February theme: Aviation securityMaintaining security at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport

Published 26 February 2008

In 2006, Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport handled 9 million international passengers and 405,000 domestic passengers; it did so while being among the world’s most secure — if not the most secure — airports; two Israeli companies, Hi-Tech Solutions and Rontal, made their own contributions to achieving that level of security

Here are two innovative solutions from Israel aiming to enhance airport security (although they may be used for securing other facilities).

* Remember those ancient cold war days when both the United States and the Soviet Union were in the habit of boasting that the cameras on their spy satellite were so powerful, they could take a picture from space of a car’s license plate? Well, Migdal Haemek-based Hi-Tch Solutions can take pictures of license plates without going to space. The company has installed its vision-based License Plate Recognition (LPR) system at Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv, where the system screens all entering vehicles. One advantage of the company’s LPR is that cars do not have to que in line in order to have their license plates screened: The system identifies each vehicle entering the airport over multiple separate traffic lanes, and checks out the license plate number against different databases. The results are provided in real time and conveyed to security personnel who monitor the traffic lanes.

The system comes in different configuration. For example, it is installed at a London office compound, where the system automatically opens the gate for vehicles that match the authorized list.

* Lod-based Rontal Applications offered Ben Gurion Airport’s security department its SimGuard 3000, which helps in analyzing critical incidents using simulations. The company’s expertise in simulation is not surprising: It was founded in 2003 by a group of Israel Air Force (IAF) pilots, and air forces around the world are big on simulations in their training and planning. The company says that its “vision is to apply modern aviation concepts to civilian and business applications.” Now, the simulation solution Rontal provided Ben Gurion Airport helps security managers there assess threats and take the necessary measures to meet them. Following the planning and simulation phase, airport security professionals added new devices as necessary. Currently, SimGuard is used at Ben-Gurion to modify and validate existing capabilities and security procedures.

SimGuard 3000 works by building a virtual reality model of an actual facility into SimGuard’s database. Once a virtual facility is “built,” a virtual installation of sensors with real features and characteristics such as cameras, fences, access-control devices, GPS, fire alarm sensors, and intrusion detection devices can be carried out. When completed, the SimGuard system assesses the vulnerability of the relevant site (both outside and indoors) based on simulating different scenarios which challenge security, safety, facility management, general operations, and business-continuity aspects of the facility. These simulations provide information on possible future incidents and their impact on operations, thus help improve security by preparing contingency plans for different emergency situations.

Ben-Gurion Airport’s selection of SimGuard 3000 is a milestone in airport emergency planning, enabling airport officials and staff to prepare for any situation,” said Roni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of Rontal. “Airports are among the world’s most sensitive facilities, and they require optimal preparedness for a large variety of human threats, technical malfunctions and natural emergency situations.”