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TranSec World debate on mass transit security

TranSec World Expo : 25 November, 2008  (New Product)
The conundrum of providing aviation levels of security to mass transit systems is debated by experts and technology providers at the 2009 TranSec World Expo
See our events guide listing for more details

Although mass transit systems are most commonly attacked by terrorist groups they remain one of the most commonly underfunded transport modes in security terms globally.

Figures reveal that aviation remains the biggest recipient of security funding with port and supply chain security a close second while mass transit remains a lowly third. In the face of major terrorist attacks in London, Madrid and Mumbai this disparity in security funding has angered some and prompted calls for a shift in priorities. Such has been the revulsion generated by these and other attacks, that the fundamental question is once again being asked as to how best to effectively secure the movement of hundreds of millions of travelers daily, while ensuring the transit networks they use don't simply grind to a halt.

This question is to be debated by leading technologists and thinkers in the field of security at the forthcoming TranSec World Expo 2009, RAI, Amsterdam, June 3-4, 2009.

It is quite evident the security systems employed in the aviation sphere simply will not work in the mass transit arena, so what can be done to improve the lot of this massive number of travelers as they go about their daily business by train, tram, underground and bus networks the world over?

Answering this question requires that planners need to adopt a holistic approach to mass transit security and travelers may have to accept a further erosion of privacy for the greater good.

Effectively securing mass transit systems against terrorist attack has been described in the past as being largely an exercise in futility. However, the passage of time and the inexorable march of technological innovation means this goal is coming much closer.

No security system can be 100 per cent effective and in the mass transit arena effectiveness may well be somewhat less than that achievable in other modes of transport. But if the primary goal is to deter or deflect attacks, then many of the innovative technologies likely to be showcased at TranSec World Expo 2009 provide mission critical functionality only dreamed about a few years ago.

The holistic approach to mass transit security requires first that weak points in the entirety of the system are identified and solutions devised to harden them.
Terminal security will likely demand a wholly different approach to that adopted elsewhere on the network and may require a mix of high tech monitoring to deter an attack and advanced structural engineering to minimise the impact should an attack occur. System wide closed circuit television monitoring across transport networks has been commonplace for many years, but the shift toward ticketless travel presents significant opportunity to visually monitor, identify and track the movement of individuals across the transit system.

CCTV remains the backbone of the security architecture protecting mass transit systems of course. Advanced digital CCTV systems are now becoming the defacto standard, allowing images to be transmitted via fast IP networks, digitally stored, retrieved and also rapidly distributed to law enforcement. Such digital CCTV systems open up a whole new world of possibilities, including using advanced facial recognition techniques to actively monitor the movement of known individuals in real-time.

The UK is the most mature of the European markets for CCTV equipment. Nevertheless, it is expected to grow by 10% per annum through till 2012, mostly on the back of the London Olympics and due to the continuing upgrade of legacy systems. The UK market alone is estimated to be worth in excess of £1.1 billion annually. The market in the rest of Europe remains on a high growth trajectory with strong demand for IP networked systems in particular boosting the market value to US$1.9 billion at the end of 2007.

Combining the advanced capabilities of modern day CCTV systems with the sophisticated identification and tracking capabilities presented by the widespread deployment of Smart Card travel and future deployment of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded tickets, presents the unique opportunity to develop powerful monitoring, tracking and identification solutions that will substantively enhance the security of mass transit systems in the future. Transport for London is a mere heartbeat away from having such a capability given its widespread deployment of CCTV across the transport network and high Oyster smart card usage.

TranSec World Expo 2009 aims to advance the debate and identify the most appropriate solutions to the mass transit security conundrum.
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