Today’s new security systems allow threatening materials, weapons, drugs and currency to be detected and identified automatically, even in concealed shipments. Even so, enhancing security levels should still become a major priority for governments and companies due to reliance on technology that is continuously growing. For instance, in some parcel bomb incident discoveries, the US Department of Homeland Security initiated the design and application of active interrogation, a non-intrusive system for air cargo that cost millions.
Another promising development is ‘voiceprint’ technology. A technique similar to fingerprints should allow law enforcement agencies to electronically match a voice to its owner. The defence industry might have some lessons to share with transportation and logistics companies more broadly as well.
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NATO has conducted research to increase the protection of harbours and ships, including the development of a range of technical equipment including sensor nets, electro-optical detectors, rapid reaction capabilities and unmanned underwater vehicles. These technologies have clear applicability for non-military use as well. Other key research areas include the development of an airborne early warning system and control mechanisms that use infrared transmitters to initiate necessary counter measures when aircraft is under attack.
This broad implementation of security technology is not without its critics. Some observers question the return on investment of technology and its real contribution to higher security levels. Technological improvements still can’t prevent all supply chain disruptions or interruptions. As security technologist Bruce Schneier puts it: “Stop trying to guess. You take away guns and bombs, the terrorists use box cutters. You take away box cutters, they put explosives in their shoes. You screen shoes, they use liquids. You take away liquids, they strap explosives to their body. You use full-body scanners, they’re going to do something else.”
As Schneier said, business supply chain and other impactful business at large might not be able to rely on the ‘magic’ of technology to create 100 percent security against supply chain sabotage. There might be other options, however, that are based on trust or expert knowledge of human behaviour.
The airport of Tel Aviv, reported to be one of the most secure airports worldwide, seems to have found an effective strategy which relies on both human intervention and technology. The security personnel concentrate most of its efforts on personal contact and try to engage at least once with each passenger. Decisions as to whether a passenger is allowed to continue to check-in or needs to be interviewed in depth are based on analysis of behaviour. In addition to this, the airport implements the newest technology available.
Will technology be the best way to guarantee security by 2030? PwC Delphi survey has mixed views on this, with concerned and relaxed experts showing markedly different responses. For the concerned, technology is the best solution and the way to move forward in supply chain security management. Some even prefer to replace personnel-intensive solutions with electronic monitoring devices, ‘hack-proof’ systems and other technologies allowing broader coverage. This group sees the human factor as being the weakest link in the chain historically and remaining so in the future. Their solution is to substitute technological equipment wherever possible. The relaxed experts attribute a much lower probability to technology as the only reliable lever to guarantee security. They see the future in a combination of technology, trained personnel and policies. This group argues that even the most state-of-the-art technology currently in place doesn’t prevent successful attacks on supply chains from happening. Technology alone can’t secure the supply chain. People are needed too, to provide human intelligence and good governance.
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