A Backbone for Security

Airports are among the most complex and dynamic environments for telecommunications and security systems. Continuously changing user needs and ever-evolving technology demand systems with open architectures and standards that accommodate change and future additions. But just as important is that these new technologies don't adversely affect existing infrastructure that will remain in use.


Airports are among the most complex and dynamic environments for telecommunications and security systems. Continuously changing user needs and ever-evolving technology demand systems with open architectures and standards that accommodate change and future additions. But just as important is that these new technologies don't adversely affect existing infrastructure that will remain in use.

At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), engineers designed systems that fulfill new requirements, yet avoid the pitfalls. Located in Alaska's largest city, ANC annually hosts more than five million passengers. And now these visitors are safer than ever, due to new telecommunications and security systems designed and installed as part of a massive renovation and terminal addition.

AMC Engineers of Anchorage worked together with URS Aviation Group, Denver, on this $400-plus million renovation of facilities and infrastructure. The majority of the work involved replacement of the existing south terminal C-concourse with a new 491,000-sq.-ft. facility that incorporates a new arrivals hall with a new concourse with nine jet gates. As part of these projects, AMC Engineers developed comprehensive standards and provided design and construction administration services to completely upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure.

Premise wiring

Over the past several years, airports and other large communications users have implemented premise wiring distribution systems (PWDS) as a key element of basic infrastructure. These highly structured systems provide a universal telecommunications infrastructure that can support all voice, data, audio and video services in a fault-tolerant configuration.

The typical airport PWDS consists of both inter- and intra-building infrastructure and a uniform system of horizontal or "station" cables that deliver a variety of telecommunications services to end users. Backbone and station cabling is demarked in equipment rooms within each building. Equipment room spacing, in compliance with BICSI and ANSI/EIA/TIA standards (see "Standardized Cabling" at right), is observed to ensure that the critical distance—90 meters—between network-connected devices and local area network (LAN) switches hosting those devices is not exceeded. The site infrastructure typically consists of copper and fiber-optic cabling designed to provide fault-tolerant interconnections while serving as a vehicle for delivery of regulated telephone and data services from various carriers. The site infrastructure supports all LANs, wide area networks (WANs) and metropolitan area networks (MANs), as well as the point-to-point connectivity requirements of mission-critical systems such as air traffic control and airfield lighting.

The intra-building backbone infrastructure further augments the carriage of services by supporting broadband television, multi-drop networks, closed-circuit television, fiber-optic transmission systems for video/data and PABX systems. These systems, which may belong to the airport or its tenants, are assigned circuits in the intra-building cabling system and site infrastructure to provide network connectivity. Primary and alternate routes, automatic fail-over and other configurations ensure that each system meets or exceeds its required level of availability.

In the universal horizontal system, which provides connectivity between the distributed equipment rooms and end-user devices, high-performance cabling and a universal outlet configuration allows the same cabling to support services ranging from basic telephone to LAN services at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. In an airport environment, where technological change and tenant turnover are prevalent, this universality has proved to be of great value.

Finally, possibly the most valuable element of the PWDS is a cable management system . CMS is a software management tool used in the day-to-day administration of the PWDS (see "Cable Management," p. 43).

Benefits of a PWDS system include:

  • Continued and cost-effective cable reuse.

  • Avoidance of ceilings cluttered with private or abandoned cabling systems.

  • Support for all major protocols and most airline legacy systems.

  • Support of connectivity requirements for electronic systems used throughout the airport.

  • Faster response in provisioning new circuits.

  • A clearer picture of infrastructure capacity.

  • A tenant circuit schedule for billing purposes.

All of these benefits lead to cost-effective operation through managerial efficiencies and resource reuse. In addition, the minimized response time to tenant connectivity requests means improved customer service.

At ANC, recently implemented PWDS supports improved voice communications, data networks and security systems such as access control and CCTV monitoring/recording.

Feeling secure

Several improvements to ANC's security systems help to better protect the traveling public. For example, an airport-wide CCTV monitoring system incorporates more than 500 cameras and a digital video recording system (DVRS). As part of this improvement project, the existing access control was upgraded from magnetic swipe-type card readers to 13.56-MHz contactless smart card readers. The cards can hold up to 16K of encoded data, which will allow the airport to incorporate biometric technologies such as fingerprint, iris recognition and hand geometry if required by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the future.

The CCTV system consists of a centralized cross-point matrix switching system with redundant CPUs and digital video recording and intercom subsystems. Both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom high-speed dome cameras are located throughout the site for surveillance of the security identification display area (SIDA) portals, terminal entrances, sterile areas and the airport operations areas (AOA) to provide airport operations and security personnel video monitoring and recording capabilities.

The cameras and monitoring locations communicate over the PWDS fiber-optic backbone system telecommunications infrastructure that AMC Engineers designed for this and related projects. AMC designed telecommunications infrastructure not only for the north and south terminals, but also for the new field maintenance complex now under construction. The systems' design is in accordance with BICSI and EIA/TIA standards, and features single-mode and multimode fiber-optic backbone cabling and copper voice backbone cabling.

A new main security equipment room located in the basement of the north terminal adjacent to the main telecommunications room serves as the main equipment room for the systems. The CCTV system and subsystems communicate via transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) interfaces with the access-control system (ACS) for automated video and audio call-up upon receipt of alarm signals from the ACS. Administration workstations allow airport security and maintenance personnel to program and maintain the system. A graphical user interface (GUI) workstation with icon-based controls and management software allows the system operators to call up cameras to monitors, control cameras and record and view video via point-and-click icons programmed on graphic maps depicting the airport areas and camera locations. This provides the operators with fast and efficient tools for resolving and documenting airport alarm and security events.

