With pat downs, metal detectors, X-ray machines, and “puffer machines,” catching a plane can see you and your belongings scanned and probed more thoroughly than a trip to the doctor. Yet another explosives-detecting device may soon be added to the airport screening arsenal. However, because the explosives-detecting equipment is integrated into a boarding gate, the developers claim it won’t disrupt the flow of passengers boarding a plane.
Developed by Hitachi, in collaboration with Nippon Signal and the University of Yamanashi, the prototype boarding gate collects minute particles that have affixed themselves to integrated circuit (IC) cards or mobile devices used as boarding passes. Hitachi says high sensitivity mass spectrometry technology integrated into the gate can detect the presence of explosive compounds within one to two seconds, enabling it to inspect 1,200 passengers an hour.
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This is much faster than puffer machines, (aka explosives trace-detection portal machines), that analyze puffed air samples to detect trace amounts of explosives and illegal drugs. According to a 2005 New York Times article, puffer machines are capable of screening up to 180 passengers an hour.
While the prototype boarding gate was developed with airport scanning in mind, Hitachi says the equipment can easily be adapted to other public spaces, such as train stations, stadiums and event halls.
The prototype boarding gate will be displayed at the Special Equipment Exhibition & Conference for Anti-Terrorism (SEECAT 12), which runs from October 17 to 19 in Tokyo, where it will be operating continuously as part of a pilot test. Additional pilot testing is planned for public transport facilities in the next financial year.