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  4. Minisode 18: A Fairly Straightforward Security Screening

A Fairly Straightforward Security Screening

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In this episode of Tech Speak, our podcast team travels to Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, as S&T, the Transportation Security Administration, and regional partners introduce a new cutting-edge self-service screening technology to the media. Listen as former Season 2 guest, Dr. John Fortune, and the Transportation Security Administration’s Christina Peach and Karen Burke talk about how the Screening at Speed Program team is working to change the airport screening experience for the traveling public and transportation security officers.

Run time: 08:06
Release date: April 17, 2024

Show Notes


Guests: Dr. John Fortune, S&T Screening at Speed Program Manager; Christina Peach, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, Transportation Security Administration; and Karen Burke, Federal Security Director, State of Nevada, Transportation Security Administration.

[00:00:00] Dr. John Fortune: Passenger self-service screening is an effort to allow passengers have more autonomy within the checkout process and to reduce the load on transportation security officers and to overall build a more customer friendly experience initially directed at pre-check passengers. This is the first time that the traveling public is getting an opportunity to interact with, use, and actually be operationally screened by the self-service screening system.

[00:00:24] Dave: Last month, our podcast team traveled to Harry Reid International Airport, as S&T, the Transportation Security Administration, and regional Partners introduced a new cutting-edge self-service screening technology to the media. In this episode of Tech Speak, you'll hear how the team is working to change the airport screening experience for the traveling public and transportation security officers. At the start you heard season two guests S&T's Dr. John Fortune speak briefly about what we were doing. Now, let's hear from him about how the passengers will experience the system and why it is being unveiled to the public now. 

[00:00:57] Dr. John Fortune: When S&T began the concept of self-service screening for passengers, we began exploring a couple of different concepts. The one that we're testing out today, it’s something we call lane based self-screening. So, in a lot of ways, the components of the system are very similar to what you have at a standard checkpoint. So, we're basically cobbling together in a very we'd like to say, smart way a number of technologies that are already approved for operational use, but in a new layout that provides an entirely different experience for the passenger.

[00:01:27] Dr. John Fortune: When a passenger approaches the self-service screening lane, the first thing they will see is a series of stations where they can take their carry-on baggage and other personal items and place them in a bin. Once the passenger places the bin on the conveyor, then they proceed to the passenger screening station, the entry doors will automatically open, and they can stand in front of the screen for a few seconds while the screening process takes place. And if they're cleared to go, then the exit doors will automatically open and they will proceed to the end of the checkpoint, collect their bags, and proceed to the gate. In the incident where perhaps, someone has left a cell phone or wallet in their pocket and they do not successfully complete the passenger screening process, rather than have, as we would see in a normal checkpoint, a transportation security officer come over to resolve the alarm now, the passenger can proceed back through the entry doors to the stations with the bins, and they can take anything out of their pockets, place it in bins and go back and try again.

[00:02:23] Dr. John Fortune: So, we think it's important to get the system out in front of the traveling public early so that we can see how the public navigates the system, where the system performs well, where there are challenges and where people have trouble maybe navigating certain parts of the processes, where there are technical issues potentially with the system. So, once we complete this initial demonstration here on the Innovation Checkpoint in Vegas, we want to go back, collect information that we learn from the passengers, look at things like the throughput rate, how many passengers could pass through per hour, if there were specific technical challenges or glitches with the system, and look at ways that we can hopefully easily improve the system.

[00:03:01] Dave: Next up, we'll hear from Christina Peach, a deputy assistant administrator for Requirements and Capabilities Analysis at TSA, talk about why the Innovation Checkpoint was chosen for the demonstration and how the self-service screening technology will impact airport security overall.

[00:03:16] Christina Peach: The TSA Innovation Checkpoint is in fact unique. It is a location where we're able to actually bring in new technology, innovative solutions that you may not see anywhere else, and assess them in a live operational environment without having as much pressure that if something breaks, we can close it down, we can go through troubleshooting, we can do additional assessments, uh, without really impacting too negatively the local operations. And over the next several months we will be doing a lot of data collection. So really looking at things from the operational perspective, looking at things from cybersecurity aspects as well as the human factors elements not only for the officers but for the traveling public. This is a unique concept, it is not something that you've seen at other airports, so it's going to take a little bit of time for everyone to get used to it. But we're really looking forward to, again, the incredible differences in passengers that come through this airport. You really do get the perfect mix of all different types of travelers to be looking at this system.

[00:04:13] Christina Peach: I think the officers, you know, they're under a tremendous amount of pressure. There are constant increases in volumes. Year over year, the volume just continues to go up. And the footprint or the size of an airport, it's not getting much bigger. So, we have to really be focusing on the technology and making advancements that better the job overall for the TSOs. And as well making sure that they have all the right information that they need, that if the system itself is capable of processing passengers, they're able to move to other locations that are a little bit busier and make sure security is still first.

[00:04:47] Dave: And now we'll hear from Karen Burke, Federal Security Director for the State of Nevada, TSA, about how the self-service screening technology will improve detection and allow TSOs to continue to provide the quality airport security we are accustomed to.

[00:05:01] Karen Burke: It's probably one of the best places to do testing of equipment because of the wide variety that we have. We have leisure travelers, we have conventions that bring business travelers, and then we have just like spring break coming up, which a lot of people like to come visit. So, they're usually anywhere from 80 to 103,000 a day. Other days we’ll average probably closer around 60,000 a day. So, it does vary by the day of week and what's going on in town. Our administrator wants a focus on people as well as technology and improving detection. So, we're very focused on making sure we're doing good work and we're still protecting our aviation environment or surface environments to the best of our ability.

[00:05:52] Karen Burke: So, the new lane, from an officer's standpoint, will improve their life because the passenger is really taking on more responsibility. It lets them go at their own pace, which is very important, so they feel comfortable. But they're less staffing required to man the new lanes that we're going to be testing than a regular lane that we operate at the checkpoint upstairs or other places in the airport. It’s, I would call it making their work a higher level of work so that they are really worried about passenger interaction, and they're worried about just making sure that, we work with passengers to help them make sure security is the best it can be. I believe the most interesting part as a seasoned traveler myself, because I used to work for an airline before this, so I've traveled the world since I was young, is that I have control over my ability to process myself. I know what alarms, what does an alarm from so many times going through screening. So, I can make my life easy by just packing properly, knowing what alarms, and making sure I present myself, with the proper things in order to be able to process easily.

[00:07:14] Dave: We'll end with a few words from Dr. Fortune about what he likes most about the self-service screening technology.

[00:07:21] Dr. John Fortune: I think my personal favorite part of the system is the fact that I believe this is going to be, you know, an intuitive process once you go through it a time or two. This is going to become a fairly straightforward way to go through security screening. So, I'm really excited to hopefully on my own, be able to use this someday as a pre-check member of the traveling public.

[00:07:38] Dave: As a passenger, I look forward to using this technology in the future. To hear more from Dr. Fortune and our transportation security team, listen to “300 People Per Hour Per Lane” and “Improving the Current Fleet,” our great two-part episode from season two. Thanks for listening and be sure to follow us at DHS Sci-Tech DHS SCI T E C H bye.

[00:07:59] Closing music plays.

Last Updated: 04/17/2024
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