IATA Designs Security Checkpoint of the Future and It Looks Pretty Good

Every time I talk security here, there are always a few comments asking to focus on a better solution instead of just criticizing what we have. We’ve batted around ideas before in comments, but now we actually have a concrete proposal from none other than the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and I like what I see.

You have to love IATA for being incredibly outspoken on all things aviation. I’m going to really miss Director General Giovanni Bisignani when he moves on, because that guy fears nothing. He says whatever is on his mind and provides a welcome voice of levity (with a hint of insanity). So now, IATA is trying to tackle the security problem, saying that we need to shift our focus from finding just “bad objects” to finding “bad people.”

IATA is also practical, so it’s put together two proposals. The first would be a temporary fix that would use existing equipment to refocus as much as possible. But the second is the true checkpoint of the future idea. Let’s look at that one.

IATA Checkpoint of the Future

Looks cool, right? Here’s a step-by-step process of how it will work.

  1. You make your reservation giving background details as you do today. But while that background detail is kept behind the scenes in today’s system, security screeners would now be able to see relevant information in order to determine threat potential.
  2. When you’re ready to fly, you go up to the screening area and give a thumbprint, retina scan, or some sort of biometric indicator to identify you.
  3. At this point, you will be directed automatically to go through one of three security lanes. During this process, screeners will be doing behavioral detection. If necessary, they can come up and ask questions as well. In the end, you’ll move into the system as they see fit.
  4. The three security lanes will be divided into a known traveler lane, a normal security lane, and an enhanced security lane. You’ll walk down a long tunnel in the lane you’re directed to and screening of you and your bags will occur while you’re walking through. (This is a vision since I don’t think this machine exists yet.) The body scanners of today will not be used for primary screening. They will be secondary screening for those who need a more in-depth look.
  5. If there’s something that sets off the security guys, then you’ll have to go through secondary screening. Otherwise, you’re on your way with shoes, liquids, and laptops intact.
  6. Sounds like a pretty good plan, huh? It speeds things up by putting people into different lanes based on threat potential. Then it really speeds things up by not making you disrobe as you walk through. This, of course, a long term plan, but even the short term plan gets the right elements in place to start using the data that’s being collected for screening purposes.

    The wildcard, in my mind, is the ability of the screeners. If you want people to do real threat detection using critical thinking and multiple tools, your going to have to start paying screeners more to get the highest caliber of worker. I think this needs to happen anyway, but it’s something that will have to be factored in to a budget.

    Overall, this plan make a lot more sense to me than what we’re doing today.


30 Responses to IATA Designs Security Checkpoint of the Future and It Looks Pretty Good

  1. Ted says:

    Sounds good in theory, but I’m betting the checkpoint of the future shares the same fate as Braniff’s airport of the future.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBm59i4PlDU

    • Frank says:

      LOL, well, they were right about one thing. The “Hostess” wont be serving you food in the future!

      :::doing Sudoko puzzle in galley:::

    • I don’t remember ever seeing that ad before but it was actually scary…..lol

      But the voice over was right, computers do know everything about us already.

      And ‘almost no walking in the future’, isn’t that what happen in the movie ‘Wall-E’, all the humans got fat from sitting in moving chairs all the time.

  2. Frank says:

    Three separate security lines? I’m lucky if I see ONE open as I pass through security some 19 times a month. And, isnt the “enhanced” security line just another name for profiling? And, with resources tight, I can see it now, the enhanced line with be empty most of the time, the normal line will be lengthy and the known traveler line will be fast moving. Oh, and where’s the crew line, or the roped off area that lets us go to the front of the line. =)

    • CF says:

      Yes, this whole thing is profiling and that’s how it should be. It’s not racial profiling because that’s stupid. But it’s using background info that can be combined with behavioral work to direct people in the right direction.

  3. PeteyNice says:

    A retina scan or a thumb print? Am I buying a gun or getting on a plane? Also, I don’t want some minimum wage TSA thug knowing anything about me. That is terrifying.

  4. Jody says:

    How would this arrangement handle families? Yikes.

    • CF says:

      I don’t see that as an issue. If it’s a couple, you can split them up if you need to, but if there are children, I assume you just have them follow the parents.

  5. Lines…walking down tunnels……sounds like someone at IATA watched the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ‘Total Recall’.

    That’s the movie I thought of when I first saw what these new body scanners do. If you don’t remember the ‘space port’ security line scene, it’s movie rental time. :-)

  6. Frank V says:

    Nice idea, however….

