Keeping track

December 09, 2008

The apron of an airport is a hive of activity. Ground staff drive baggage trolleys to the aircraft, load air freight containers in the hold and refuel the aircraft. Cleaning brigades have to clean the aircraft before new passengers can board it. But which persons, vehicles and objects are moving around on the apron? Are all the people authorized to be there? Are people getting into hazardous situations? For the security staff who have to supervise the terrain on the monitor, it is almost impossible to keep track of everything.

A new technology sponsored by the EU will greatly facilitate the work of the security staff in future: LocON is a platform developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in collaboration with European partners. It enables automatic gate-free access control, both for the people who work there and for vehicles and other objects. LocON permanently locates all persons and objects by radio. "The security staff watches the entire airfield on a huge monitor," explains René Dünkler, head of marketing at the IIS. "LocON recognizes everything that moves on the airfield and is authorized to do so - in real time." To make this possible, all employees wear an electronic identity badge that transmits a radio signal and thus the person's location and identification to the LocON platform. Vehicles, air freight containers and other objects are also equipped with a tag that emits radio signals. "LocON can process various types of radio positioning signals, GPS and RFID alike," says Dünkler. Combining it with video surveillance systems offers even greater potential: Until now, security officers always had to keep an eye on several monitors showing the images from various cameras, and to know which people were authorized to be there. In future, robocams could track two persons and automatically compare their motion profiles with the positioning data from LocON. If the system discovers anything wrong - if there is any risk of an accident -, the security officers receive an alert.

LocON's pilot application is already lined up: The researchers are to install it at Portuguese airports in a joint effort with leading location system providers. In future, LocON will increase security in other areas too: for instance on building sites, at train stations or on company premises, as well as in harbors, hospitals and shopping centers. The engineers are also working on standardization measures to improve security at high-risk facilities.
-end-


Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

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