Thursday, June 29, 2017
T.S.A. Testing 2 Technologies to Speed Airport Screening
By SHIVANI VORA
The New York (NY) Times
Security lines at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The Transportation Security Administration this month introduced two pilot programs intended to make airport screening faster.
What can fliers expect at airports this summer from the Transportation Security Administration? Yes, there are those constant warnings of long lines at security checkpoints, but the agency recently introduced pilot programs for two technologies intended to significantly speed up the screening process:
Computed tomography three-dimensional (CT 3D) bag screening and biometric fingerprint identification.
The CT 3D bag screeners are being tested at two United States airports, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Logan International Airport in Boston, while the biometric fingerprint screeners are being tested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Denver International Airport.
The tests started in the beginning of June and have no set end date, said Mike England, a national spokesman for the T.S.A. “If both trials are successful, fliers could be in store for faster and more efficient security,” he said.
Also, contrary to buzz on social media, one thing fliers shouldn’t expect this summer when going through security lanes is being asked by the agency’s employees to remove their books from their carry-on luggage. Mr. England emphasized that such claims were not true. “At no time has the removal of books been T.S.A. policy, nor are we considering making it policy,” he said. But Mr. England did say that T.S.A. employees may occasionally ask travelers to declutter their carry-ons by removing items from them and placing these items into separate bins so that the bags are easier to screen.
How It Works
The T.S.A’s current screening technology for carry-on bags relies on two-dimensional X-ray machines, which don’t always provide a clear picture of exactly what is in the bags. The new 3D scanners, on the other hand, create a clear picture of a bag’s contents and can automatically detect explosives, including liquid ones. The scanners, similar to CT scan machines used for medical testing, project a three-dimensional image onto the screens that T.S.A. agents view when examining bags.
The agency has used 3D scanners to screen checked bags for several years and tested a CT 3D scanner for carry-on bags in 2011 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, but Mr. England said the trial was unsuccessful because the older models of these scanners were slow, expensive and bulky. “The technology has matured since then, and the scanners today are faster, cheaper and smaller,” he said.
Why It Matters to Fliers
If the agency continues to roll out more 3D screening for carry-on bags, fliers may no longer have to remove liquids, laptops and other electronic devices from their bags, said Larry Studdiford, a security consultant for airports and the founder of Studdiford Technical Solutions, a security firm in Alexandria, Va. “Nothing is 100 percent, but CT 3D scanners give a much greater level of detail of what’s inside a bag than the current X-ray machines,” he said. “So that extra step of taking out liquids and laptops could be eliminated. Also, rescreening bags would happen much less frequently.”
Biometric Fingerprint Identification
Hartsfield-Jackson and Denver; each airport has one T.S.A. PreCheck security lane with a biometric fingerprint screener. Fliers who use the screeners must be part of the PreCheck program.
How It Works
Biometric identification is a technology that verifies a person’s identity through his or her fingerprints, facial features or other physical characteristics (T.S.A. PreCheck passengers are being asked to volunteer for these screenings).
The fingerprint screeners compare passengers’ fingerprints with the ones they provided when they enrolled in T.S.A. PreCheck, and can pull up boarding pass information. But, Mr. England said, all passengers during this testing phase, even those with a biometric match, will continue to have their identification checked by T.S.A. employees. “Eventually, the hope is that fingerprints serve as both the boarding pass and ID for fliers, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
Why It Matters to Fliers
Mr. Studdiford said fingerprint identification would someday eliminate the need for fliers to show their boarding passes or photo IDs at security checkpoints; they would also have reduced interaction with T.S.A. personnel. “Fliers will be able to guide themselves through security checkpoints,” he said. Mr. Studdiford also said the technology reduced the susceptibility for fraud because every fingerprint is unique.