In addition to the GUI and administration workstations, CCTV keyboard controllers installed at the monitoring locations provide backup system control capability. The operator can also use the keyboard controller in conjunction with the GUI. Both fixed and high-speed dome color cameras are installed at interior locations and color/black-and-white lowlight cameras are installed at exterior locations where adequate lighting is an issue.

Finally, to allow the airport to migrate from an analog-camera-based system to a complete Internet protocol television system in the future, the conduit runs between the camera and the equipment rooms were limited to 90 meters.

Digital video recording

At the heart of this system, the DVRS provides for the recording and manipulating of stored video in lieu of conventional video tape recorders. The ability to instantly access and manipulate stored video is a significant benefit. The DVRS is centrally located within the north terminal main security equipment room in standard 19-in. ANSI/EIA cabinets located adjacent to the CCTV system cabinets. The DVRS consists of digital video recorders, administration workstations, Ethernet network switches and an advanced intelligent tape (AIT) storage library. The digital video recorders are high-resolution recorders with the ability to record digital video at 30 frames per second (fps) at 4 common interchange formats on all inputs simultaneously. The video inputs are individually configurable for recording at different fps and have the ability to increase the frame rates and resolution based on alarm inputs from the ACS. The recorders also have the ability to record audio from the intercom system.

Administration workstations exist at monitoring locations, including the facilities maintenance building, north terminal main security equipment room, safety dispatch center and the airport director's office. The administration workstation's digital management software allows operators to manipulate the stored digital video. The DVRS communicates over an Ethernet TCP/IP-based LAN.

The DVRS interfaces with the ACS via a TCP/IP interface to record video at the alarm record rate associated with alarm signals received from the ACS. Upon receipt of an alarm from the ACS, the DVRS stores video at increased frame rates and resolution from the time the alarm initiates until one minute past alarm for all video associated with the alarm event. This alarm video is stored to an external AIT library that archives it for 30 days. The AIT library also provides airport authorities with the ability to store significantly large amounts of video to an external media source. In case of an event, this allows the airport to provide video recordings of the event to authorities (TSA, FAA, CIA, FBI, Customs, Immigrations, etc.) without having to remove the video recorders or their individual hard drives, which would render the DVRS non-functional.

But video is only part of this new show at the Anchorage International Airport. There's audio as well.

Two-way communication

As part of the CCTV project, an intercom subsystem was installed for two-way audio communications between the airport's delayed egress access-controlled doors and the safety dispatch center. The system head-end is located within the main security equipment room in the north terminal. The system consists of a main intercom exchange, master stations and wall-mounted integral speaker/microphones. The main intercom exchange interfaces with the ACS for automated intercom call-up upon receipt of an alarm signal from the ACS and to the DVRS for storage of alarm-activated audio. The existing delayed egress doors were modified for alarm input into the ACS upon the initial pressing of the delayed egress panic bar. This activates two-way audio between the safety dispatch center and the portal to allow the safety dispatch officer to communicate to the portal and assess the event. All associated video also displays on video monitors for visual assessment. Master stations are located in the safety dispatch office for handling of intercom system calls. A master station is also located within the north terminal main security equipment room to assist maintenance personnel in maintaining the system. The wall-mounted intercom stations are tamper-resistant and provide hands-free communications between the operator and the intercom stations. To avoid nuisance calls the units do not contain call-in buttons and are only alarm-activated or activated from the master stations.

CCTV, intercom and DVRS subsystems all communicate over the PWDS. This transmission system uses both multimode and single-mode fiber-optic cables, depending on the application and distance. Digital technology based fiber-optic transmitters, receivers and transceivers installed within the telecommunications rooms and the north terminal main security equipment room provide for transmission of video, data and audio signals. Video signals multiplexed on a 4-to-1 ratio reduce the fiber-optic backbone and fiber equipment quantities. Dedicated fibers allocated for the DVRS Ethernet LAN provide additional system reliability and segregate the DVRS LAN traffic from other ANC LANs.

The wrap up

Engineers, working with other professionals on this significant project, developed modern security systems for this important facility utilizing modern telecommunications. From its simple beginnings in 1951 as Anchorage International Airport to its current, state-of-the-art operations in 2005, this northern transportation hub has provided the city, the state and the world with superior passenger and freight services while ensuring the safety of its tenants and the traveling public.

Standardized Cabling

At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, a standardized cabling system provides connectivity from infrastructure points of demarcation to end device locations throughout the terminal facility. Industry support for this level of standardization is widespread based on standards from three major sources:

ANSI/EIA/TIA (American National Standards Institute/Electronics Industry Alliance/Telecommunications Industry Assn.

BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International)

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

The objective behind all of these standards is to provide a truly universal and manageable structured cabling system that easily adapts to changes in technology and user needs. At the same time, using inexpensive adapters and media converters, the universal premise wiring distribution system also provides cost-effective solutions to support older legacy equipment that is often encountered in airports and which is near and dear to many of its users.

Cable Management

Perhaps one of the most valuable elements of a premise wiring distribution system (PWDS) is a cable management system. The CMS is a software management tool used in the day-to-day administration of the PWDS system. The CMS provides detailed records for all cable resources, conduit and duct utilization, optical fiber assignments, copper cabling assignments, cross-connects and patching as they are engineered, assigned and recorded using the most efficient PWDS connectivity resources. Circuit assignment information allows for efficient troubleshooting and tenant billing. Work orders generated by the system provide the technician with specific information on each circuit addition, move, change or deletion. The CMS and associated network management modules for active electronic equipment provide an up-to-date model of the PWDS infrastructure, affording a clear picture of available capacity and the ability to manage change easily.

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