Forty years ago, computed tomography (CT) revolutionized our healthcare system through advanced 3D imaging techniques designed to diagnose disease and save lives.  CT quickly became the gold standard for medical imaging with benefits ranging from the detection of early stage cancers to helping physicians diagnose and ultimately reconstruct complex fractures and torn joint ligaments.  Americans have come to depend on CT technology to detect disease and improve their health. 

Following September 11th, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) leveraged this same high-resolution medical imaging technology to deploy CT imaging at our nation’s airports to detect explosives and other threats in checked luggage.  With more than 15 years of CT imaging experience and over 1500 CT systems nationwide screening our checked luggage, many are asking why this advanced, life-saving technology is not deployed at airport security checkpoints to screen carry-on bags as well.   

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In a recent test, TSA screeners failed to detect prohibited items 96 percent of the time at security checkpoints. Following these failures, Homeland Security Secretary Johnson released a 10-point plan to improve security standards across the board at TSA. Part of this plan involves “re-testing” and “re-evaluating” checkpoint security equipment and reassessing the current security standards for equipment.  

Secretary Johnson’s approach is the right one. TSA screeners will continue to struggle detecting prohibited items at the checkpoint with outdated equipment.  Now is the time to give them the right tools for the job.  Proven CT technology that aids the screener in detecting dangerous items and explosives through advanced detection software reduces the potential for human error.  This is the next evolution at the checkpoint.    

We must find the right balance between security, cost, and efficiency. CT 3D high-resolution imaging technology at checkpoints excels in all three areas, offering a wide range of benefits, including increased safety through better detection capabilities, higher passenger throughput, and an improved passenger experience. 

By simply bringing proven CT technology to the checkpoint, TSA has the ability to dramatically change your experience the next time you go through the security line.  CT technology simplifies the screening process by allowing both liquids and laptops to remain in your carry-on baggage.  That’s a game changer.    

Cost considerations are a major factor and cannot be overlooked.  Models based on airport data suggest that switching to CT checkpoint technology at just the 10 largest airports in the country could save American taxpayers $1 billion over ten years by reducing TSA operational costs. The evidence proving the cost-effectiveness already exists. Trials at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and London’s Luton Airport resulted in fewer bag searches, better resource utilization, improved operational efficiency, shorter lines, and lower false-alarm rates.  

Yesterday’s x-ray technology is no longer sufficient to meet the demands of checkpoint operations, increases in passenger volume and an ever-changing threat environment. Just as the medical field shifted away from simple x-ray technology to CT scans, it’s time for TSA to bring the gold standard for aviation security – CT 3D imaging – from checked baggage to the checkpoint.

Zanin is senior vice president and general manager of Security Systems Business for Analogic a medical imaging company that also designs state-of-the-art airport security imaging systems.