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Security kiosksAutomated security kiosk to shorten lines at airports, border crossings

Published 17 July 2017

Researchers have developed a next-generation automated screening kiosk which uses an algorithm of “yes” or “no” questions delivered by a computer-generated avatar, quickly and efficiently to assess the potential threats passengers may pose to others. the screening can be completed in less than four minutes with a 90 percent success rate.

An automated screening kiosk developed by a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher could alleviate concerns about safety and wait time at U.S. airports and border crossings.

Dr. Nathan Twyman, assistant professor of business and information technology at Missouri S&T, has been developing a next-generation automated screening kiosk since he was a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona. His screening kiosk uses an algorithm of “yes” or “no” questions delivered by a computer-generated avatar to quickly and efficiently assess the potential threats passengers may pose to others.

Twyman says the screening can be completed in less than four minutes with a 90 percent success rate.

MST notes that the assessment’s speed and success rate are better than security at most airports in the United States, Twyman says. In fact, an internal investigation by the Transportation Security Administration in 2015 found that TSA agents failed to identify explosives and banned weapons 95 percent of the time. The investigation was carried out by undercover Homeland Security “Red Teams” that posed as passengers. In 67 of 70 instances, the investigators were able to get through security with mock explosives or banned weapons without being detected.

Typically, when travelers enter the United States on an international flight, they must go through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) area where a CBP officer screens them. Depending on their answers, the officer might ask them one question, or a handful of questions. The process can be alarmingly subjective, Twyman says.

Twyman’s automated screening kiosk eliminates this subjectivity.

“We don’t want random,” says Twyman. “(The kiosk) is not profiling. It’s not pulling you aside because of your religion. And on top of that, it’s not going to get tired. It’s not going to make mistakes because it’s ready to go on a break. It’s a lot better than a human solution. Humans are really bad at risk assessment, as it turns out.”

Twyman’s screening kiosk asks a series of basic “yes” or “no” questions and measures the user’s responses through a variety of techniques. An infrared camera scans a subject’s eye movement and pupil dilation; a video camera captures natural reactions to feeling threatened, such as body and facial rigidity; and a microphone records vocal data, listening for changes in pitch that accompany uncertainty.