An international association that represents passenger and cargo airlines last fall began testing technologies that can be used in future airport checkpoints to improve security while facilitating greater passenger throughput and plans to expand that testing in 2013 and 2014, a representative for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said last month.

The testing is aimed at helping IATA to continue to improve its definition of a future checkpoint concept as well as developing best practices that it can recommend, Nina Brooks, assistant director for Security and Facilitation at IATA, said at the American Association of Airport Executives’ annual aviation security conference.

Late in 2011 IATA introduced its concept for a future aviation checkpoint that basically is aimed at finding bad people not just bad things based on risk mitigation factors, mainly information known about air travelers. The concept includes separating checkpoints into three basic lanes for known travelers, regular travelers and enhanced screening, each employing variations of existing technology combined with risk-based assessments and identity management tools.

Having a more complete picture about each traveler would allow aviation security screeners and officials to better segregate passengers according to risk, allowing persons that are deemed low risk to receive less screening at a checkpoint, while the enhanced security lane would focus more attention on a small percent of people deemed to be a higher risk. Regular travelers would go through security lanes that provide a level of screening somewhere in between the high-risk and low-risk passengers.

In 2011 the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began a risk-based passenger screening program it calls PreCheck, which enables select air travelers about whom the agency knows more to go through their own lane at certain aviation checkpoints. When a traveler is permitted through a PreCheck lane, they don’t divest their shoes, coats, laptop computers and liquids, and usually they are not scanned by a body imaging machine, permitting more comfortable and speedier access through the checkpoint.

As for more screening of higher risk passengers, Doug Hoffsass, TSA’s assistant administrator for Risk Based Security, tells HSR that the agency is doing some additional screening of these travelers, noting that explosives trace detection technology is sometimes applied in these cases. As the use of PreCheck expands, that will free up assets that can then be applied to high-risk passengers, he said.

Testing so far last fall at London’s Heathrow and an airport in Geneva has included biometric matching technologies to confirm passenger identities match their travel documents while trials at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam have explored software algorithms in X-Ray machines so that liquids and laptop computers can remain in carry-on bags.

IATA in September introduced its first iteration of a detailed Checkpoint of the Future Concept, which includes blueprints for how checkpoints could operate in the future, including in 2014, 2017 and 2020, as well as a roadmap that includes modules and assessment of each module against the blueprints. The modules include things such as passenger data, identity management, known traveler, behavior analysis, enhanced detection capabilities, checkpoint management systems, and others.

In 2013 IATA will continue to test many of the modules independently and then “interactively” to see how they work together and how they impact the checkpoint, Brooks said. That testing will lead to end-to-end testing at checkpoints, she said.

“We are working at the moment on an operational system evaluation plan and have end-to-end tests that will go on through 2013 and into 2014,” Brooks said. “Right now we are in the planning stages of all of those pieces and picking from logical groupings of those modules so we can put together not only a mix of technologies but also operational changes as well so you can actually see…the affects of the changes.”

The two airports that IATA will continue the checkpoint testing have not been named.

Industry officials involved in the security technology arena believe technology exists today to enable the deployment and use of the types of screening lanes envisioned by IATA.

In its near-term blueprint, that is for 2014, IATA’s concept includes risk assessments that would be based on things such as advanced information about passengers as well as passenger name records, covert and overt behavior analysis, and known traveler programs. Some of the technology aspects include biometric verification electronic-gates at the checkpoint for known travelers, pushing out explosive detection as an alternate measure prior to the screening line, risk assessments communicated to the checkpoint, the use of body imagers as a secondary inspection device, and limited deployment of flexible algorithms to enhance Advanced Technology X-Ray systems that screen carry-on bags.

At the operational level, IATA would include things like dynamic passenger guidance of the screening process, queue management displays to enable wait times and better customer support, improved staff allocation, and regular passenger feedback that incorporates modern technology.

By 2020, IATA envisions risk assessments involving passengers and flight data that are common practice and include international cooperation, random measures that ensure screening is unpredictable, automated behavior analysis that can be updated in real-time with a risk score at the checkpoint, and known traveler programs and differentiated checkpoint screening across multiple countries.

At that point, stand-off identity management technology would be used along with automated biometric gates for all passengers, alternative explosive detection measures in the checkpoint and at the beginning, automated algorithms that review images, and screening technology that includes dynamic adjustment based on the risk score of the passenger.

IATA’s concept of security lanes in 2020 calls for flexibility so that any lane can screen all risk categories of passengers.