AIRPORT SECURITYOpening Architecture to Make Air Travel Safer, Easier

By J. C. Ross

Published 26 January 2022

Researchers have developed an open architecture for airport screening systems, which will allow air travelers to experience faster and safer security checkpoints — no need to open bags or remove liquids or shoes.

Air travelers may see faster, safer security checkpoints — no need to open bags or remove liquids or shoes — thanks to the work of Sandia Lab and their partners who have developed an open architecture for airport screening systems.

The Open Threat Assessment Platform, developed with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NASA and industry partners for the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and the Transportation Security Administration, will allow officials to respond more quickly and easily to rapidly changing threats to air travel safety.

The TSA’s current screening systems, such as X-ray machines and body scanners, are proprietary systems that scan, annotate and report in different ways, without communicating with each other. “Only existing vendors can develop ways to address new threats, which have limited the TSA’s flexibility to innovate,” said project lead Andrew Cox, a Sandia research and development systems analyst previously at the TSA.

“When we wanted to change how we screen in response to new threats, the technology was too rigid. The TSA compensated by adding procedures. There’s a shoe bomber and you have to take your shoes off; liquid explosives arrived, and the TSA had to limit liquids and gels,” Andrew said.

Sandia partnered with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which developed a new high-definition body scanner, and industry partners like Stratovan to create the Open Platform Software Library, which will allow the TSA to work with any vendor for a needed algorithm.

Austin Silva, a Sandia cognitive scientist who oversees development of the library, said the open architecture will provide a common set of interfaces to develop against.

A wider variety of vendors will more quickly and reliably be able to create security upgrades with new algorithms that integrate into existing screening — seamlessly for travelers. “Like LEGOs, you’ll be able to rapidly introduce new pieces,” Austin said. The system may also be able to use different algorithms at different times based on threat level.

Better Data Collection Means Safer, More Seamless Travel
Faster innovation in detection will make air travel safer, said Ed Jimenez, an optical engineer at Sandia. The TSA will be able to collect data continuously and improve algorithms every few months. Standardizing and modularizing design with an open architecture should benefit industry. Once the TSA approves them for access, companies will be able to collaborate.