Effortless Airport Security: Achieving It in Just 30 Sec ...

Effortless Airport Security: Achieving It in Just 30 Seconds with Innovative Technology

Near Seattle’s airport, in an industrial park, a company named Micro-X, an Australian company, is developing a system that can turn the dreams of air travelers into reality: fast, low-impact screening that offers limited interaction with TSA personnel. So, they want to make Airport Security keeps travelers, planes, and airports safe.

Micro-X is employing new technology to redesign airport checkpoints, aiming to resemble self-checkout lines at supermarkets. If this plan works out, not only will Micro-X’s operation be faster, but it will also reduce pressure on travelers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administrators. However, in environments where TSA often appears overwhelmed due to delays caused by malfunctioning equipment in baggage screening, a vague and unpleasant experience for travelers, and, most importantly, the costly bottleneck of new machines, this could be a game-changer.

According to Brian Gonzales, Chief Scientific Officer of Micro-X and Head of its American operations, the cost of deploying the self-screening system is almost half that of traditional security lanes. This year, TSA has committed nearly $1.3 billion to screeners for approximately 1,200 CT scanners to screen carry-on bags that are heading into the hold.

As for the Micro-X system, it’s hoped that the cost will become “competitive” on a per-passenger basis, says John Fortune, who oversees the project as Manager of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Security Technology Development Program. Fast forward.

“The design shatters the traditional checkpoint,” Fortune told Forbes. “It significantly alters the construction of checkpoints.”

Here’s how it works. After getting their ID checked, travelers enter the area with rows of booths, one for each adult. A screen instructs them to place their belongings in a scanner cabinet the size of anything you’d find in the market. The scanner uses an X-ray to create a 3-D image, analyzing prohibited items through machine learning algorithms. Simultaneously, a camera system and an electromagnetic body scanner conduct a body check on the traveler, signaling if they forgot to remove something from their pocket or appear to be concealing something.

TSA officers only step in when the system detects something suspicious or if a traveler needs assistance.

From 2020 to 2022, DHS committed $4.9 million to develop its concept for Micro-X and provide initial prototypes. In July, the agency awarded the company an extension of up to $14 million to build six screening booths, with the goal of deploying them for their first-ever trial to be operational in the coming 12 to 18 months.

Airport security officials, especially since 9/11, have been seeking a delicate balance to keep passengers safe while minimizing inconvenience. This becomes challenging when more people are flying, and more people are in line. Air travel has rebounded from the pandemic, with a record 264 million people passing through airport security checkpoints during the summer travel season – 2 million more than during the same period in 2019. A 4% annual – that means significant challenges, says Fortune. “It’s a real challenge to stay ahead of the evolving threats while also managing the growing influx of passengers into the system,” he remarks.

Micro-X promises that its redesigned checkpoints will keep pedestrian traffic flowing and that travelers can complete the screening process in an average of 60 seconds or even less. The design features eight screening booths on a single line, allowing other travelers to proceed if one passenger is hesitant or triggers an alarm.

A Faster Future Awaits 

DHS aims for the Self-Service System to screen 400 passengers per line per hour, with less than 5% of officer intervention required. Micro-X believes it can do even better – 500 passengers per line per hour, according to Gonzales. TSA does not publicly disclose its current throughput numbers, but Gonzales suggests that 500 passengers per hour per line would be significantly better than the current 300 passengers per hour per line that they consider optimal.

Airport Security .
Airport Security

Gonzales says the goal is for seven TSA officers to work on a single line, currently manned by fewer than 11 officers. If the image analysis algorithm can be fine-tuned, they say it could be brought down to as few as three officers.

This system will reduce the pressure on officers. They can spend more time assisting passengers rather than constantly monitoring bags and can even remotely review flagged images of backpacks with flags on them.

This approach could be particularly helpful at small airports with lighter traffic. A single Micro-X pod might suffice for all functionalities.

