TSA Seeks New Technology to Speed Airport Screenings

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) -
A TSA agent checks a bag at a security checkpoint area at Midway International Airport. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A TSA agent checks a bag at a security checkpoint area at Midway International Airport. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Faced with long airport lines and frustrated travelers, the Transportation Security Administration is hoping that new technology can help speed up airport screenings.

The agency last week requested information from technology companies on how to screen passengers without requiring that they take off their coats or shoes. It also sought ways to more quickly and thoroughly examine carry-on packages.

The TSA made a “request for information” and a “broad agency announcement,” two ways the agency collects information from private companies before it puts out a contract to buy or lease new technology. A “request for information” is a general inquiry about what technology exists, while a “broad agency announcement” is a more formal call for existing devices or systems that could be used by the TSA in the near future.

The request for information about new ways to screen passengers without having them remove their shoes is no surprise. The TSA has been looking to solve this problem since 2001 when British national Richard Reid tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes during a flight from Paris to Miami.

A recent survey by a Minnesota travel agency company asked more than 3,000 U.S. travelers what screening measure they would most want to eliminate, and the “removing of shoes” topped the list.

The TSA also asked companies to submit information about devices or systems that can screen more than 600 carry-on bags an hour with a higher level of detection for explosives and other prohibited items.

A TSA official said it is not clear how soon either request could result in new technology being used at airport checkpoints.