The first is the assumption that passengers are “objects” that can be manipulated by the tenets of engineering and production processing and the second is that technology can replace humans in security decision-making situations.
Both of these assumptions have been proven wrong based on preliminary results obtained by researchers participating in BEMOSA (Behavior Modeling for Security in Airports), an EU-funded project. For one, an analysis of a broad sample of passengers revealed clear differences between men and women, those with children and those without in terms of how they perceived airport security and potential behaviors in emergency or crisis situations.
Treating passengers as an undifferentiated mass totally overlooks differences in their behavior throughout their airport “experience,” including security checks and confidence and trust in the airport management (via security employees) to protect them.
Even more startling was the large proportion of security employees who had little or no trust in security technologies, even though they themselves utilized them! Combining this fact with a similar inclination to bend or even break the rules if the situation called for it places a very large question mark over the capabilities of technology as the last word in security when there appears to be a large margin of “judgment calls” being made by security employees.
What these BEMOSA results all point to is that while engineering and technology are part of airport security systems, without taking into account the real behaviors of passengers and employees, attempts at making the airport a friendly and inviting place will likely fail.
* The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA.