Discount carrier Southwest Airlines (SWA) not only offers great deals, they’ll take one, too. When Southwest decided to install a network-based digital video security system, the company turned to Ionit Technologies, Northbrook, Ill., for a cost effective solution. “It’s no secret that we watch costs very closely at Southwest Airlines and so far the Ionit security system is meeting our expectations on all fronts,” said Vance Toler, Southwest director of corporate security.

Toler and his team at SWA spent several months looking at the latest technology in high quality digital video systems. “Finding a system with a long recording time, a high fps rate and a good user-friendly interface were at the top of our list of priorities,” he said.

Dallas-based IDN Acme’s Randy Hutchison proposed a solution. The company had been working with Southwest for 10 years, supplying the airline with lock hardware. In 2004, Hutchison inquired about their security video system and was introduced to Toler and his staff. “In an Ionit demonstration to SWA, they liked what they saw and asked for a trial testing period,” said Hutchison. “After a month of extensive testing, SWA made the decision that the Ionit digital video recording system was the DVR for them.”

Integration expertise

Toler explained why SWA chose it over the other DVRs under review. “(The technology) fit our long-term objective not only to standardize, but also to expand our video capability to support our security and operational needs.”

The airline company contracted with Flores Technical Services (FTS), a Dallas-based integrator, to install and integrate Ionit’s ionitPRO+ 16-channel unit with their current security system. Before FTS installed the first DVR in the Security Command Center at Southwest’s corporate headquarters, SWA developed plans to get the maximum amount of use from the system.

David Johnson with FTS worked closely with Toler’s security team to maximize the potential gains both in security and operations. “At SWA’s headquarters, we installed and integrated the ionitPRO+ DVR system with SWA’s existing security video system and expanded with new equipment in areas as needed,” said Johnson. Currently, FTS is working with SWA to integrate the DVR with their existing access control system and expanding to other locations across the country.

Once the new systems were up and running at the Security Command Center, FTS moved into the next phase of the roll-out – upgrading security at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) SWA cargo facility. Among other benefits, the enhanced security at LAX has enabled Southwest’s air cargo services to provide further piece of mind to their customers.

FTS has been working with the airline on installing comprehensive camera coverage and integrating such systems at other locations. “We are entering phase two in terms of our long-term operational plan for installing the system on a broad scale across our system,” said Toler.

Toler noted that in the past, the limitations of a tape-based system presented too many problems when attempting to remotely access video information. Because of this, he explained, the airline would lose the option of using video as a forensic tool. “The Ionit system allows us to permanently install multiple cameras at any location and bring the video feed back to our headquarters’ facility for review without worrying about changing tapes,” he said.

Firms such as Southwest Airlines have complex security needs from employee concerns to protection of assets ranging from airplanes and offices to baggage and headquarters facilities.
SWA is already seeing the benefits. “Not only is Southwest getting 24/7 recording at 15 frames per second on each camera, they have also been able to download and remotely review video from Phoenix and LAX for evidentiary purposes,” said Mike O’Reilly, Ionit senior vice president.

The advanced compression technology – an hour-long video at 15 fps averages less than 25mb per hour – has allowed the airline the ability to quickly download and review video from their headquarters in Dallas. Such compression is critical because SWA can stream high-resolution video from each 16-channel ionitPRO+ system at high frame rates without overloading their network. The airline could potentially watch four cameras from Phoenix, eight from LAX and four from Dallas, all at the same time, all in real-time.

So what’s next for Southwest? “We have discussed the possibility of installing cameras at our gates in a few Northeastern locations which would allow us to bring the video feed back to our corporate headquarters to view such things as local weather conditions and aircraft activity at the gate,” said Toler.

Johnson sums up the success of the SWA security installation. “In all phases of the project, SWA, IDN, FTS and Ionit have worked closely together to insure minimal interruption to SWA’s daily operations while maintaining a high level of security. The four companies look at each other as partners in this project as we move forward to meet Southwest Airlines’ security needs.”

For More Information: Mentioned: Ionit Technologies, Northbrook, Ill., or go to and use the LINX, powered by Google, to get more information on digital video and airline and airport security.