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Trending Now: Security and Peace of Mind

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2011
Karen A. Newman

Late last summer, I was wading through the security line at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago when the woman in front of me posed an interesting question. Upon noticing that the wait time to pass through the full body scanner was shorter than that for the conventional metal detector, she turned to me and asked, “Can you see yourself when you go through the full body scanner?” When I assured her that she would not see her scanned image, she joined the shorter line, and I soon saw her raise her hands for the scan.

I thought it amusing then, and even more so since the pre-Thanksgiving brouhaha inthe US. Her concern was not for radiation exposure. Nor was it for having a stranger stare at an image of her unclothed body. And she probably didn’t give a thought to the possibility of her image being recorded and shared – this was well before a certain breach came to light. As long as she didn’t have to look at her own image, it was as if it had never happened.

We can close our eyes to a lot of things in life and be quite happy. Ignorance is bliss, or so we are told. But in business, it is risky at best to ignore what’s happening in the world around us. In this issue, we look at a number of trends that are shaping the photonics industry of tomorrow. Safe to say, customers everywhere are looking for greater efficiency, higher quality and lower costs. Security and peace of mind are on the list, too.

Every time we pass through an airport – from the moment we take off our jackets and pull our quart-size bags of toiletries from our carry-on bags to the hunt for a safe place to re-tie our shoes – we are reminded of the growing need for increased security for ourselves, our information and our businesses. And it does not escape our notice that photonics technologies are increasingly part of advanced security solutions.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) operates in some 450 airports in the US, and it reports that 70 of those airports currently have advanced imaging technology (AIT) in place (http://blog.tsa.gov). On Dec. 9, 2010, there were a total of 430 machines in use in US airports. In countering rumors that everyone going through security at a US airport would be subject to AIT, a TSA blogger said that, although that is not the case because of the limited number of machines already being used in airports, the organization is “working quickly to deploy more units to the field – above and beyond the 430.”

Security issues are here to stay, and for this industry and others, that means more work and perhaps even business growth. Manufacturers of AIT for airport security are uniquely positioned to bring enhanced speed, quality and peace of mind to the consumer side of security checks through the understanding and removal of threats to the flying public’s personal safety and privacy concerns regarding scanning technology.

And speaking of safety, chances are good that, wherever you are, December brought some extreme weather challenges to your door. For me, it was snow and wind and cold that came early and got up to February strength quickly. For me, snow is a little like airport security screening. I’m OK with it as long as I don’t have to look at it …

Enjoy this issue. I hope to see you at Photonics West.


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