Reinforcing Digital Sovereignty In Post-Covid Era: Case Study Of Security Inspection Equipment

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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On 1 July 2020, Germany took over the EU Council Presidency. In the next six months, Germany will lead EU discussions on a wide range of vital issues. This includes the concept of ‘digital sovereignty’ whereby citizens and entities must have control over their data.

The Germans argue that Europe must achieve sovereignty in the digital economy to uphold its autonomy and capacity to respond to global risks – smuggling, terrorism and diseases such as COVID-19.

The market of security inspection equipment – large cargo scanners in ports or small individual portals in airports – is a graphic example of digital sovereignty in action. 17 years of Nuctech’s partnership with European public authorities prove that security and data protection go hand-in-hand.

Robert Bos is the deputy general manager of Nuctech Netherlands.

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Digital sovereignty applies to a broad range of economic sectors impacted by digitalisation and poses many questions. Perhaps the most important one is the national security dimension: how to ensure the safe treatment of security-related data in a virtually borderless world?

Customs and border authorities, railway operators, ports, and airports are fuelled every day with large quantities of security-related data, which are then shared and consolidated between EU and Schengen governments in common databases, easily accessible for police and judicial authorities.

Security inspection devices are the backbone of this data ecosystem. They include a broad range of products, from the smallest (i.e. so-called low energy scanners for persons, parcels and hold baggage) to the largest (i.e. high energy scanners for cargos, containers and trucks).

The EU market for security inspection equipment is growing, yet it is still too weak and fragmented. To date, four companies account for 80% of the market. Yet Nuctech is one of the few suppliers that have a full production cycle in the European Union for large scanners, which are entirely manufactured at its Warsaw factory, providing around 200 direct and 2000 indirect jobs for European citizens.

In the post-COVID world, national security services and transport operators will need more customised and complex security systems. Therefore, constant R&D investments are indispensable to stay ahead of the market race and keep production costs under control while taking full benefit of AI and Big Data.

It is of strategic interest for Nuctech to keep strong ties with the European research community, in particular top-rank engineering institutions such as Universities of Delft and Amsterdam, but also local SMEs and companies to stimulate cross-sectorial innovation.

Already today, security equipment can guarantee public security while respecting digital sovereignty. In fact, Nuctech’s scanners are a good example of ‘security-by-design’ solutions ensuring the strictest control over sensitive data flows. Servers are physically isolated in safe storage rooms and protected by robust firewall solutions.

Data is only accessible by the operator. Trust and integrity in the image information (the “what”) is guaranteed by systemic surveillance and reporting of all data flows via operational information (the “how”). This ensures that the risk of data breach or incident is reduced at the lowest possible level.

As a frontrunner of the digital economy, the EU must continue to lead the global debate on digital sovereignty for the security industry. A robust regulatory regime will not only provide more certainty and trust in the way we manage security-related data; it will reinforce the Schengen area and European citizens’ fundamental right for free and safe movement.

About Nuctech

Nuctech Company Limited is a worldwide leading security and inspection solution supplier. Of Chinese parentage, it provides advanced technologies in the security inspection industry to its customers from 160 countries and regions in the world.

Nuctech’s reputation and international recognition as a trusted security partner has been proven by its prestigious network of customers, including public and private organisations from Civil Aviation, Customs, Railway, Highway, Urban Rail Transit, Postal Logistics, Public Security and Justice, Environmental Protection, Nuclear Power, Irradiation and Quality Testing, Metallurgy, Finance and Big Events, and many others.

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