For airline passengers, the attempted
So for high-tech companies, the increased focus on airport security means new opportunities to land hefty government contracts.
Among those is
"Everybody has started to talk about new technology at the airports," he said.
Other firms, including a small
And plenty of money is at stake.
The Obama administration set aside
In response to a presidential order this month to "aggressively pursue advanced screening technology" at airports, Homeland Security Secretary
Some of the new technology may also come from government scientists. The Homeland Security Department's science and technology directorate operates a laboratory in
"There are a lot of things we are looking at that are not ready for prime time," said
Such devices will be added to what analysts call a "layered approach" to airport security. This means that before passengers board an airplane, they must clear a series of security measures and devices such as watch lists, X-ray scanners, metal detectors and full-body image scanners.
Despite the advanced wizardry of today's security devices, some terrorists might already be devising ways to skirt them.
"Even though it is a layered approach, it is fairly predictable," said Steve Vinsik, a vice president at
"At the end of the day, there is no computer system that is going to replace that," he said.
Still, small and large technology companies see the heightened concern about airline security as a chance to turn a profit.
The request means the TSA wants to gather information about the technology on the market, with an eye toward eventually ordering the devices. About nine years ago, a man on a flight from
Goldberg submitted to the TSA information on his invention, the Magshoe, a step-on device that screens shoes while they're still on passengers' feet. The units, priced between
"The time for our technology has definitely come," Goldberg said.
After the attempted attack on
"The TSA is aware of this technology," said
Other security companies, such as Rapiscan Systems of
Years ago, aviation security officials believed the future of airport security was in explosive trace portals, which analyze particles blown off of passengers.
In 2005 and 2006, the TSA bought more than 100 such portals at a cost of about
But in 2007 the TSA shelved the portals, built by GE Security and Smiths Detection, because high levels of dust at airport terminals caused maintenance issues and triggered too many false alarms.
However, Syage said that after the
"Our contacts in the Department of Homeland Security and TSA indicate that portals like ours are getting serious reconsideration," Syage said.
The TSA declined to comment on Syage's assertion, but a spokesman said the agency continues to research several technologies to keep ahead of evolving threats.
For example, the TSA has begun testing a hand-held scanner that can test liquids carried by passengers for potentially explosive materials. In 2006, British authorities foiled a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on U.S.-bound flights over the Atlantic.
In November, the TSA awarded Smiths Detection a
Said Laustra of Smiths Detection: "We are deploying it to airports right now."
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (c) 2010.