Creating the 'Checkpoint of the Future'

GE's Security division wants to create the "checkpoint of the future" and the company has an inside line on that goal.

The company has developed a laboratory of sorts inside the San Francisco International Airport where engineers will be able to research and test airport safety and security products.

The "lab", which is essentially an extra checkpoint security lane, allows real-life testing of passenger security controls and detection systems. According to GE Security, one of the ideas is to increase convenience by automating detection. The company says its solutions are being tested on the idea that airline passengers will be able to be processed through security without needing to pull off coats, shoes and other items like cell phones, or even open up laptops like TSA security checkpoints currently require.

The lane, which isn't in use by the public for TSA-approved testing, will be testing such technologies as millimeter wave and quadrupole resonance for scanning of passengers (with their shoes on) and computed tomography (CT) for screening of carry-on luggage. Computed tomography is already being employed for baggage screening.

David Weber, the general manager of aviation and transportation for GE Security's Homeland Protection business says the ultimate goal of the lab is not only more effective technologies, but the ability to create higher throughput.

"We believe that the technologies and products being evaluated in the checkpoint of the future lab at SFO will make it possible to dramatically enhance security while allowing passengers to speed through screening with their shoes and jackets on and their laptops in their bags," said Weber.

According to Frost & Sullivan's homeland security analyst Matthew Farr, the lab represents a change in direction for detection systems.

"Advanced explosives detection in U.S. airports is currently only in widespread use for screening checked baggage, which leaves carry-on luggage and passengers mostly untouched by these advanced technologies," said Farr, who notes that the GE lane will seek to put "advanced" EDS technology into the passenger screening lanes.