Innovations Streamline the Transportation Security Process

Evolving technology, the pandemic, and high travel volumes have all contributed to the changing transportation security landscape. Frequent fliers are used to taking off their shoes and coats in the security line, but improved scanners may make this unnecessary. As biometric identification tools become more common, travelers may not even need to show their passport or driver’s license at the airport. 

At the same time, it’s essential to make sure that security measures don’t expose travelers to viruses. Technology updates can help with this as well, by offering more convenient disinfecting methods, reducing contact between travelers and speeding up lines where travelers are in close contact. 

Making the Check-in Process More Sophisticated

Passport, boarding pass, credit card: Travelers are used to double checking they have these essentials with them before heading to the airport. However, new biometric screening technologies may make relying on physical ID documents a thing of the past. Biometrics are unique features like fingerprints or iris patterns that can prove a person’s identity. While iris scans were once the most secure option, newer technologies center on facial recognition, which the National Institute of Standards and Technology has found to be 99.5% accurate

Facial recognition at the airport is currently limited but is quickly expanding. Adopting biometrics requires passengers to be willing to share their biometric data in exchange for more convenience. The percentage willing to do this has increased from 46% in 2019 to 73% in 2021. 

With passenger interest increasing, Delta Air Lines is currently testing a program that allows passengers with TSA PreCheck to opt for facial recognition throughout the entire boarding process for domestic flights. These passengers don’t need to show ID or a boarding pass, either physical or digital, at any point while moving through the airport and getting on the plane. 

Once this technology becomes commonplace in airports, it could expand elsewhere. For example, Madrid’s public transportation service started a pilot program that allows passengers to pay their bus fares using facial recognition in 2019. Passengers enter their photo and payment method and then are charged automatically depending on the route they take.

Keeping Those Lines Moving

As life returns to normal post-pandemic, travel has picked up. U.S. airports handle 45,000 flights carrying 2.9 million passengers every day. This volume means that the security process needs to be efficient to get passengers safely to their destinations with minimal delays. Fortunately, new security technologies are speeding up the process for both passengers and baggage inspection. Federal agencies, particularly the TSA, are partnering with private tech companies to design innovative and effective solutions.

One of these solutions is CT scanners combined with machine learning, which are replacing older X-ray machines for screening checked luggage. These provide more detailed 3D images, which artificial intelligence programs analyze to look for suspicious content. The machine learning component means that the more images the AI tool sees, the more successfully it can identify items of concern going forward. This makes the scanning process both faster and more accurate. 

More accurate scans means fewer physical bag searches, which saves even more time for both passengers and security employees. The TSA is working on better body scanners as well. These will provide more accurate images while allowing passengers to keep their shoes and coats on and keep their hands at their sides. This will simplify the screening process while producing images of the same quality. Fewer steps before going through the scanner means faster security lines and less confusion for infrequent travelers. 

Preventing the Spread of Viruses

Airports are crowded places, and the security process often involves high-touch surfaces where germs can spread. This was a concern even before the pandemic. A 2018 study found that more than half of airport security screening bins carried viruses that could cause respiratory symptoms. With passengers concerned about COVID, this is now a more serious problem. 

Even though technological advances are allowing for better and faster scanners, passengers will still need to put their belongings through those scanners, so plastic trays aren’t going anywhere. Fortunately, well-designed bins are easy to disinfect. Some are even dishwasher safe, which offers another cleaning and sanitizing option. 

Technology can help with disinfection as well. The TSA is testing ultraviolet-C light to disinfect bins at checkpoints. This method uses a conveyor belt to move the bins through the light unit, which makes routine cleanings simple. Other steps the agency is taking to make security procedures better might also offer some protection from viruses. Facial recognition means that passengers don’t need to pass their documents back and forth to airline and security workers. Faster screening lines could mean less time spent in close proximity with others. 

Public Safety Is the Number One Priority

Convenience doesn’t matter if the security system doesn’t protect public safety. People need to feel confident that they and their possessions are safe and secure while they travel. Fortunately, the TSA’s strategies are generally effective. It’s hard to quantify incidents that may have been prevented, but there are some metrics to consider. The agency caught nearly 6000 firearms in carryon luggage in 2021, the majority of which were loaded. This indicates that screenings work. 

As for efficiency, most passengers, 97.6%, spent less than 20 minutes in line for security in 2021. Most travelers with PreCheck spent less than five minutes. In most cases, there’s no need to sacrifice safety for convenience. Ultimately, technology that makes the screening process faster also makes it more thorough and accurate, so it can achieve both goals. Biometrics and AI are improving existing processes, not creating completely new ones.

Regardless of how advanced a scanner is, it still relies on plastic bins for passengers to put their items in. It’s important that these be made of high-quality, durable material that’s easy to sanitize. Contact Flexcon to learn more about their airport tray options.