Veridos to Become Majority Shareholder in NetSeT

Veridos has acquired a majority stake in NetSeT Global Solutions. The acquisition of the company, a developer of identity management systems, strengthens Veridos’ position as a full-service provider of integrated identity solutions.

The Serbian company NetSeT specializes in the development of complex information systems for the management of citizen data and information security. Veridos had taken a minority stake in NetSeT in 2017. Now the company has increased its shares and will integrate NetSeT into the Veridos Group.

Veridos and NetSeT have been working together for 20 years, the companies say. In joint projects, the companies co-operated in providing the ID system for northern Macedonia, ePassport systems for Bangladesh, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates, and a driver’s license system for Uganda, among others.

“We warmly welcome NetSeT to our group of companies,” explains Marc-Julian Siewert, CEO of Veridos. “With this acquisition, we are expanding our position as a provider of holistic identity solutions to cover the entire value chain; from citizen registration to the creation and personalization of ID documents and the management of citizen data to document verification.”

Zoran Savic, CEO, co-owner and founder of NetSeT Global Solutions, added, “Our collaboration with Veridos is a great success story. It has provided NetSeT with access to global markets and the opportunity for sustainable growth. We are very excited to continue this success story as part of the Veridos Group.”

Secretary Buttigieg Urges Congress to Pass Legislation to Ensure Fee-Free Family Seating for Parents

Secretary Buttigieg Urges Congress to Pass Legislation to Ensure Fee-Free Family Seating for Parents

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to the U.S. Congress proposing legislation for Congress to pass that would guarantee that young kids can sit next to their parents without getting charged a junk fee. If passed, this legislation would ensure fee-free family seating on all U.S. airlines. President Biden called for Congress to pass legislation to ban these junk fees in the State of the Union.

This letter comes on the heels of DOT unveiling a new family seating dashboard that highlighted the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating and those that do not. As recently as a month ago, no U.S. airlines guaranteed fee-free family seating. Now, after weeks of USDOT and the Biden Administration pressing airlines to improve their customer service, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines have stepped forward to guarantee that parents can sit with their young children without having to pay extra.

While this represents progress, the USDOT says it is not stopping there. Secretary Buttigieg is calling on Congress to act. Further, USDOT has also begun work on a rulemaking to ensure a young child is able to sit adjacent to an accompanying adult. Because the rulemaking process can be lengthy, the President and DOT are calling on Congress to do this immediately.

Smiths Detection Furthers Open Architecture Acceleration with SeeTrue

Smiths Detection Furthers Open Architecture Acceleration with SeeTrue

Smiths Detection is collaborating with SeeTrue, a supplier of artificial intelligence threat detection software, to integrate its threat products with Smiths Detection’s leading X-ray screening equipment.

The move is part of Smiths Detection’s ongoing Ada Initiative that seeks to accelerate the adoption of open architecture (OA) across aviation, ports and borders, defense and urban security. Hardware, software and algorithms from different product suppliers can be plugged together using OA, enhancing security outcomes.

Currently, Smiths Detection offers a variety of automatic threat detection algorithms that can be integrated into its X-ray screening equipment and recognizes that with an increasing choice of digital technology partners, customers should have the assurance that third-party technologies operate seamlessly with our own devices.

“By collaborating with partners such as SeeTrue through our open architecture initiative, we’re able to offer our customers a greater choice of solutions that have the potential to enhance their security systems and capabilities,” said Cymoril Metivier, global director digital at Smiths Detection.

Assaf Frenkel, co-founder and CEO of SeeTrue, said: “SeeTrue is excited to partner with Smiths Detection, which has one of the largest footprints for security screening technology worldwide. Open architecture is vital in the transition to CT. This partnership gives customers the freedom of choice in detection software, X-Ray and CT machines.”

