Airports exploring new, high-tech security measures
Thermal lie-detection detects variations in facial temperature in response to questioning
Super-clone sniffer dogs, and Bluetooth passenger tracking are being trialled
After the EU’s announcement that it will ban “backscatter” x-ray body scanners, airports may have to look harder at alternative security measures. From Bluetooth tracking to thermal lie-detector cameras, we take a glimpse into the weird and wonderful future of airport security.
The check-point of the future
Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) demonstrated its vision for the “checkpoint of the future” – a series of neon-lit tunnels, each equipped with an array of eye-scanners, x-ray machines, and metal and liquid detectors.
Heralding an end to “one size fits all screening,” the association says that passengers will be assigned a “travel profile” and ushered into one of three corridors accordingly.
“Known Travelers,” (those who have completed background checks with government authorities) for instance, will cruise through the light blue security corridor with little more than an ID check, while those guided through the yellow “Enhanced” corridor will be subjected to an array of iris scans and sensitive contraband detectors.
Although still at the proof of concept stage, the IATA is hoping to have these colorful checkpoints installed in airports within the next five to seven years.
Feeling guilty? Got something to hide? A team of UK-based researchers claim to have developed a thermal lie-detection camera that can automatically spot a burning conscience.
The system could be used during customs interviews and at passport control to check whether people entering the country are giving a true account of themselves.
The thermal-imaging camera captures variations in facial temperature in response to questioning. “When someone is making something up on the spot, brain activity usually changes and you can detect this through the thermal camera,” said professor Hassan Ugail, who leads the research.
At present, the UK’s Home Office and HM Revenue & Customs are sponsoring the system’s development, but will not reveal the name of the airport where it’s being tested.
Bluetooth passenger tracking
Finland’s largest airport is harnessing the tracking potential of a device already carried by most passengers: their mobile phones.
The new system at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport monitors Bluetooth signals to examine passenger movement around the terminal, and uses this information to predict waiting times in front of the security gate.
For now, the technology is simply helping airport operators with crowd management at busy periods, while providing “opted-in” passengers with accurate waiting-time estimates, lit-up in front of them on flight information display screens.
Further down the line, Amor Group – which developed the technology – says that the system could track any passenger as soon as they enter the car park or bus station and, in time, be used to create “passenger profiles” – detailing the behavior of individuals to create “targeted retail activity and process optimization.”
Professor Byeong-chun Lee, who established his reputation in 2005 as the driving force behind the world’s first ever dog clone, has bought a new breed of super-sniffers to South Korea’s Incheon Airport.
They may look like an ordinary pack of golden Labrador Retrievers, but these dogs are all genetically identical to “Chase,” a dog whose legendary snout kept him top of Incheon’s drug-detection rankings right up until his retirement in 2007.
While, on average, only three out of 10 selectively bred sniffer dogs trained by the airport’s security staff have the nostrils for the job, every single one of the new clone recruits have made the grade – providing Incheon with one of the world’s most formidable teams of drug detectors.
But it’s not just contraband smugglers who should fear the arrival of this sniffing super-breed. Lee’s next clone will be a high-performance “quarantine dog” – gifted with an enhanced capacity for detecting the presence of disease in humans.
Behavioral Detection Officers
In the United States, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) is not just relying on fancy gadgets and genetically enhanced nostrils to improve security: it’s turning to good old-fashioned human instinct.
Behavioural Detection Officers (BDOs) have been trained to engage passengers in casual conversation in an effort to weed out suspicious behavior.
According to the TSA, the pilot scheme aims to stimulate the “involuntary physical and physiological reactions” that people display when they are fearful of being discovered.
BDOs are currently operating at approximately 161 airports nationwide. So next time an airport official starts talking about the unseasonably good weather, chances are they think you’ve got something to hide.