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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Smarter Airport Screening Machines, Privacy & Regulations

(Via WSJ) Magnetometers that travelers walk through detect metal but not weapons made of other materials. Similarly, carry-on luggage is X-rayed, which will catch scissors or a knife but not necessarily a bomb. A gaping hole in airport security remains: how to detect explosives in carry-on bags and on passengers themselves. A host of new technologies are being tested to close that gap. One of the most promising is a machine that has the ability to see through clothing to find a hidden weapon. The problem with early versions of the machine is that they show images of people as if they had no clothes on, which sparked privacy concerns. American Science & Engineering Inc. launched an X-ray machine that can see objects hidden beneath clothing while obscuring private parts. An alternate technology, being tried in some airports now, shoots puffs of air at passengers to detect traces of explosive residue. The government is focusing mostly on two types of technology, each with pluses and minuses. The "puffer" detects the tiniest bit of explosive material on a traveler but can't find a hidden weapon. The "backscatter," on the other hand, can see through clothing to detect hidden bombs or guns, but creates the obvious privacy concerns. AS&E's new machine, SmartCheck, creates an outline of the person's body, along with an outline of hidden items. Rapiscan Systems, the other manufacturer, has come up with a sliding scale where the image starts to get fuzzier or more precise as needed. The companies promise other protections: The people who screen the X-rays would sit in a remote room where they can't see the people moving through security. The screeners would all be of the same sex as the travelers and images won't be saved. Technology to screen carry-on bags for explosives is even less advanced than screening for people. One possible solution is to replace the existing X-rays with CT scans now used on checked bags. In the long term, technology companies envision a day when travelers don't even have to walk through machines - when sensors throughout the airport scan people as they walk through hallways. Closer to reality might be one machine that could handle all screening, searching for metal and explosives alike Airport security systems encompass seveal technologies working in unison and is improving quite significantly over a period of time - clealrly global events are accelarating the trend.

Category :Airport Security Systems
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