Atlanta Hartsfield Intl. Holds News Conference Highlighting Focus on Human Trafficking

Atlanta Hartsfield Intl. Holds News Conference Highlighting Focus on Human Trafficking

On Jan. 31, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hosted a news conference with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, local law enforcement officials, the UPS Foundation and youthSpark, an organization that works with vulnerable children, to highlight ways to intervene in human trafficking within the aviation industry.

Smart Travel Experiment at King Khalid International Airport

Smart Travel Experiment at King Khalid International Airport

The Riyadh Airports Company has also implemented the Smart Travel Journey experiment at King Khalid International Airport where passengers will be recognized by their digital faceprint without the need for the boarding pass.

The SITA Smart Path solution enables efficient biometric enrollment, as passengers will become their own boarding passes just by looking at SITA FacePod’s camera. The passenger’s face becomes their boarding pass.

The airport hopes the SITA-assisted aircraft boarding will reduce the boarding time by at least 20%, in addition to speeding up the process and maximizing security.

The airport considers this an important step to convert the Riyadh airport into a smart airport and maximize customer satisfaction.

Airports Team Up with SITA and NEC for Biometric Passenger Journey

Airports Team Up with SITA and NEC for Biometric Passenger Journey

Beginning this year, passengers traveling through Frankfurt Airport (Fraport) will be able to scan their faces at biometric touchpoints across the airport. This solution will be rolled out and available to all interested airlines at the airport.

The implementation will see additional biometric touchpoints installed by spring 2023. From enrollment at a kiosk or counter, to pre-security automated gates and self-boarding gates, passengers can use biometric technology to pass through each stage of the journey by simply scanning their face.

SITA calls the project “groundbreaking” in the development of digital travel by providing a true common-use biometric platform at all Fraport terminals, open to all airlines operating at the airport. It combines day of travel enrollment, Star Alliance Biometrics and additional biometric hubs under the umbrella of the SITA Smart Path platform.

For Lufthansa passengers specifically, thanks to the integration of SITA Smart Path with Star Alliance Biometrics, the technology makes use of the biometric identities of Lufthansa passengers enrolled on Star Alliance’s platform, enabling seamless identification of passengers without additional process steps across multiple participating airports and airlines.

This implementation plays a key part in paving the way for the rollout of biometrics across Star Alliance’s global network, as it endeavors to have more of its 26 member carriers using biometric technology progressively. Key learnings from the Fraport project will be considered for further implementations across the network.

The NEC I:Delight digital identity management platform, which is fully integrated with SITA Smart Path, ranked number one several times as the world’s most accurate face recognition technology in vendor tests conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It allows passengers who have opted to use the service to be identified quickly and accurately, even on the move. Passengers who do not wish to use the solution can check in using a traditional check-in counter.

“Emerging from the pandemic, passengers are embracing technology to boost efficiency and place them in control of their travel,” said Dr. Pierre Dominique Prümm, member of the executive board and executive director aviation and infrastructure, Fraport. “We are extremely excited to be able to transform the experience for all our passengers across all terminals and carriers with one simple, intuitive solution. We also value that SITA and NEC’s innovative technology allows our infrastructure to be truly future proof, with the capacity to grow with us as industry demands and travel patterns shift.”

Jason Van Sice, vice president for NEC Advanced Recognition Systems added, “We have a wealth of experience combining our technical know-how with SITA’s understanding of the air transport industry. We are proud to be upgrading Lufthansa and Fraport customers’ experience with next-generation biometric technology, and we applaud Star Alliance’s initiative to bring these benefits to its broader network.”

Chinese Airports/Airlines Invest in Passenger Experience as Travel Recovery Continues

Chinese Airports/Airlines Invest in Passenger Experience as Travel Recovery Continues

With the continued easing of travel restrictions, China is now gearing up for a strong post-pandemic recovery of air travel. To facilitate this recovery and power the continued growth of China’s significant domestic air travel market, the region’s airlines and airports are investing heavily in IT to streamline the passenger experience and fortify operations against disruption. This is according to SITA’s recently published 2022 Air Transport IT Insights report, which shows all of China’s leading airlines and 86% of airports expect their IT spend to remain the same or increase from 2022 to 2023.

