The foiled Christmas Day bombing attempt has renewed calls for better airport screening, specifically for widespread use of digital body imaging. That has spurred controversy because some say the machines violate passengers' right to privacy because it takes a near naked picture of them.
Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Now there's a new machine that not only won't result in naked photos, it also promises to do a better job by looking inside passengers' bodies.
According to a report in Wired, the machine from an Indiana-based company is called diffraction-enhanced X-ray imaging, or DEXI. It basically uses new X-ray technology to look inside body cavities. The picture above shows a conventional X-ray vs. DEXI.
"Our patented technology can detect substances such as explosive materials, narcotics, and low-density plastics hidden inside or outside of the human body," company CEO Ivan Nesch claims. DEXI allows explosives to create contrast, he adds, so it would have been able to detect both the underpants bomber and the shoe bomber before they boarded.
The system purports to take human error out of the equation. The process of taking the images, analyzing them, and then recognizing substances of interest can be automated. If something were detected, a computer-generated alert would be issued. The only responsibility security agents would have is to get passengers in and out of the imaging unit.
"The initial expected throughput is approximately one to two passengers a minute,” according to Nesch. “Once installed and tested in real applications, the throughput will be increased."
Nesch has already demonstrated the technology with a unit designed for imaging small animals. The next stage is a human-sized unit, which is being "finalized for extensive testing." Nesch plans to start taking purchase orders in March.
X-ray scanners always bring up a concern over the level of radiation involved. One of Nesch’s corporate slogans is “Less radiation, more information,” as DEXI uses significantly less radiation than other approaches.
"It is far less than what a passenger would receive simply by flying on an airplane across the United States,” says Nesch. “Passengers who are imaged using DEXI security will be exposed to approximately 50 times less radiation than that of a conventional radiograph."
While some people may complain about radiation, we can probably agree it's a little less invasive than the "traditional" way of searching a person's body cavities.