BY ROBIN MILLER
Airport security can be the least pleasurable and the most frustrating part of your travel experience, particularly if you’re flying with grandchildren. While I applaud the TSA folks for the job they’re doing, not many of us look forward to long lines, emptying pockets, and having to remove coats, shoes, and belts. We have items confiscated because we forgot to leave them at home. (According to TSA.gov, it’s OK to bring your favorite pickleball paddle onboard, but pack your grandchild’s toy foam sword in your checked luggage.)
These measures may make us feel safer, but airport scanning technology isn’t foolproof. While the exact number is classified, it’s been reported that as much as 70% of banned items are still getting through. The promising news is that your airport security experience will improve over the next few years.
There are multiple layers of security technology in development that will reduce the false alarm rates at the TSA checkpoints and enable the lines to move faster. They may also make the airport perimeter, including outlying parking areas, much more secure.
After the odd experience of having my bare feet wanded by a TSA agent, I’m particularly excited about next-generation technologies, such as a 3-D imaging foot scanner called the SS1 Shoe-Scanner developed by an elite international team of threat detection specialists at Plymouth Rock Technologies. This team has also developed several other security devices designed to make travel and large gatherings safer.
These devices will use a combination of technologies, including millimeter waves and artificial intelligence, to identify threats. All this technology is safe and has already proven to work in other applications. Nearly every car coming off the production line is equipped with millimeter-wave radar for cruise control, blind spot detection, and collision avoidance.
Meanwhile, here are five simple steps that can reduce your anxiety levels and help airport security personnel be more effective.
- Opt for travel-friendly attire. Choose shoes that are easy to take on and off. If you wear a short top, make sure you can comfortably raise your arms without revealing too much. Some belts and metal jewelry will set off screening devices. Loose-fitting clothes may be used to conceal items and may draw the TSA’s attention. Grandchildren under 12 don’t have to remove their shoes, light jackets, or hats, but their toys and other carry-on items will need to be examined. Check TSA.gov for more information on traveling with youngsters.
- Use an eye-catching luggage tag that hides your personal information. Choose tags that conceal your name and home address. The person next to you on the airport shuttle van or in line at check-in may be a burglar looking for addresses of empty homes. Choosing one that you can easily spot will enable you to find your checked bags, so someone else will have less of an opportunity to walk off with them.
- Pack your carry-on essentials and medications inside a zipped bag. Using a zipped bag will prevent someone from reaching in to grab your tablet or anything else you don’t want to lose. Also, never leave your belongings unattended. Don’t trust a stranger to watch them while you run your grandchild to the bathroom. Take them with you, even if it means schlepping several items.
- Arrive at the airport much earlier than you think is necessary. When you’re feeling rushed or stressed, you are less likely to notice suspicious people around you. If everything goes smoothly, reward yourself by grabbing a snack or browsing the gift shop before your flight.
- Arrange your ground transportation before you leave. Planning ahead may help you avoid making risky decisions, such as sharing a ride with a stranger. Know the airport and hotel shuttle schedules. Confirm that they will be running at the time of your arrival. If you plan to use a rideshare, set it up before you leave home. Be aware that some airports have moved rideshare pick-up/drop-off points away from the terminals, so plan accordingly.
How would you like to keep your shoes on while going through security screening?
Right now, only adults over 75 and children ages 12 and under are exempt from having to remove shoes at airport terminal security checkpoints. That may change very soon with the introduction of SS1 Shoe-Scanner, millimeter-wave shoe scanning technology.
The SSI is a floor-mounted 3D imaging system that uses harmless millimeter wave imaging techniques, combined with artificial intelligence, to inspect footwear without the need for removal by the wearer. Hello, faster checkpoint lines!
This technology is different from other types of shoe scanners that can only detect metal and cannot find chemical powders or other contraband. The SS1 will be able to detect weapons, explosive substances, compounds, or electronics concealed in shoes and other footwear.
If an alarm is triggered, the passenger will be asked to take off their shoes for more intensive screening. Shoe scanners may also appear at other key airport security locations such as the ticket counter and at the gates.
One day, other millimeter-wave and AI technology devices may be used at off-airport parking lots, walkways, and baggage check-in counters to identify potential security threats. These streamlined safety measures may lead to more pleasant travel experiences for all of us.