Automating the Full Passenger Journey

SITA’s report says leading Chinese airports and airlines are investing heavily in IT across all aspects of the passenger journey, digitalizing the journey to run smoothly even with less staff support. The report says all of the region’s leading airlines intend to upgrade their core passenger management systems by 2025, with 90% also investing in self-service and touchless solutions.

China’s airports are ahead of the global curve on self-service implementation, with 80% to 100% having already implemented self-service technology across check-in, bag drop, bag tag and boarding. Touchless solutions and mobile applications for digital passenger services are also top areas of investment for 92% of airports, to further support convenience for passengers while freeing up staff to focus on other operational priorities.

Biometric identity management is a developing priority, with investment particularly in the use of biometric-powered e-gates at the border control and boarding stages. A full three-quarters of Chinese airports plan a single secure biometric token across all touchpoints by 2025, well ahead of the global average of 53%.

“It is exciting to see China embrace a return to international travel with the relaxation of border restrictions,” Sumesh Patel, president, Asia Pacific, SITA, said. “Many Chinese airports and airlines are embracing technology to quickly ramp up their passenger operations, with a commitment to digitalizing the passenger journey. In particular, the country’s airlines and airports have prioritized a single secure biometric token across all passenger touchpoints, suggesting more airports in the region will follow the example of pioneering end-to-end biometric implementations such as that of Beijing Capital Intl. Airport.”

Keeping Stakeholders Informed

Veridos is set to unveil its new security features specifically targeting the transparent window areas on ID documents: Amber ID, Diamond ID and Spectre ID.

While the trend in recent years has been to use transparent elements on polycarbonate ID documents, Veridos says it aims to further enhance these security features by adding more complexity. The goal is to produce documents that are easy to verify and at the same time difficult to duplicate. With the aim of protecting ID documents against counterfeiting, Amber ID, Diamond ID and Spectre ID are the latest in a long list of new techniques and technologies developed by Veridos in the field of document security.

Amber ID appears as a metallic, optically variable window with a positive-brilliant photo of the document owner. When backlit, the window with the motif becomes almost transparent, while in front light it looks like a golden metal leaf that turns green depending on the viewing angle. As the pigments are integrated and not printed, it is the ideal solution for a brilliant personalization in a transparent window.

The Diamond ID feature helps to unambiguously verify questionable documents. It is fully transparent in daylight, while it glows brilliant white under UV light in synergies with laser engraving, thanks to special smart colour technology developed in collaboration with C.S.T (Crime Science Technology).

Spectre ID, on the other hand, is a further development of Veridos’ Magic ID feature, which sets static images in motion. When the card is tilted, the images appear to move. Thanks to Spectre ID, this effect can now also be applied to the transparent window areas of cards and data pages in combination with the repeated holder’s image.

As the latest generation of transparent security elements, the new functions embody an evolution for ID documents. A modular system makes it possible to combine these functions. This also applies to Veridos’ “Look ID” feature, the transparent stripe, spanning the entire data page, which is used in the current passport of Latvia for example.

Thanks to the variety of options for securing transparent windows and the built-in technologies, document forgery becomes more difficult and its detection easier. Veridos’ use of polycarbonate ensures complete fusion of the plastic layers in each card, making it very difficult to manipulate materials or security attributes without leaving visible traces.

“With our new security features, we are armed with a whole range of countermeasures to address the threat of counterfeit identity documents,” explains Andreas Kuba, global vice president identity documents at Veridos. “In that way, we are helping to limit identity theft and also responding to the market demand for innovative security features for transparent elements of polycarbonte ID cards and passport data pages. In addition to pioneering new technologies for forgery-proof documents, we are focusing on their quick and easy implementation.”