    Given TSA’s ability to screw up everything that it touches, even a perfect security plan is bound to fail when the key factor is a group of law-enforcement wannabes who are drunk on power and prone to retaliation for real or imagined slights.

  7. Greg says:

    Don’t forget to wave the magic wand that tells you which people are terrorists and which are good law-abiding citizens.

    Pure fantasy.

    Quote from Bruce Schneier circa 2005 about airport security:
    (found here near the bottom of the page http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/11/tsa_backscatter.html)
    “Exactly two things have made airline travel safer since 9/11: reinforcement of cockpit doors, and passengers who now know that they may have to fight back. Everything else — Secure Flight and Trusted Traveler included — is security theater. We would all be a lot safer if, instead, we implemented enhanced baggage security — both ensuring that a passenger’s bags don’t fly unless he does, and explosives screening for all baggage — as well as background checks and increased screening for airport employees.
    Then we could take all the money we save and apply it to intelligence, investigation and emergency response. These are security measures that pay dividends regardless of what the terrorists are planning next, whether it’s the movie plot threat of the moment, or something entirely different.”

    • AFAIK the bags must be bomb screened or positive bag matched (e.g. The bag only flies if the passenger does) in our current set of security arrangements.

      • BW says:

        All bags are screened by TSA but positive bag match only occurs on international flights. For those, the airline gets a fine if the bag and passenger fly separately.

    • CF says:

      I love Bruce Schneier’s stuff, but there is no way that they’ll just do away with airport security no matter what arguments are made. This plan at least accomplishes two things. It better uses intelligence gathering, as Schneier suggests, and it significantly decreases the impact on the traveler.

  8. I agree with PeteyNice – What next – a little piece of your biometric info to buy groceries (because you might be a threat to another shopper?) Why don’t we just microchip all children at birth – then the Government can really track us for little investment!!

    • SEAN says:

      Have you sene the remake of the 80s si fi mini series “V?” The Visiters in this show track the human population by putting a chemical into the flu vacksine. It binds to the DNA structure like a tag, like naturalists tag animals. If you are interested season 2 starts January 4 9PM on ABC.

      Just imagine having such techknology for airport security? T&SA agents know where you came from & where you are going? Creeeeeeeeeeepy!

  9. Bill says:

    Frank V couldn’t have said it any better. Congress, listen to Frank!

  10. Shindig says:

    Consider this: http:/www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744199-the-israelification-of-airports-high-security-little-bother.

  11. Shindig says:

    If the link on Isaelification is gone try a Google search for the artricle by name: The “Israelification” of airports:High security, little bother. Fascinating.

  12. Pingback: Travel News for December 18th 2010 through December 20th 2010

  13. consumer12 says:

    “If there’s something that sets off the security guys, then you’ll have to go through secondary screening.” That right there is the problem. As TSA, you can’t allow that individual too much leeway to pull people over – otherwise the TSA will be sued left and right for inevitable claims of discrimination. Because, you know, Mideasterners will likely set off them security guys a lot more than your average Midwestern housewife. Anyone with a turban is suspect these days, no? In Israels society that’s not a big problem, because every non-Israeli doesn’t have rights (don’t think so? have fun flying into Tel Aviv and going thru immigration). In the U.S., they can still sue for that kind of official conduct. Annoying, right? Sucks being the country that’s bent on remaining a functioning democracry w/ equal rights for everybody…

  14. Jim says:

    No matter how you separate people into the three lines, the terrorists are going to figure out a way around it. Profiling does not work, because as soon as you start profiling, the bad guys will figure out your formula and carry out their attack in a way that doesn’t meet the criteria you’ve set. This sounds great in theory, but unless someone develops a mind-reading machine, I don’t think it’s going to work.

  15. Allan says:

    Of course this is racial profiling. What does background profiling even me? You’re a silly hack.

  16. Benji says:

    what about bigotry of people who screen into “enhanced” rather than “normal”? will you be OK sitting next to someone who went through security with you and was in the higher tier of security?

    • CF says:

      Why not? That happens today all the time. People get chosen for secondary screening so what’s the difference? If you’re a higher risk passenger, then you get more scrutiny.

  17. stan says:

    this is ludicrous and horrific. providing a “thumbprint, retina scan, or some sort of biometric indicator” to fly??? what is wrong with you? i can’t believe that ANYONE would think that this is a good idea.

    requiring identity checks for flying is stupid and useless. if security would focus on detecting objects that can cause mayhem is what needs to be done.

    this is godawful stupid.

    why do you hate freedom?

  18. MrE says:

    And I’ll continue not to fly, thank you…

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