Two Moves Ahead 

 The Department of Homeland Security( DHS) is funding a  design led by a Dutch company, Vanderlande to  produce a  tone- webbing checkpoint with current technology. In this  design, they’ve incorporated gate systems and automated instructions into their binary- lane checkpoint, which utilizes a traditional CT machine paired with a virtual adjunct  handed by Rohde & Schwarz body scanners. This virtual adjunct signals  trippers to check their pockets if the scanner detects something unusual.

Vanderlande’s Micro-X  design is leading the way in comparison to other DHS  enterprises. DHS conducted a trial in the spring season and hopes to commence testing for passenger webbing at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas by the end of the year. While it offers some features to expedite passenger inflow,  similar as three stations where  trippers can place their bags on conveyor belts, it lacks the  effectiveness of Micro-X, which aims to significantly enhance this process. 

Fortune has advised that it’s  important to prove these new technologies. Micro-X has  formerly capitalized  technology grounded on the same principles in their CT scanner, designed for light, mobile medical X-ray machines. Traditional X-ray machines still operate much like they did at the  morning of the 20th century, using a vacuum tube that heats up, causing a  waterfall of electrons to produce X-rays through  thick essence.

Micro-X has perfected technology developed by experimenters at the University of North Carolina, which applies an electric field to carbon nanotubes to  induce the current for the electrons. The benefits include X-ray tubes roughly a quarter the size and a tenth the weight of conventional tubes. The company also claims it offers more precise electronic control, saving time and power.

The success of the Self- Screening Security Project could mean a bright future for a small company. Micro-X had deals of$9.7 million in the  financial time ending on June 30. With a  requested capitalization of just$ 35 million on the Australian Securities Exchange, Gonzalez believes that external investment or  hookups will be necessary to bring the system to  market.

This  design also depends on Voxel Radar in Munich, which claims to have developed technology able to directly  land images of passengers when they’re both stationary and in  stir, delivering immediate  perceptivity about the objects they carry. Current millimeter-  surge scanners allow passengers to stand still and spread their arms.  Another  crucial consideration is whether algorithms can be developed to  dissect the images directly produced by both types of scanners. 

Computer Vision

Computer vision algorithms have already been used with CT scanners to detect explosive materials in checked baggage. The TSA reports that 75% to 80% of checked bags are cleared without human intervention. However, carry-on bags pose a greater challenge, as they may contain a wide variety of prohibited items, including firearms and knives.

Norman Shrink, an expert in baggage screening, explains that developing algorithms for recognizing firearms, whether in whole or in parts, or distributed across different sections, can be challenging. Security measures in Heathrow, London, were implemented in the late 1990s. “I have my doubts about whether we’ve reached the stage where we can visually spot every banned item,” he shared with Forbes. “It’s on the horizon, but we haven’t quite arrived there just yet.”

Although the Micro-X project aims to reduce the workload for checkpoint personnel by increasing the accuracy and reducing the false alarm rate, it’s unclear whether humans are in direct competition with the algorithm for detection capabilities. In tests conducted in 2017, DHS inspectors successfully smuggled fake weapons and explosive materials past TSA officers at checkpoints at least 70% of the time.

However, as Shrink notes, cutting personnel may pose risks. This means that officers who can perceive whether a passenger is acting suspiciously are still necessary. “Technologists want to have a technology answer for everything, and it’s not,” he says. “He characterizes those individuals as “a covert asset in our sector,” he remarks.

Another question is whether automated instructions will be sufficient for most travelers to use the new system without assistance. Jeffrey Price, a security consultant and professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, argues that from experience, there’s no alternative to signage and videos providing guidance. He describes those individuals as “an undisclosed advantage within our field.”

As for air travelers, Price emphasizes, “You still have to tell them what to do each time, or they stand there and get confused.” “Even though they don’t do anything beyond walking through the checkpoint and not much else, you still have to tell them to walk through the checkpoint.”

The holy grail of the industry is boiling it down to action – eliminating chutes and continuously scanning travelers on foot. DHS Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is funding technology development to make research possible. Fortune suggests that a prototype for this dream could still be several years away.

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