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Airport Security

Faster TSA Bag Scanners Are One Step Closer to Reality

TSA has approved new baggage scanners designed to do two things: Speed up airport security lines, and provide better imaging of your bag’s contents. Once installed, these scanners could make airports safer, and security checkpoints run smoother.

According to the L.A. Times, these new scanners use the same imaging technology that hospitals employ. The device creates a three-dimensional image that TSA screeners can easily manipulate, and uses an algorithm to detect items that may be weapons. The manufacturer says these scanners could increase the number of passengers screened per hour from 180 to 500.

Notably, travelers could leave liquids and personal electronics in their bags. I think many frequent travelers would agree: This sounds like the holy grail of airport security screening, right up there with being able to leave your shoes on.

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TSA has been actively pursuing faster, simpler screening for some time. Just this past June, it announced testing for this sort of technology at a handful of airports around the country. At the time, Acting TSA Administrator Huban Gowadia said, “We already use this type of technology for checked baggage, and we expect these smaller checkpoint-sized machines will provide the same high level of security.”

The just-announced scanning devices are part of that testing program. The TSA appears to be testing options from different manufacturers, which hopefully means the agency is confident in the technology itself. That could mean the concept works, and now the task is just determining which device is the best fit for airports—hopefully?

We may be on the cusp of major improvements to the overall airport security experience. With faster, simpler scanners, not to mention facial recognition technology at the airport gates, the future is arriving quickly. Whether it’s for better or worse remains to be seen.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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