Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Next Step for Airport Security: Scanners for Your Shoes

Transport Security
The Transportation Security Administration announced this week that it’s accepting proposals for a “shoe scanner” device. It could be a way to cut down on the aggravations of airline travel while still allowing officials to check for weapons and explosives inside a terrorist’s Reeboks. The idea crashed and burned when the Department of Homeland Security first proposed it years ago.

The current push to acquire the devices kicks off on April 25, when would-be designers will have the chance to submit proposals for the scanners.

What will the next scanners look like? Will they use X-ray or millimeter wave technology? Will they be held in a TSA agent’s hand, or will you have to put your feet on some kind of scanning pedestal? We’ll have to wait until the full request is published on April 25. But a TSA spokeswoman, Sarah Horowitz, tells Danger Room that the agency “is not limiting the types of technologies that can be considered, as long as they meet TSA’s requirements, including those for safety and detection standards.”

Ever since would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to blow up a transatlantic flight in December of 2001 with explosives concealed in his shoes, TSA has made airline passengers remove their shoes for X-raying, in the belief that terrorists will emulate Reid’s failed effort. Nearly 10 years later, TSA’s effort still contributes to long lines at security gates.

So, while TSA is still committed to the scanning approach to security, it wants the experience to be more convenient. It’s looking to “identify mature shoe scanning technology to support a future procurement which will eliminate the need for passengers to remove their shoes at the checkpoint,” says Horowitz.

Why “mature” tech? Because in the past, TSA has been stepped on when trying to scan shoes.

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