‘Ebola – Driving a greater need for video tracking at airports’ (Guest Blog by Jamie Wilson, NICE Systems)

In the last few weeks, management teams at airports around the world have been forced to take fairly drastic action to help safeguard against the spread of Ebola, writes Jamie Wilson. Screening programmes are being introduced to quell public concern and reduce the risk of those individuals exhibiting symptoms from entering a given country without further testing.

An individual may incubate Ebola for many days before exhibiting symptoms but, once a positive diagnosis is confirmed, time is of the essence in retracing that person’s contact with others. Accurate and timely information can help to assess the broader risk and, more importantly, prevent the disease from proliferating still further.

Of course, in an airport environment one source of vital information is the flight manifest, but what about the people who may have come into direct contact with the subject after that?

What about the official who greeted the person at border control? Or the on-site coffee shop worker who sold the individual an Americano and a sandwich?

Then there’s the Bureau de Change operator who exchanged currency for the passenger, and the driver of the airport shuttle bus who transferred 75 people – including the affected individual – from the terminal to the airport car parks.

It would be virtually impossible to retrace the person’s footsteps without trawling through hours and hours of CCTV footage, particularly so when you’re considering a large, sprawling environment such as an airport – which are small towns in their own right – where CCTV cameras are ubiquitous.

How would an investigator know where to look, or even what they were looking for? Quite literally, it would be a task akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

Jamie Wilson of NICE Systems

Jamie Wilson of NICE Systems

This is where real-time video forensics can greatly assist the authorities. Using the latest technologies, it’s possible to locate a person of interest and retrace his or her movements across a surveillance network in mere minutes. Those results can then be viewed on a map. Links to related video footage then show all other individuals with whom the person came into contact.

The Ebola threat is still evolving, but it’s very clear that airport management teams and front line staff will have a critical role to play in preventing this deadly disease from spreading across borders.

As news reports have already shown, not all solutions are likely to be completely foolproof, but airport management teams can – and should – use every tool at their disposal in order to help control and contain the present threat.

Jamie Wilson is Security Marketing Manager (EMEA) at NICE Systems

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