"We have a proud history of the early adoption and use of cutting edge technology and this programme is helping to ensure we continue to lead the way in airport security."
The requirement for airline passengers to remove their shoes at the security gates – in the UK at least – could soon be consigned to history, after the UK government released £1.8m of funding to introduce a “safer and smoother travel experience” at airport terminals.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced it will invest the money in eight separate technologies aimed at reducing queues and improving efficiency. The shoe scanning equipment in question, which has been developed by UK company Security Screening Technologies, uses state-of-the-art imaging that can detect shoes for explosive materials. Should the unit be successfully introduced it could bring about big time savings, owing to the fact that the system learns with every scan and raises its detecting potential the more it is used. Wearers of footwear that don’t pass the test are then subject to secondary screening.
Other successful applicants for the DfT funding include Durham University for an x-ray learning algorithm; University College London, which developed machine learning technology that recognises unexpected items in bags, and another system for electromagnetic imaging; the University of Cambridge, for an updated airport security staff training programme; and Sequestim, a Welsh company behind a walk-through passenger scanning system. Working in a similar way to the step-on shoe scanner, Sequestim’s powerful scanning actually would reduces the number of passengers having to take part in manual checks.
Not exclusively UK companies, also featuring in the eight is the Madrid company, Seadm, which has developed a portable system that can check for explosives located in cargo.
The UK government scheme is part of Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS), the DfT’s five-year security plan that looks for new solutions to strengthen aviation security that Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said will ensure the government is “continuing to capitalise on pioneering research”.
“The safety of people travelling on all modes of transport is our top priority and the FASS programme is just one example of the huge importance we place on the security of passengers. We have a proud history of the early adoption and use of cutting edge technology and this programme is helping to ensure we continue to lead the way in airport security,” said Sugg.
In related news, New York Penn train station announced that it was also taking major steps to strengthen security with the trial of a device that can detect explosive devices such as suicide vests and assault rifles. Introduced by the Transport Security Administration, the QinetiQ SPO-NX screening device, which is already in use at Los Angeles' 7th Street Metro station, resembles a CCTV camera and is powerful enough to scan crowds of people and detect any concealed explosive devices.
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