No one wants to be That Person at airport security. You know, the one who is so slow unloading their carry-on belongings into a stream of overflowing trays that an exasperated line starts to snake behind them. Please spare us all from being the one who crawls around on the floor picking up the pocketful of loose change, belt-less pants sagging so low that it’s not just fellow travelers’ patience that starts to show a crack.
Most of us have had an experience like this at some point. At a Danish airfield, the tech company Exruptive is testing out a new invention that could save us from how bad we all seem to be at navigating the checkpoints.
Working with researchers at the Technical University of Denmark, they’ve created a trolley that can be fed into a scanner without being unloaded—meaning passengers wouldn’t have to trip over each other reaching for plastic bins to hold those tiny bottles of shampoo. By cutting out the need to offload belongings onto a conveyor belt, Exruptive estimates that the system could boost the standard 150 passengers screened each hour to as many as 600 an hour. Meanwhile, thanks to a screen fitted to the handle, the trolley could also feature advertizing, the selling of which could help to boost airport revenue.
Improved screening technology in the scanners themselves could also cure another headache—the ban on more than 100 ml of liquids in carry-on luggage, as well as the need to take them out of your bag. The new scanners could spot liquids and analyze their contents. As the DUT engineer Ulrik Lund Olsen told Danish newspaper Berlingske:
"I don’t think that the technology actually will be able to distinguish between red and blue label Johnnie Walker. But with the new camera technology, the machine can see if a liquid is undiluted or 40 per cent alcohol – and can determine whether there are explosive liquids or similar illegal substances in the bottles."
The idea of (apparently) more lax scanning for liquids might give some of us nagging doubts over safety—isn’t this relying too much on the new technology’s abilities? The truth is that it’s not just Exruptive that believes the need to remove liquids from bags will soon be a thing of the past. Some airports are already experimenting with new equipment employing CT technology to screen luggage, and a pilot study exploring the technology’s use to monitor carry-on bags is currently underway at Phoenix Airport.
According to Exruptive’s own estimates, their new trolley scanner system could be installed in commercial airports within the next two years. Its adoption nonetheless faces an obvious initial hurdle. Airports already have security checks, and replacing them with a completely new system would be expensive. As an incentive for airports to buy in, the trolley scanner system has some other features that could help airports gain some extra revenue.
Key to these is an iPad-sized information screen that each trolley would have fitted to its handle. When taking a trolley, passengers would scan their boarding pass on this screen, then keep the luggage-laden cart with them right up until they reach their departure gate. The airport could also drum up some extra revenue by sending push adverts or special offers to the screen as the trolleys’ users snake through the departure terminal. Admittedly, this is the point at which the trolley scanner’s promise of less stressful travel starts to fray a little. Deep down, no one really wants to be bombarded with ads for cologne or cut-price offers for giant Toblerone as they head for their flight.
Still if the days of scrabbling through your bags are numbered, then so much the better.