Airport Security Devices Of The Future

Travel writer Peter Greenberg gives us an insightful look at the creepy future of airport security. Most of us are already familiar with ‘puffer’ scanners, which, ironically, are prominent fixtures at the Statue of Liberty. They are just the beginning. The future holds several new devices, and “many of them are raising new issues regarding privacy.”

We unveil the future, inside…

•Registered Traveler Kiosks: “The device combines a shoe scanner, explosives test, and a biometric scanner. Registered travelers will step onto the shoe scanner, insert their registered traveler card, and place their hand on an explosives detector. Then, after an iris scan — and assuming the machine detects nothing out of the ordinary — the traveler can go on his or her way.” We can’t help but wonder what happens if this

ber-kiosk detects something ‘out of the ordinary?’

•People Portals: Microwaves help find items that would “likely not be detected with traditional methods. Basically, the People Portal detects anything that isn’t clothing, flesh, or bone — whether it’s Chapstick or plastic explosives.” We approve, except for the misleading name.

•Hand-held Detection Systems: Lasers are “tuned across a large number of wavelengths to detect the tiny molecules of explosives, poisonous gases, or illegal drugs that might be on the person scanned.” These lasers can also detect bird flu.

•Laser and Passive Scanning: “The technology could theoretically detect even trace amounts of explosives or other illicit substances from a distance.” We don’t want the TSA scanning for ‘illicit substances’ at a distance. Lasers scare us.

We see newfangled security devices each time we go to the airport. Tell us in the comments what other laser-spewing microwave-emitting contraptions you have spotted around our nation’s monuments and airports. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Security of the Future [Peter Greenberg Worldwide]
(Photo: nedrichards)


Edit Your Comment

  1. TVarmy says:

    I’ve yet to see any of these, but I’m not very attentive. I do most of my travel from Newark (Liberty) International.

    The hand scanner seems like it’d have too many false positives. If I made poppy seed muffins, would it declare that I’ve been refining opium? And what if I accidentally bump into a drug smuggler and they have some of their stash on their clothes?

    Plus, wouldn’t you burn out your retina if you accidentally looked into that long-distance laser?

  2. TVarmy says:

    Oh, I felt I should also mention that I’d love the registered traveler kiosk. And I wouldn’t mind if the card were RFID for it. After all, the feds already have your ticket information, so they can’t really “track” you any more than they already could. I’ll just wrap it in tinfoil when I’m not at the airport, if I’m feeling paranoid about tracking while I’m out and about.

  3. acambras says:

    Last week, I went through one of those puff machines for the first time — in Gulfport, Mississippi, of all places (LaGuardia didn’t have it, but Gulfport Mississippi does???). It’s like getting a full-body glaucoma test.

    The microwave thing seems strange — what about people with pacemakers? Aren’t they supposed to stay away from microwave radiation? (I’m not a doctor — I’m just thinking about the sign on the door at 7-Eleven).

  4. ColoradoShark says:

    There was an expose done at Denver Airport by one of the local TV channels. Here is the link to their story:

    The short version: They deliberately contaminated a guy with explosives, sent him through the puffer machines and he went through without setting off an alarm. Great, eh? And each machine is a bargain at $160,000.

  5. voodoodle says:

    the latest of security devices: the human brain. it’s nearly hack-proof, new software is cheap and available, but best of all it comes free with a body you can use to foil suspected terrorist plots.

  6. “the latest of security devices: the human brain.”

    I don’t know if it’s the LATEST, but El Al has been using it with stunning success for the last 30 years. It certainly beats the crap out of the machines. Too bad the US won’t import any from Israel for use in US airports.

  7. shoegazer says:

    Coming soon: all terrorists, er, passengers to be asked to take off their shoes and enter a fast-flowing river. Should the terrorist float, he shall be stoned until he is dead. Should he sink and not come up, he is innocent and will be allowed to board safely and in comfort.

  8. shoegazer says:

    This “sink or swim” detection solution has been pioneered in a number of trials in Salem, Mass. with much success. A fully fledged system including a river through the airport can be installed at only $500,000 per device.

  9. We can’t help but wonder what happens if this über-kiosk detects something ‘out of the ordinary?’

    Rotating knives.

  10. AcidReign says:

    …..We got our bags searched by customs after our Carnival Cruise last August. It happened, I think, because my wife DARED to try to look at the computer screen belonging to the pompous clerk.

    …..The search was a joke. They started with the laptop case, then my bag. And I had put my laundry items on top. These had been worn hiking in the Yucatan in August for a whole day. The noxious cloud backed everyone up from the table, the inspection abruptly ended, and we were very quickly dismissed.

  11. It’s getting more and more like the check in in The Fifth Element , every day.

  12. acambras says:


    One of the TSA people I dealt with in Gulfport was on a major power trip. She was the first TSA person in the gauntlet — the one who usually checks boarding passes and IDs.

    She spent a ridiculous amount of time scrutinizing my ziploc bag of toiletries. Everything in it was compliant (I’d flown in from LaGuardia days earlier). But she kept talking about she had no way of knowing if my refillable plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles were more than 3 ounces because they weren’t marked. Never mind the fact that the bottles were no larger than other bottles in the bag — marked at 3 oz. or less. Anyway, she had a big ‘tude. She threatened to confiscate the demon bottles — I think it pissed her off that I didn’t care if she confiscated them or not (I’m not going to get upset about 50-cent plastic bottles of hair care products getting confiscated at the end of my trip).

    It was just aggravating that she was so heavy-handed and bitchy. She knew I could not really argue with TSA people because they have the power to make you miss your flight and they can really screw up your day.

    I don’t know why she was such a shit – I have a southern accent, but my driver’s license is from Connecticut…