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After Teen Stowaway’s Flight From San Jose To Hawaii, Silicon Valley Startups Offer Airport Security Solutions

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SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — After a teen sneaked onto Mineta San Jose International Airport and stowed away on a flight to Hawaii last month, a Bay Area congressman is reaching out to a Silicon Valley startups for high-tech ways to improve airport security.

The GPAC system connects sensors and gives real-time alerts. GPAC’s owner Sahid Sesay said having layers of security synced by computer would have stopped the stowaway, even before he reached the fence.

“110 percent, I’m sure. If my system was out there at San Jose, it would have detected that kid,” Sesay told KPIX 5.

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The airport’s security flaws were exposed on the morning of April 20th, when 15-year-old Yahya Abdi got past the fence and hid in the wheel well of a plane bound for Maui. The airport’s perimeter wall is only six feet tall and runs eight square miles. That’s a lot of ground to cover and it is not watched all that closely.

The airport didn’t know anything was wrong until Abdi jumped out of the plane in Hawaii.

“These passive systems are for after the fact. What you really want is automated systems,” Sesay said.

The GPAC system connects cameras, lasers, and motion detectors into a network. Sesay said if sensors were placed outside the airport fence, security would have been alerted.

Sesay runs the company out of his garage in Pleasanton. It’s a familiar Silicon Valley storyline, but don’t let that fool you. His clients include governments around the world.

Congressman Eric Swalwell has called for technological solutions from companies like GPAC.  Sunnyvale-based Sensity Systems also reached out to Swalwell.

“There’s a lot of interest especially in areas like airports or transportation,” said Sensity Chairman and CEO Hugh Martin.

Sensity installs energy-efficient lights that also have cameras inside and are networked together wirelessly. An array of lights from Sensity has been installed at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

“With our system, you’re getting a real-time instant alert to all the necessary people,” Sesay said.

These two Bay Area companies are among six that Swalwell will introduce to airport leaders on Friday, in an effort to fix the flaws and prevent another security breach.

The GPAC system is used at ports around the world, but it’s never been used at an airport.
Sesay said it wouldn’t be different from what he already does.

Currently, Mineta San Jose International Airport meets TSA requirements. Swallwell said those requirements should be re-examined.

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