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Airport Ground Transportation: Physical Security and Technology Integration

July 28, 2022

Del Williams

At airports nationwide, ground transportation is critical to customer service and involves the coordination of employee parking, public parking, baggage delivery services, chartered transport, courier services, courtesy vehicles, shuttles, taxicabs, and public transit. 


However, sufficiently integrating the most advanced technologies from surveillance cameras to access control, automatic vehicle identification (AVI), Wi-Fi, and even back-office IT network systems and databases can be challenging for those offering ground transportation services.


One important aspect today for the Airport Ground Transportation Association is parking lot surveillance, given the recent spike in vehicle, catalytic converter, and battery thefts at airport sites. 


“Airport parking lots are coming under more scrutiny due to the sudden increase in theft,” says Dr. Ray Mundy, Executive Director of AGTA since 1976. 


“Other technology concerns related to ground transportation are automatic exit/entry systems, taxi and rideshare driver tracking (AVI), and curbside monitoring.”


Seeking a referral to an expert that could speak on the topic at a recent meeting of the association, Dr. Mundy learned about BTI Group, a technology convergence provider serving the airport ground transportation, logistics, aerospace, and healthcare sectors. 


The company acts as a single-source provider of complex phone (VoIP), physical security and network systems, down to installation of wiring and conduit. 


“When successfully integrated, security systems can provide a host of improved capabilities such as object classification, people/object counting, loiter detection, unusual activity detection, and sensor triggers. It can also provide helpful metadata such as license plates, entry tickets, access reader, and alarm events,” says Eric Brackett, President of BTI.


Airport Parking Security Integration


With airport valet parking, potentially false claims for vehicle damage can become a serious issue if there is not an adequate system for verifying damage.


“In a valet parking environment, the operator is responsible for damage to vehicles in their possession, so scanning vehicles on entry and exit for damage helps to mitigate false claims,” says Tony Dvorzsak, Systems Engineer, and the lead engineer responsible for the near-airport parking company nationwide.


In Dvorzsak’s opinion, people rarely walk around and inspect their vehicles for damage on a daily basis. “However, if they hand their keys to a valet, they will be more likely to inspect their vehicle upon its return. In this scenario, there could be existing damage that went unnoticed for some time, and which they first observe after the valet has taken possession of the vehicle,” he says.


According to Brandon Baca, the Security Systems Engineer for BTI responsible for overseeing the technology and security integration for the near-airport parking company, “Their main concern was preventing false claims related to valet parked vehicles. Typically, when someone makes a damage claim, the parking operator does not have video to prove that the damage was pre-existing. The operator does not want to deny every claim and get a bad reputation, so usually pays them.”


For today’s airport ground transportation facilities including parking structures, fraudulent claims are unacceptable and increase liability at insufficiently monitored locations. 


As a solution, BTI installed security cameras throughout the parking garage at one location, including high-definition units on arches at all the valet entrances to capture detailed images of the top, front, back, driver and passenger sides of all entering vehicles.


“This provides clear photo documentation of the vehicle’s actual condition on entry and avoids a ‘he said, she said’ situation,” says Baca.


He notes that the parking garage operator has already confirmed cases where drivers have entered with pre-existing damage to their vehicles. He predicts substantial annual savings in preventing false claims.


In addition, to improve security for self-parking, BTI has installed cameras throughout the parking garage that provide a broad view of the scene in case vehicles collide. 


“Although the parking operator is not liable for self-parked vehicles, most companies want overall coverage to deter any suspicious activity. Now if there is a claim by those who are self-parking, they can provide video to substantiate or deny a claim,” says Baca.


According to AGTA’s Dr. Mundy, another area that can benefit from security cameras involves taxi and Transportation Network Company (TNC) designated pickup and drop-off spots where rides or car rentals are arranged through online apps.


“If there is an incident, then the security cameras can help connect a specific rider with a particular vehicle and license plate,” says Dr. Mundy.


Although technology integration sounds like a high-end service with a commensurate price tag, that is not necessarily the case. 


An integrated approach with the best-of-breed solutions on the market delivers economies of efficiency and scale that are often passed on to the customer. 


“From our experience, many customers are not aware how products, especially those purchased based on price, can bring embedded vulnerabilities into a network,” says BTI president Eric Brackett. “Cameras manufactured in China, for example, have susceptibilities that are known to hackers. Major breaches have already occurred with what we call pre-hacked technology.”


Exploit the Convergence of Technologies


Although the implementation of security systems was the primary goal for these ground transportation services, technology integrators can also implement solutions for customer service and back-office operations, including voice, data, and network (IT) systems. Integrating these systems together without a firm like BTI with cross functional experts is an unwieldy proposition, however.


By working with a single technology provider with expertise in physical installation, network security, software integration, and software development as a service, airport ground transportation companies can better manage risk and also be assured their intended benefits will be delivered as promised on budget. In one bundle, the system is locked down, optimally integrated, secured, and proactively managed and monitored.


“Today, managed service providers have to be experts in multiple systems and understand how they work together to deliver the foremost level of technical quality,” says Brackett. “To do that, they need the brainpower and the intelligent design to integrate all these systems, so the customer gets all the benefits they need at a price they can afford and depend on for the expected life of their investment.”


Dr. Mundy of the AGTA agrees. “Companies typically purchase and install different technology systems and then try to make them work together. The problem is that no one really took the time to think about how the systems should be integrated on the front end. So, I think Eric Brackett was correct that these systems should be integrated to communicate and work together from the start, and in doing so can provide much more overall value to ground transportation companies.”


For more information on BTI Communications Group, please call 1-800-HELPBTI (1-800-435-7284), contact Del Williams at info@btigroup.com, or visit https://www.btigroup.com. 



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