By Mark Schuette, PE, LEED AP
Lines are still long. Belts and shoes still must be removed.
Everyone from children to the elderly is still being patted down.
Yet, the airport checkpoint is still not what it needs to be. In
fact, International Air Transport Association (IATA) statistics show
throughput remains low at 149 passengers per hour compared
to a pre-9/11 high of 350 passengers per hour.
Airlines struggling to stay competitive continue to cut labor
costs with technology deployments at ticket counters and
gates. Different versions of self-service kiosks have been tried,
cast away and then tried again. The seemingly endless string
of airline consolidations puts higher demands on a terminal
and its systems, while the need for more power and rerouted
communication can be arduous.
A downside of the rapid advances in technology is the need
for a physical facility to support those rapid changes. The
generational lifespan of a Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) screening technology is three to five years, and terminal
operators can no longer rely on coring new holes in the floor
to supply power and data to a field of devices.
Products and design and construction methods need to
adapt to this high churn rate to make it easier to reconfigure
checkpoints, ticket counters and self-service kiosks.
New Technologies in an Ever-Changing World
New technologies are being developed, tested and auditioned
virtually continually by manufacturers, with select cases studied
by the TSA. Checkpoints of the future could have one new
look or myriad deployments. X-ray machines could give way
to computed tomography explosives detection systems at
checkpoints. Boarding pass readers will be developed and
surely go through several generations. Shoe scanning machines
may even be added to the check-in process.
Last year, IATA previewed three 20-foot, specially designed
tunnels last year that could allow passengers to continue
walking while being checked for assorted and sundry items.
This would be a major shift in thinking and checkpoint design.
Laser sensing and facial lie detection machines add to the
potential palette of technology.
Terrorists threats are ever-evolving, and so too must technology
and detection systems.