The new head of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) believes new technologies will eventually speed up and improve airport security checkpoints.
Testifying yesterday before a congressional committee, Peter Neffenger said:
"We're still largely dealing with ...the same kind of checkpoint we've had for the past decade or more. And I think we're on the cusp of a very different looking checkpoint experience in the next five years."
In a statement to the committee, he provided some details:
"I envision a future where some known travelers will be as vetted and trusted as flight crews. Technology on the horizon may support passengers becoming their own “boarding passes” by using biometrics, such as fingerprint scans, to verify identities...."
The aspiration is to screen travelers to eliminate them as risks before they even get to the airport, as the PreCheck program does. He added:
"A second objective is to screen at the “speed of life” with an integrated screening system that combines metal detection, non-metallic anomaly detection, shoe x-ray, and explosive vapor detection. Prototypes of these machines exist, which hold great promise for the traveling public."
Neffenger was testifying in part to defend the TSA. An inspector general's report from the Homeland Security Department recently found several critical failures and lapses in the TSA's ability to perform almost all of its functions, including passenger and baggage screening.
Inspectors posing as passengers tried to defeat the system. TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with inspectors able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.
Meanwhile, nearly 90% of frequent flyers think the TSA is doing either a poor or fair job with checkpoint screenings, according to a survey done by Frequent Business Traveler magazine in partnership with FlyerTalk and ExpertFlyer (whose methodology was statistically rigorous).
TSA technology investments often are mirrored globally. Airport security technologies, such as automated border control kiosks, cargo screening, cybersecurity, airport perimeter security systems, and advanced ICT technologies, are having strong sales at European, Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific airports. According to one estimate, the aviation security market is forecasted to make a robust comeback, generating a 2014-2020 CAGR of 7.4% worldwide in 2015.
NB: Image of Peter Neffenger reviewing today's version of the TSA’s credential authentication technology during an airport visit, courtesy TSA.