U.S., Swedish, Finnish Militaries Join Forces to Defend Cyber Domain

U.S., Swedish, Finnish Militaries Join Forces to Defend Cyber Domain

In February, American military cyberspace experts joined forces with Swedish and Finnish counterparts Feb. 6-10 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as part of a cyberspace-technical exchange to improve partner-nation capacity in conducting defensive cyberspace operations.

The 41 military experts conducted four days of intensive trilateral information sharing at the Tacet Venari cyber range at Ramstein. Akin to operational ranges where aircraft and artillery crews test their equipment and crew capabilities, this world-class cyber range is a controlled virtual environment in which offense and defense practitioners can safely exercise tactics, techniques and procedures.

“This isn’t just about building awareness on resources and vulnerabilities,” said U.S. Army Maj. Andrew Cahan, a defensive cyberspace operations planner assigned to U.S. European Command’s Cyberspace Operations Division. “Exchanges like this give us an opportunity to build and maintain strong working relationships with our partners in Finland and Sweden.”

Hosted jointly by USEUCOM’s Cyberspace Operations Division and the Command’s Cyber Security Cooperation Branch, military cyber experts from U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF), Defense Information Services Agency Europe, and USEUCOM’s Cyber Analytics cell joined Finnish and Swedish military officials to discuss best practices for network-based threat hunt tactics. Network-based hunt operations detect malicious cyber activity on U.S. and partner networks and generate insights that help bolster defense and increase the resilience of shared networks from cyber threats.

“It’s not just about securing your networks, you have to be able to actively defend them,” said Finnish Defense Forces Maj. Mikko Tuomi, a cyber-defense expert. “Engagements like this allow us to share best practices and know-how to repel versatile cyber threats.”

The event provided an opportunity for participants to cover various open-source intelligence tools and resources to enrich data for network hunt operations and overall improve cyberspace defense efforts. The trilateral exchange featured a combination of round table discussions and briefings, along with technical demonstrations from USAREUR-AF’s military cyber specialists and Finland C5 Agency’s Cyber Defense teams.

“The more we collectively share with one another, the more effective we will be in deterring adversaries from attacking our systems and defending against potential cyberattacks,” said Swedish Armed Forces Col. Thomas Höglund, deputy director Cyberdefense.

While Finland and Sweden await NATO membership, the U.S. has worked to increase defense capabilities with both nations to improve standardization and enhance interoperability across domains.

Flight Attendant Security Training in Focus

Flight Attendant Security Training in Focus

As the role of the commercial flight attendant grows ever more important in ensuring the protection of passengers, both in-person and emerging technologies will play a role in their training.

Last year was the second most disruptive with regards to unruly U.S. airline passengers since the FAA started tracking data in the mid-1990s, with 2,456 unruly passenger reports and 831 investigations initiated in 2022. These totals are second only to the year that preceded it, which saw the all-time high of 1,099 investigations initiated during 2021 at the height of the pandemic.

The Transportation Security Administration Crew Member Self Defense Training Program provides four hours of training to prepare active crew members of all domestic scheduled carriers for potential physical altercations both on and off the aircraft. Stock imageof self defense training below.
The Transportation Security Administration Crew Member Self Defense Training Program provides four hours of training to prepare active crew members of all domestic scheduled carriers for potential physical altercations both on and off the aircraft. Stock image
of self defense training below.

Airline flight attendants have often borne the brunt of such bad behavior by passengers, which can include both verbal and physical abuse. Although the number of unruly passenger incidents dropped and leveled off following the end of the U.S. mask mandate on May 3, 2022, staying at or under the weekly average of 2.4 incidents per week for the remainder of that year, violent incidents by passengers have still been frequent enough to cause continuing concern among flight crews and the flying public.

Currently, commercial flight attendants can access in-person training from regulatory agencies, their employers and training vendors to learn how to protect themselves and passengers during these kinds of disruptive events. However, emerging technologies such as virtual reality and the metaverse are also expected to provide exciting new opportunities for learning and skill-building in the future, by making training more engaging and accessible for airline cabin crew members, as well as other airport employees, than ever before.

