A New Technology Might Save Us from Having to Remove Our Shoes at Airport Security

The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working on a scanner that can detect concealed objects through a shoe

A New Technology Might Save Us from Having to Remove Our Shoes at Airport Security

There are few things ickier than getting to a TSA checkpoint and realizing you’re wearing sandals … with no socks. It’s a rookie mistake to be sure, but one I’ve made more times than I’d care to admit. Even now, the mere thought of being barefoot in a highly trafficked airport like JFK makes my skin crawl. It’s demoralizing — albeit necessary — and disgusting.

Fortunately, as fate would have it, greater powers are at work that could make shoe removal as a security measure a thing of the past. According to a new report from View From the Wing, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are currently working to develop a new foot scanner that will be able to detect concealed objects through a shoe.

The scanner, which is being sponsored by Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, will effectively function as a platform positioned atop a bunch of little data-collecting antennae. Like other currently utilized TSA checkpoint technology, the platform utilizes millimeter waves, the energy of which can permeate clothing and — in theory — shoes.

According to View From The Wing, the prototype is actually already being tested, though there are still some kinks to be worked out. For starters, because the technology will be built into a platform, people will be stepping onto it — all kinds of people, weight varying — and thus will require an added level of durability. Second, it will need to be able to account for all kinds of footwear and, at this point in time, it’s unclear as to whether it’s capable of doing so.

That said, while the mission here is obviously centered around increased efficiency at TSA checkpoints, with the shoe scanner reportedly taking two seconds to pass through, I cannot pass up the opportunity to point out that, for the sake of cleanliness, this is huge. I, for one, am thrilled. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, as they say.


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