For cruise ship operators, the safety of passengers is always top of mind. Every day, cruise lines rely on a wide variety of technologies to ensure the safety of their passengers. VOTI Detection’s Jonathan Feist shares his opinion on the current security landscape and the future of x-ray security scanning in the industry.
What do you see as the biggest threat to the safety of a ship and its passengers and crew?
Every operation is different, and it is critical for security suppliers to recognize this when tailoring a solution to a particular maritime environment. Especially with regard to cruise terminals, we see different layouts, personnel, and client expectations across different ports. There are obvious threats to public safety that screeners must look for such as weapons, narcotics, alcohol, and more, but above all else, it is critical that personnel undergo regular training to ensure proper procedures are followed to uphold safety standards.
Technology is progressing an extremely rapid rate. How is this affecting how you approach to safety and security?
Technology is definitely improving quickly. At the same time as technology improves, so can the abilities of individuals to pass contraband through checkpoints. But when it comes to security screening technology, it is important that advances in throughput happen in conjunction with maintaining a high standard of safety and operator training. Ultimately, with conventional X-ray, no amount of security technology can replace a seasoned or well-trained X-ray operator.
On the other hand, technological advances provide exciting new avenues in threat detection. For example, angled geometry of X-ray sources, such as VOTI’s 3D Perspective, eliminate blind spots that are a known weakness of conventional X-Ray and expose contraband that may be hidden along the sides of cargo and baggage. These solutions are being implemented today.
Improvements in image resolution give operators more detailed, crisp images, which improves decision making. Other improvements like touch screen displays increase the time that x-ray operators’ eyes stay on the X-ray image, instead of diverting their eyes back and fourth between a console/keypad to the screen. If a decision about a parcel or luggage passing through a checkpoint is typically made within a few seconds, then these tiny time differentials make a difference.
As cruise terminals continue evolving from docks to centers accommodating the entire passenger experience, how are security processes and procedures being updated to align with this new reality?
Cruise lines do an amazing job of putting the traveller experience first, trying to minimize the stress or headaches that might be associated with security screening. But even if passengers want to start their vacations as quickly as possible, I think they recognize that security is everybody’s concern, and the cruise industry will continue to improve its security technologies to ensure that cruisers are enjoying an efficient, yet safe, boarding experience.
Where do you see the future of security scanning evolving within the cruise industry?
We are already seeing advances in networking capabilities which allow for functions like remote monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting. VOTI, for example, prides itself on its ability to diagnose and repair issues remotely, without having to send a technician on site. This is critical when tight timelines must be met for all passengers to board safely.
On a larger scale, there are so many opportunities for checkpoint screening to improve in the cruise industry and beyond. For example, as we see advances in deep learning and predictive analytics, automatic detection solutions will continue to improve.
Think about an x-ray scanner which scans tens or hundreds of thousands of bags per year. When a threat is found, and a software is trained to recognize that item as a threat, eventually that software has more and more examples of what constitutes a “threat” to work with. So as this software gets more and more data to rely on, a machine learning algorithm will be able to recognize threats instantly based on their shape, density, etc., and alert the operator. It will also reduce the number of false positives.
This means that as those people trying to pass contraband get more clever, so does the software, which improves in its ability to detect threats, and delivers actionable insights. Longer term still, this might mean that X-ray operators would be used only for follow-up inspections, since explosive and contraband detection algorithms would continue to get smarter, with a reduction in false positives. Time will tell!