Existing Security Training Options

According to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, the ability of flight attendants to de-escalate and handle unruly passengers has been crucial to ensuring the protection of passengers and the crew members themselves. The AFA strongly encourages flight attendants to participate in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Crew Member Self Defense (CMSD) Training program, a four-hour performance-based training program tailored to airline crew members with little or no experience in self-defense techniques.

2021 saw an all-time high of 1,099 investigations of disruptive and unruly passengers which was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shown here police are escorting unruly passengers off of an EasyJet flight. SWNS image.
2021 saw an all-time high of 1,099 investigations of disruptive and unruly passengers which was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shown here police are escorting unruly passengers off of an EasyJet flight. SWNS image.

Attended voluntarily on the crew member’s own time, the program teaches the basic fundamentals of self-defense, which include stance and movement techniques, target areas of the body, personal and field-expedient weapons that might be utilized during an encounter, power-generating techniques, and mindset, i.e., mental preparation for a confrontation. The training also includes various upper and lower body strikes, how to protect against strikes being thrown by using blocks and cover techniques, and how to defend against any hand-held weapons that could be brought aboard an aircraft.

“Participants are not expected to master these techniques in this short period of time, but instead provide themselves with the mindset and self-confidence to deal with an unexpected situation,” said Max Weitzner, a spokesperson for the TSA.

The TSA is always looking to update techniques and procedures for its CMSD training program, and the agency also has worked to make this training more accessible to the crew member community by locating training sites near major airports, according to Weitzner. “From the four locations where CMSD training was initially launched, the program has expanded to include 19 sites nationwide. Since TSA launched the CMSD training program in 2004, over 26,000 crew members have received this training,” he said.

“In the last few years, many airlines have requested the TSA CMSD training program for their new hire candidates at their training facilities. To date, we have multiple airlines that have instituted the TSA CMSD training program into their initial training,” he said. “Through classes like these, we are able to share our skills and experience with our aviation counterparts. This partnership and what we are teaching today strengthens the overall transportation security posture.”

United Airlines recently opened and expanded a newly renovated in-flight training center in Houston, Texas. The $32 million expansion project doubled the size of the facility and features more classroom and training spaces, cabin and door trainers and a state-of-the-art aquatic center to practice safe evacuation of the plane in unlikely water landings. The airline is on track to hire 4,000 flight attendants in 2023. United Airlines image.

Aside from TSA training options, airlines can also provide their own customized training on how flight attendants should address incidents with disruptive passengers, and these courses have traditionally been conducted in person. For example, Delta Air Lines provides a rigorous six-week program incorporating both classroom and hands-on training, which addresses not only unruly passengers but anything that can happen during flight, including turbulence, medical emergencies and emergency landings.

Inflight Institute offers a course called “Interference with Crew Member Training” and says the interactive course provides the information needed to deal with unruly passengers and help avoid a potentially explosive situation. Inflight Institute image.
Inflight Institute offers a course called “Interference with Crew Member Training” and says the interactive course provides the information needed to deal with unruly passengers and help avoid a potentially explosive situation. Inflight Institute image.

Additionally, airline training schools such as Canada-based Inflight Institute offer virtual course options to ensure that flight attendant training is available to workers worldwide, regardless of where they live or might travel.

“Cabin crew traditionally are very authentic and helpful people, but there are stress levels with that job, and not only the normal day-to-day ones, but also all number of things that can affect the performance of the crew,” said Inflight Institute president, Ivan Noel.

“Our training gives flight attendants the tools in their toolbox to have empathy and understanding,” he said. “They have a job to do, and if they have tools to do that, it’s impactful for the entire journey of the passenger. Whatever they can do to reduce stress points throughout the journey will help in the reduction of onboard incidences of disruption.”

