Update: T.S.A. Testing 2 Technologies to Speed Airport Screening


Following are descriptions of the two pilot programs:

Computed Tomography Three-Dimensional Bag Screening

Where Phoenix Sky Harbor and Logan in Boston; each airport has one screening lane with a CT 3D screening machine.

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

Where 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.

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