The Privacy-enhanced SmartCheck System


February 24, 2007

February 25, 2007 Ever since Al Queda ever so kindly pointed out the vulnerability of domestic airliners, the world has been paying a hefty bill in the form of added security. At first it was very costly, because much of it was labour-intensive, but then industry responded with ever-more-clever devices to screen humans and ensure they were weapon free. So good have the machines become at peering through clothing that many scanning techniques have become very invasive. It will hence be of some comfort to know that the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun testing the privacy enhanced SmartCheck personnel screening system today at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. SmartCheck provides optimum security by safely screening for a wide variety of threats concealed on a passenger, while ensuring their privacy. The SmartCheck system creates an image that looks like a chalk outline of the passenger with threats and contraband outlined, but does not reveal facial features. A product of X-ray detection technology specialist American Science and Engineering, the SmartCheck system installed in Phoenix cannot store, export, print, or transmit images. The machine produces images such as this privacy-enhanced SmartCheck scan of a female (front and back) which presents only an outline of the scanned individual and an outline of any threats on the person.

“We are pleased that TSA will begin operating AS&E;’s privacy enhanced SmartCheck system today in Phoenix, Arizona,” said Robert Postle, AS&E;’s Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Sales. “SmartCheck provides TSA with the most comprehensive personnel screening technology available for detecting plastic and liquid explosives, weapons, and other contraband while ensuring privacy. TSA is implementing a screening protocol that delivers maximum threat detection while maintaining the privacy of the traveling public. The voluntary screening process is safe, non-intrusive, easy, and effective. We are very proud to assist TSA in their critical mission to safeguard air travel.”

SmartCheck is a safe, non-intrusive personnel screening system that allows operators to detect threats and contraband hidden on a person while ensuring privacy. AS&E;’s Z Backscatter X-ray technology displays both organic and inorganic materials, revealing objects such as guns and knives, explosives, composite weapons, and other hidden threats and contraband. The software provides a sketch outline of the passenger with information for the security operator to identify the nature and location of threats, thus eliminating the need for intrusive and time-consuming pat-down searches. The system creates only the privacy enhanced image. For added privacy, the system is not capable of storing, exporting, printing, or transmitting images. All images are automatically deleted from the system immediately after they are reviewed by the operator who will be located in a remote, secure area away from the screening process.

About SmartCheck’s Z Backscatter X-Ray Technology

Z Backscatter X-ray technology displays threats by reflecting a low-energy X-ray beam from a person to a detector on the near side. AS&E;'s SmartCheck system utilizes this patented technology based on the X-ray Compton Scattering effect. Z Backscatter works by detecting and outlining "low Z" materials (items that contain low atomic number elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen). Low Z materials include plastic and liquid explosives, plastic weapons, and drugs. SmartCheck also recognizes the lack of scattering that occurs when "high Z" materials are placed against the body. These "high Z" materials, such as metal weapons and bomb-detonating wires are also outlined on the person being scanned. Thus the system is able to display all organic and metallic threats and contraband anywhere on a person's body. Voluntary Screening

SmartCheck scan is a voluntary option for passengers undergoing secondary screening as an alternative to the physical pat down procedures currently conducted by Transportation Security Officers at the security screening checkpoint.

Safe for All Screened Individuals and Operators

Since the SmartCheck system uses Z Backscatter X-ray technology, it is safe for both operators and scanned individuals, with the radiation dose from a single scan equivalent to the radiation received from two minutes of airplane flight at altitude, or less than 10 microrem (0.1 microsieverts) per scan. SmartCheck meets the manufacturer’s requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard N43.17, which is the standard that the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) references for systems such as SmartCheck.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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