Heeding to calls for a less intrusive way to screen passengers at the airport, transportation authorities have proposed a high tech solution that includes eye scanners, x-rays, metal and liquid detectors.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) demoed the first mock-up of a Checkpoint of the Future at the the Association's 67th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, in Singapore.
"We spend $7.4 billion a year to keep aviation secure. But our passengers only see hassle. Passengers should be able to get from curb to boarding gate with dignity," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO. "That means without stopping, stripping or unpacking, and certainly not groping."
The system was developed to address invasion of privacy concerns, make better use of available background information and ensure that most travelers can get through the procedure with minimal hassle or delays.
"Today's checkpoint was designed four decades ago to stop hijackers carrying metal weapons," said Bisignani. "We need a process that responds to today's threat. It must amalgamate intelligence based on passenger information and new technology. That means moving from a system that looks for bad objects, to one that can find bad people."
To ensure that the security screening is as hands-off and efficient as possible, passengers will be directed to one of three scanner-equipped tunnels. Each tunnel is tiered as 'known traveler', 'normal', and 'enhanced security,' with each offering a different level of scrutiny. The system designates which tunnel each passenger must go through depending on how much of a security threat the person poses, a determination that's made using results of an internal risk assessment conducted by the government before the passenger arrives at the airport.
A passenger can speed through the "known traveler" tunnel if the person had completed background checks with government authorities while the majority will likely walk through the "normal" tunnel. Also, a passenger may be required to pass through an additional "elevated-risk" tunnel if the system detects something suspicious during the walk-through screening.
Perhaps the system's biggest selling point is that the screening technology should allow passengers to walk through the checkpoint without having to remove clothes or unpack their belongings.
The IATA is hoping to have these checkpoints installed in airports within five to seven years, a process that will require the cooperation of government agencies to define what standards to use and also agreement on how the data would be shared.
"We have the ability to move to the biometric scanning and three-lane concept right now. And while some of the technology still needs to be developed, even by just re-purposing what we have today, we could see major changes in two or three years time," said Bisignani.