Tech Bytes

Aug. 4, 2006
Some airports are now supplying booties for travelers to wear over their feet while their shoes make their way on the belt for screening, but at least one is taking it a step further

By now everyone has probably seen the news reports about the various bacteria found when the floors of airport passenger screening areas were examined — including staffoid, an organism that can cause skin infections that go deep through the layers, and nazeria, which is of the species that can lead to gonorrhea. And, some of us, after hearing this, have even since refused to remove our shoes in the security lane and were then subjected to the friendly pat-down from a same-sex Transportation Security Administration agent.

While most travelers won’t argue the need for increased security, they do have something to say about long lines at security checkpoints. Each time someone refuses to remove his or her footwear, the staffing of the checkpoint is stretched, thus slowing down the flow. It would seem that there has to be a better way.

Some airports are now supplying booties for travelers to wear over their feet while their shoes make their way on the belt for screening, but at least one is taking it a step further. Orlando International Airport passengers enrolled in the airport’s registered traveler program, Clear, operated by Verified Identity Pass, Inc., will be testing new technology for screening for explosives and metal on a person that, if approved by TSA, will potentially allow travelers to keep their shoes and jackets on, according to Verified Identity Pass spokesperson Cindy Rosenthal. However, during the test phase, travelers will still have to remove their shoes and jackets.

Clear is the first privately run registered traveler program operating at a U.S. airport. It has been operational since July 19, 2005, at Orlando and has enrolled more than 20,000 members.

According to the company, Clear has been selected by Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport to begin operations there upon approval from TSA, expected this summer. Verified Identity Pass has an agreement with Toronto Pearson International Airport to operate a Canadian program.

Rosenthal says the scanning technology is incorporated into the Clear kiosks at Orlando International and was developed by Verified Identity Pass, in partnership with General Electric.

[In February 2006, GE Security’s Homeland Protection business, through its wholly-owned subsidiary GE Invision, announced a minority strategic investment of up to $16 million in Verified Identity Pass, Inc. According to GE, the company intends to utilize its research and development capability, its experience in airline luggage and passenger screening, as well as its next-generation explosives detection technology to improve passenger checkpoint security, drive down the cost of providing improved security, and allow Clear members an expedited security process.]

Explains Rosenthal, “When people stand in front of the kiosks to do their procedure to verify themselves in terms of their biometrics, the kiosk also allows their shoes to be checked for metal and explosives. So, potentially you would be allowed to keep your shoes and jackets on.” At the end of June, TSA delayed its rollout of the new registered traveler pilot, RT-20, which is expected to “morph into a national program,” according to TSA’s Ted Sobel’s comments at the American Association of Airport Executives annual meeting in San Diego.