The new full-body security scanners might become a popular alternative to body searches with the increased alleged terror threats worldwide. The full-body scanning system has taken the world by surprise in the past recent months. The most advanced method of whole-body imaging technology involves scanning the whole body through clothing, revealing both metallic and non-metallic hidden objects, including weapons or plastic explosives.
The U.S. Transportation Security Agency (TSA) had already tried this concept of whole-body imaging at six airports in mid-2009 to look for threats that typical metal detectors could not find. The process to install these scanners at more airports in several U.S. cities is already heading rapidly, with the recent alleged unsuccessful terrorist attempt on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit. To combat this threatening problem and for the people’s security, the TSA has worked with two essential technologies to upgrade its passenger screening systems- the Millimeter-wave and the Backscatter X-ray.
The Full-body scanners are actually the large machines placed alongside the metal detectors and the baggage X-ray machines at the security point on your way into the departure lounge. Though full-body scanners use different systems, the two competing technologies viz. millimeter-wave and backscatter X-ray are the major components that use radiation of a non-harmful kind and still penetrate your clothing.
The ‘Backscatter’ body scanners use low-level X-rays, which produce a two-dimensional image of the body and detects those components that are bounced back (“backscattered” scientifically) from your body or display objects on your body towards the machine. These scanners are very efficient at imaging organic material, pick up the scatter patterns of drugs or explosives, etc., and create images, thus detecting concealed packets like drugs, liquid bombs, or ceramic knives otherwise passed undetected through metal detectors. This ability and the “Flying Spot” technology (which makes the machine locate a particular X-ray beam location at any given point of time) allow backscatter images to be incredibly accurate.
In the ‘Millimeter-wave’ (MMW) technology, the similar concept of backscatter is used, but this calls for detailed “radar” images and bouncing the radio-frequency waves off people to construct a 3-dimensional image of their bodies on the computer, within a few seconds, detecting the presence of foreign or concealed objects on a body.
The technologies do not pose any health risk, as millimeter-wave energy is already standard globally, and the scanners produce minimum radiation, creating lesser power than a cell phone.
The backscatter and the millimeter-wave intentionally scan blur facial features, and the security official viewing images would not be able to recognize or identify the passenger being scanned. The systems have “zero storage capability” as they delete the scanned images after the viewings. The full-body images are viewed in a walled-off location that is not visible to the public or the security officer assisting the passenger. The officer viewing the image could not see the passenger. With its efficiency in scanning images in not more than 15 seconds, these scanners still make the process a bit slower compared to the time taken by metal detectors. But with its accuracy in detecting some of the most harmful hidden weapons, the full-body imaging concept is sure to raise more, providing a better option for security checks.