DHS Wants Self-Service Stations for Airport Security

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The tech would allow passengers to screen themselves and skip lengthy lines at today’s security checkpoints.

Self-service machines have made banks, grocery stores and gas stations significantly more convenient over the years, and the Homeland Security Department thinks airport security could benefit from similar tech.

The department recently started seeking information on systems that would let air travellers conduct their own security screening, and thus avoid the often frustrating lines at today’s checkpoints. By speeding up the airport security process, the tech stands to improve the overall experience for passengers, according to a request for information published Tuesday.

“Many patrons prefer an experience that they can complete all by themselves, at their own pace,” officials said. “The objective would be to create a passenger friendly, intuitive screening process while improving security, accelerating passenger throughput and reducing pat-down rates.”

The tech would potentially be made available for travelers in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, though the agency has to finalize specific use cases, officials said. Currently, there are more than 9 million people enrolled in the program.   

Per the solicitation, the self-service process would work a lot like existing security screenings. 

Passengers would run their personal items through an X-ray machine while they themselves pass through a separate body scanner. The machine would notify passengers if they set off any alarms and give them the opportunity to remove any unnoticed items from their person. The system would alert transportation security officers if a particular person requires a closer inspection.

Ultimately, the system is expected “to detect weapons and organic threat items hidden on passengers without the same level of transportation security officer engagement normally present in the screening process.” The tech must meet or exceed the performance of the walk-through metal detectors that are currently used to screen TSA PreCheck members, officials said.

The tech would support the Apex Screening at Speed program, an initiative within the department’s Science and Technology Directorate meant to improve the airport security process “from curb to gate.” The program previously funded efforts to improve security screening algorithms, overhaul outdated hardware and build scanners that double-check themselves.

Responses to the latest RFI are due Dec. 4.