Shouk (2017) reported that Dubai airport management was considering the use of unmanned cars. The project involves the incorporation of this technology into passengers’ transfer to different airport areas.
For instance, passengers can be collected by these cars in parking lots. During their travel to check-in points, the system may weigh the luggage and generate QR codes (Al Shouk, 2017). This initiative requires considerable research as new software and hardware is necessary to support the system. At that, the implementation of this program will become an important part of ABC at airports.
Automatic Deception Detection
Automatic deception detection (ADD) systems use in airports is in its infancy, but is likely to gain momentum in the near future. This technology is based on the analysis of people’s behavior, which can help immigration control officers to identify passengers’ level of deception (Crockett et al., 2017). The focus is on the changes in people’s facial expressions that can reveal people’s emotions and intentions. At the pre-arrival stage, each passenger’s behavior will be analyzed by the system, and a deception score for every traveler will be generated. After random questions concerning the passenger’s travel, the ADD system will identify the level of deception. Immigration officers will be able to make decisions based on the data provided by ADD systems.
These systems are closely connected with the ones aimed at detecting certain behavioral patterns. Video analytics will be instrumental in identifying suspicious people whose behavior can reveal possible risks. Lee and Miller (2019) claim that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is critical in this process. The researchers argue that this technology can facilitate visual data analysis and detect any suspicious behavior (Lee & Miller, 2019).
Apart from the analysis of passengers’ behaviors, these systems can address another security concern as well. ADD systems are effective in detecting dangerous left luggage or any items. The system analyzes motionless objects and identifies the level of threat. Suspicious objects are highlighted, and an alarm is triggered, which ensures an enhanced control over diverse airport areas. In order to ensure the efficiency of these systems, it is essential to focus on the improvement of various devices, including cameras (Crockett et al., 2017). Researchers should also continue creating more sophisticated software to increase the detection capacity, especially is the quality of videos is not perfect.
Major Steps to Undertake
This brief analysis of the current use and research in the sphere of security regarding border crossing and air traffic suggests that it is necessary to pay considerable attention to such domains as standardization, effective data management, and legislation. As mentioned above, the most recent systems aimed at enhancing security in airports often rely on the analysis of different data, which is a considerable obstacle to data sharing and travelers’ crossing borders (Khi, 2020).
Although the most common features associated with identification are fingerprints, some countries introduce new technologies involving facial features and iris recognition. It can be important to develop a standardized system that could ensure people’s flow across borders and their security. Data sharing is another prerequisite for improved security as countries will have information concerning wanted people, people with previous records, and potential offenders (Prenzler, 2018). Data sharing will ensure global security, so countries should be ready to share data. Clearly, data security should be the highest priority, which will require considerable investment in cybersecurity.
In addition to technological advances and the establishment of standards, governments should work on the corresponding legislation. Digitalization should become characterized by such features as transparency, standardization, and collaboration. Countries should make sure that their borders are secured with technology that is connected to the bulk of data shared globally. Globalization has made people’s flow unstoppable, so border crossing has become a routine for many people, but this process should still be properly safeguarded. The European Union can become one of the models to follow when developing border-crossing practices worldwide (Crockett et al., 2017).
Data sharing and management have proved to be effective, so other countries can follow this path. Moreover, the challenges associated with the immigration crisis European countries face can also help governments come up with effective strategies to address various issues.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has had a tremendous impact on the border crossing and air traffic. The incorporation of technology in diverse operations and practices enhances the security of people, facilities, and countries. Big data, IoT, AI, iris, fingerprint, and facial features recognition, scanning, MRI, and other advances make identity verification and other types of checks more effective. Every detected hazardous object and each attempt to breach databases or violate some regulations serves as the basis for new investigations, advancements, and rules. The use of robots and smart gates makes travelers’ experience pleasant while contributing to the improvement of security.
One of the most burning issues to address is not associated with technology since researchers develop new instruments and equipment on a regular basis. Countries should be prepared to incorporate new technologies into their security management. Data management seems the most considerable challenge to address as governments and immigration authorities of different countries should develop an effective strategy to collaborate effectively.
Security-related processes should be standardized, and data sharing should be easy but secure. The world has never been a safe place as military conflicts have occurred in different parts of the globe. However, by closing borders, countries are unlikely to increase their people’s safety. Governments, researchers, and the public should collaborate to make the flow of people and ideas easy and safe.
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