Stephen Cooper OBE, director of operational solutions at Apstec Systems, on implementing real-time mass security screening.
Welcoming over 600,000 guests every year, the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) is one of the best known motor shows in Europe. Now in its 89th edition, the GIMS has grown to 180 exhibitors and a staggering 900 cars all within the seven halls of the Palexpo in Geneva. However, providing security for one of the leading exhibition locations in Europe, which can welcome up to 90,000 visitors at any one time, poses a real challenge.
Previous security strategies involved random bag searches at every entrance. Visitors were asked to open bags to allow security guards to check their contents. These security measures, while valid, can be considered intrusive, labour intensive and relatively slow, impacting the visitor experience.
Keen to offer additional peace of mind, critical at a time when terror tactics have evolved to target vulnerable crowded public places, the GIMS and Palexpo wanted to provide enhanced security to its visitors and exhibitors, without negatively impacting the experience.
Apstec’s HSR is a fully-automated, real-time mass screening solution capable of scanning up to 10,000 people per hour, per unit, without the need for removing coats or rucksacks. It adds a critical extra layer of protection to public places – like exhibition centres – from terrorist attacks. And for the automotive industry’s 11-day flagship event, this was a strategic move to provide extra security to huge crowds, while simultaneously improving guests’ experience.
The HSR scanner has been developed by specialists in the fields of radio physics, electronics and software engineering. The walkthrough system has been built in conjunction with leading authorities and ‘end users’ in security and counter-terrorism. It ensures that the guest experience is undisturbed and equips security personnel to identify potential mass-casualty threats. Specifically, HSR leverages centimetre wave technology to discriminate explosives from benign materials with a high degree of accuracy. Security guards receive automatic alerts from the HSR on handheld devices, without the need for any operator analysis of the system outputs. The response to the alert is immediate and the situation resolved through a simple secondary screening process.
Without the need to queue, remove outer clothing or present bags for visual search, visitors to the GIMS were able to spend more time browsing the latest automobiles. Security personnel working in conjunction with scanners like the HSR, close a critical security gap without disruption to the flow of visitors. This same strategy can be applied to any high-footfall space, such as the landside of airports, or sport stadiums. The unobtrusive nature of the HSR not only reactively protects patrons, but proactively works as a deterrent to would-be terrorists.
Philippe Echivard, Palexpo’s director of security, who headed up security for the event and worked closely with Apstec in securing the GIMS, said: “Palexpo is one of the leading exhibition centres in Europe. As such, we are always looking at ways of providing enhanced security, whilst at the same time improving the visitor experience. One by one, security screening methods are becoming unsuitable for events like the Geneva International Motor Show. Slowing down the flow of people can cause some considerable queues at the entrance. So, once we’d reviewed the market, we found HSR was by far the best solution capable of seamlessly screening such high volumes of visitors. We decided to deploy HSR at the Geneva International Motor Show 2019 and we are delighted with its positive impact.”