In public spaces with integrated infrastructure support, civil security refers to the following two distinct items: First, the general population must be protected from the dangers of unexpected events (e.g., a fire). Such events — independently of whether they are caused intentionally or accidentally — typically lead to irrational behavior of the affected persons. In crowded places, this may result in a mass panic, thus multiplying the danger posed by the initial threat. Second, critical infrastructure (e.g., an airport) must be protected against unauthorized access.
Unauthorized access to a critical infrastructure may result in damage or sabotage, both of which undermine security and thus endanger the general public. The direct protection of the population as well as the protection of critical infrastructure can both be ensured through a combination of observation of the environment, processing of security-relevant events, and (semi-)automatic initiation of appropriate reactions to avert or contain the crisis.

The successful implementation of civil security is bound to social and technical conditions. In this project, we consider technology as a tool to enable enhanced civil security under social constraints. Our aim is to design and implement a system for intrusion detection and crowd control. Employing sensing, monitoring, and guidance, this system remotely detects risks and, if necessary, informs people to allow for their controlled escape from a dangerous environment. The technical approach of this project is complemented by a social study which analyzes the contrariness between objectively increased security and subjective loss of freedom. Based on these insights, the partners in the project consortium intend build a system that allows for the technology to be tested as part of a real-world demonstrator deployed on-site at an airport. These real-world experiences will showcase potential ways to enhance civil security and deepen our understanding of the technical and social aspects of this problem.

Social Issues

The effectiveness and public acceptance of security measures in these spaces is a question of the security culture. The security culture describes the collective understanding by members and organizations of a society which events should be declared as a risk and how to face them. In particular, area surveillance is subject to significant subjective criteria in perceiving risks and threats. This means the population evaluates dangers and risks in public spaces by subjective criteria, which do not reflect the objective situation. People neither can assess the exposure of public spaces (e.g., airports or railway stations), nor evaluate reasonable preventive measures (e.g., new monitoring technologies).

The set of diverse opinions of citizens is of major importance in the public sector, because the dichotomy between objectively increased security and subjective loss of freedom is highly pronounced. As a consequence, efforts towards increased civil security need not only to provide system and technology concepts as well as appropriate tools, but also to answer the following two questions:

  1. Which frictions between security and freedom can be identified and how are they assessed by different sections of the population?
  2. Which is the relation between the fulfillment of subjective security desires and the objective threat estimates by experts, including   their suggestions of how to cope with identified threats?

The subjective perception of risks has been analyzed from different scientific perspectives. A fundamental result is the observation that there exists usually a significant gap between the subjective perception and the objective reduction of the security due to risks. People are not able to objectively evaluate the real degree of security in macroscopic situations, nor are they able to evaluate appropriate preventive actions.  Nevertheless, people form an opinion about threat scenarios and define expectations how to deal with anticipated risks. Surveying this set of opinions is part of the SAFEST project. The more fundamental problem in this field is that of an acceptable trade-off, i.e., which degree of freedom are people willing to give up in favor of increased security. As this problem is being addressed, it results in a dilemma as there are positive as well as negative rationale for both perspectives: Freedom as well as safety should be guaranteed.

The outcome of the socio-scientific study conducted in this project will provide a basis to discuss how much security is reasonable and needed for a society, and which perspective the population has in this context. Security is an utmost subjective construct.  This subjectivity within the perspective of the population as well as objective insights into risks and dangers must guide basic principles of political strategies and technological innovations.

Towards Reliable, Enhanced Civil Security

For this project, we thus propose to develop the required technical capabilities to enable the rapid and inexpensive deployment of embedded sensing devices and to securely access the data.  Our system will employ technologies comprising unattended ground sensor systems (UGSS) and wireless sensor networks (WSN) on-site to gather security relevant data.  Individual nodes in these remotely deployed networks will be accessible using IP.  The collected data will be transmitted securely over existing connections for central monitoring by designated entities.  Furthermore, we also plan to support remote administration and access control of the remotely deployed devices.  As a result, appropriately equipped sensing devices will be able to provide relevant data. The observed data will be centrally evaluated by an alerting and response system, which consolidates observations and extracts context-specific events. Based on the events, notification messages will be created and delivered to people on-site.  Considering the use-case of crowd control, persons may be guided to leave a building securely using on-demand information transmitted to their cellular phone or PDA.

The technical system designed and implemented in this project is accompanied by a socio-scientific study. Qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys will analyze the security culture, the perception of dangers, and the acceptance of technical solutions to protect public places. The developed solution will be deployed as a proof-of-concept in cooperation with the Berlin Airport to gain real-world experiences.