Detection systems market at a crossroads

Despite public outcry about airport security, analysts say new scanning technologies may not become prevalent

As opposed to active RF millimeter wave and backscatter X-ray, Brijot’s passive millimeter wave technology, which is currently in trials with the TSA, doesn’t create a detailed anatomical image of a person’s body, thus reducing privacy concerns. They essentially use a receiver to look for energy coming off the human body and anything that blocks that energy is seen as an anomaly.
Daly believes that we will see deployment of full body screening systems at airports this year due in part to the money that was recently allocated by the president for airport security.

“I think (the recent terror incident) is going to be impactful in general because it seems to us that (the government) is very motivated to implement whole body imaging in U.S. airports and more importantly I think it will eventually become a mandate that if you want to fly into the U.S., you will have to undergo some sort of screening on the outbound end.

The market for other airport security systems in addition to passenger screening systems does seem poised for growth. According to published reports, Paris-based manufacturer Safran estimates that the global market for biometrics will grow 15 percent over the next three years, while the explosives detection market is predicted to grow at 12 percent annually.

Once the frenzy for new and improved detection technology dies down, however, Luke Ritter, principle for global trade security at security consulting firm Ridge Global, says that airports may turn to man’s best friend for a reliable and cheaper alternative to body scanners.

“We are still very event driven when it comes to the way that we think about investing and implementing security technology and I think that can be a mistake. This kind of threat has been present, it’s not new. We’re kind of treating it as something new because of the way it was brought on the plane, but the threat of somebody getting on board and trying to blow up the plane in flight with a bomb that’s on their body is not a new challenge,” he said. “I happen to believe that the technology that we should be focusing on in this case is the dog’s nose. “It is my understanding that working dogs are often less expensive from a total lifecycle cost perspective and in many cases more reliable. They also provide some flexibility on the concept of operations side that you don’t have with fixed, installed scanning systems.”   

In contrast to scanning systems, which can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for purchase and lifecycle maintenance, dogs are relatively inexpensive. According to Ritter, a fully trained bomb-sniffing dog delivered cost between $8,000 and $9,000, with annual upkeep of about $15,000. The dog’s handler will earn between $40,000 and $50,000 a year and it will cost about $50,000 to train them to work with the dog. Taking everything into account, for around $75,000 a year, the user gets a dog that can work for about 5 to 7 years and detect explosives with a 90 to 95 percent accuracy rate, according to Ritter.