It’s been more than 15 years since 9/11, but ISIS’ recently foiled plot to destroy an Australian commercial airplane serves as a stark reminder of how determined terrorists are to strike airplanes and airports.
Although the care-free pre-9/11 days of air travel are over, most of us agree that the added inconvenience is well worth the cost of keeping us safe. And there are several new technologies that have the potential to fully transform airport security. Best of all, new tech like walk-through scanners, 3D CT scans and facial recognition not only offer the potential to protect us from threats, they can also help make air travel more convenient. Each new innovation moves us closer to a future in which air travel is more seamless than ever before, while also keeping us safe from terrorist threats.
Here are the top three technologies that are transforming air travel.
Face recognition isn’t being used in every airport yet, but it seems poised for widespread adoption. This is because it offers a slew of security and convenience benefits. For starters, facial recognition systems can automatically identify individuals who are known to pose a threat. Biometric surveillance works by capturing an image of an individual and then matching that person against a database of suspected terrorists, known criminals, wanted felons and other people that might pose a threat. It can, in seconds, determine if there is a match and then alert airport security. Biometric surveillance is crucial for airports because TSA agents can’t be expected to memorize the faces of every person who might pose a threat. Luckily, face recognition can seamlessly identify matches, even when someone changes their facial hair or wears a wig. An added benefit of facial recognition is that it doesn’t profile by race, nationality, gender, age or any other factor.
This technology is powerful and is proven to work. As an example, after FaceFirst installed their Guardian technology in Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, airport authorities have been able to regularly identify individuals wanted by INTERPOL.
In addition to biometric surveillance, facial recognition is already being used in kiosks to help expedite customs and check-in. Airlines like Jet Blue are already testing this technology to make air travel more convenient.
3D CT Scans
The Transportation Security Administration recently demonstrated computed tomography (CT) scanners at an airport security checkpoint. Computed tomography checkpoint scanning equipment aims to enhance threat detection capability by providing a three-dimensional image that can be viewed and rotated for a more thorough analysis.
This new form of scanning technology works by shooting hundreds of images with an X-ray camera. The camera spins around the conveyor belt in order to provide officers with a 3D picture of carry-on bags in order to ensure that they don’t contain a potential threat to safety. The recently tested system also applies sophisticated algorithms that are used to detect explosives. When bags are identified that require additional screening, TSA officers can then inspect those bags to ensure that they are safe.
This type of technology is already being used on checked bags. But the ability to use it on carry-on luggage offers the dual opportunity to provide increased safety and convenience. It is thought that this type of technology can eventually allow liquids to be taken on carry-on bags.
Imagine if you could simply walk through a scanner, without having to remove shoes, jackets, belts or any other articles of clothing. This soon might be a reality thanks to a team of engineers at Northeastern University. This technology uses a structure filled with high-capacity sensors. The sensors can scan multiple travelers at once without any need for them to stop or even slow down. This walk-through scanning technology offers a high degree of convenience, while still protecting travelers from potential threats. The North Eastern University team believes that this technology can triple the amount of travelers that are scanned per hour.
Groundbreaking technologies like facial recognition, 3D scanning and walk-through scanners have the potential to bring us into a new era of air travel, one in which pre-9/11 convenience is matched with post-9/11 security.