Since the attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, airport security has been stepped up. Airports now need to walk a fine line between offering the security of a prison and the open environment of a shopping centre or train station.

In a prison, security is paramount and visitors are intensively screened. It is not a welcoming or accessible environment, and is not intended to be. In contrast, shopping centres and train stations need to allow people to move around quickly and easily without being subjected to security checks.

Airports must be as secure as a prison, yet feel more like a shopping centre or train station.One of the most effective solutions is to increase the level of communication within airports. Technology has advanced rapidly, but communication is often overlooked and undervalued. Integrating security technology with building control in critical facilities, such as government installations and chemical plants, is an effective strategy. Its scalability makes it ideal for airports as well.


Most construction procurement processes prescribe a cost-based system where technology is bought from vendors that specialise in a particular application. This results in separate packages with parallel activity streams and large budgets that are driven independently through the project cycle. This provides a high level of risk mitigation, improves negotiating power and allows effective contractor management. However, traditional installation practices leave facilities with separate systems that are controlled by different departments.

This fragmented approach creates ‘islands of technology’, which lack functional effectiveness and scalability. Integration does not require systems to be installed concurrently. The important thing is to deploy a flexible technology platform that can effectively share and act on critical information, and adapt to changing requirements. If the systems are integrated effectively then a wide range of benefits can be achieved.

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When a security breach occurs, all the relevant subsystems are alerted and action is taken accordingly. For instance, if an intruder is detected in a secure zone, the correct camera will be switched over to an alarm monitor in the control room.


Digital retrieval allows operators to access a report on all of the security breaches associated with, for example, a particular fire door in the last six months. The footage of each incident is available automatically, along with documentation of the actions taken by the operator, the time it took to respond and the outcome.


Security technology relies on the personnel operating the equipment and responding to threats. Having a single interface into a system allows for the measurement of various human factors, such as response times, number of alarms and the time it takes to close alarms. This is critical for establishing performance benchmarks and improving productivity.


With greater accessibility comes heightened vulnerability, and the investment and planning required to protect a large, complex facility is significant. Airport security projects do not come cheap, but the value of protecting countless lives as a result of effective security and technology planning far outweighs the cost. Integration is the most cost-effective approach in improving operational productivity as it preserves public ambiance while ensuring safety is supported behind the scenes in a non-intrusive manner.

These systems do not have to be supplied into new constructions to be effective. Miami International Airport began a five-year project in 2004 to integrate its core building functions within the existing buildings in order to improve operational efficiency, passenger comfort and overall safety.

The airport’s new integration platform – Honeywell Enterprise Buildings Integrator – allows operators to access, coordinate, monitor and control building functions from a single point, and it is delivering benefits through the staged implementation.