Noel believes that one of the most important outcomes of training is ensuring the health and well-being of the crew. “That’s where our next greatest focus is, because then we can make sure that everybody’s on the same page, everyone is operating at their highest efficiency. And that well-being of the crew makes a fundamental difference in aviation security, as well,” he said.

Realistic, Interactive Virtual Training

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic was perhaps an ideal time for companies across industries to shift and invest in virtual training as a way to keep employee skills sharp during a period of extended downtime. Unfortunately, training programs were one of the first things to go when the virus hit, with many organizations cutting training budgets in the face of layoffs and other industry disruptions.

Nevertheless, the pandemic was still a time of innovation for many companies working to bring training improvements to the aviation industry, according to Grigorii Rodionov, co-founder and CEO of Netherlands-based AVIAR.

AVIAR bills itself as the world’s first virtual reality (VR) platform for the training of air transportation industry specialists. The company was founded on the belief that VR would provide an opportunity to create new and innovative training simulations for roles in aviation — such as flight attendants — that didn’t already have access to traditional flight simulator training like pilots did, Rodionov said.

After demonstrating a proof of concept at an IATA meeting in 2018 to a positive industry reception, AVIAR first began to develop virtual reality products for aviation professionals in two main areas, airline cabin crew training and ground operations training, with plans to also add airport and airline security training, pilot training and MRO training.

Rodionov suggests that VR software has the ability to serve as an effective and accessible resource for airlines and other aviation companies based anywhere in the world to use for both training support and internal certification. The company currently is developing customized solutions for several clients and working in a “mutual effort” with them to pursue regulatory certifications from EASA, he said.

“Airlines can use this virtual reality software as an additional training tool to increase the knowledge retention of flight attendants and reduce the number of fails during the certification process in specialized training centers. You’ll have better prepared trainees before the real exam,” he said.

Virtual reality training software like AVIAR’s differs in a few ways from the traditional video-based offerings available to professionals. The AVIAR platform offers a fully immersive, hyper-realistic, interactive training experience that places the user directly into the story and gives them agency, so they are making real-time decisions that immediately impact the direction and outcome of the narrative. Users wear VR headsets and gear that helps put them into the mindset of the story and engage with it as a character in the story.

“It’s an absolutely different type of media. You’re not an observer, or a spectator; you’re the person who lives in this situation or scenario. You’re the active person,” Rodionov said.

“The closer the simulation is to the real-life experience, the better the training process,” he continued. “We pay a lot of attention to such details, putting a lot of effort into realistic graphics and realistic interactions. But it’s not just about lifelike visuals, it’s about everything, including how the equipment responds. About how, if you do something wrong, what could happen next, what you will see next, and how you will feel.”

In support of its marketing to younger aviation professionals, AVIAR recently released a consumer version of its professional VR training software on the online gaming platform Steam. Rodionov described the gamification of industry outreach as being essential to future efforts in recruiting the next generation of aviation talent to the industry.

AVIAR offers a specialized virtual reality platform for the training and practice of air transportation industry specialists such as flight attendants. Their hyper-realistic interactive training modules can also be customized. AVIAR image.
AVIAR offers a specialized virtual reality platform for the training and practice of air transportation industry specialists such as flight attendants. Their hyper-realistic interactive training modules can also be customized. AVIAR image.

“We have to deal with a different generation of people who really perceive things in a different way,” he said. “By offering VR scenarios, we can let young people try out different roles and understand what it’s all about. It’s very important to engage them emotionally as early as possible and give them a better understanding of the environment in which they’ll be working.”

Metaverse Bringing Deeper Immersion

As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, commercial flying is at the center of the transformation of travel, and companies worldwide are investing in the digitization of their products and services as never before. Following this trend, some airlines are exploring the use of the much-hyped metaverse to train their cabin crew and other staff members.

For example, Dubai-based Emirates last October announced that it plans to train thousands of new cabin crew in the metaverse in a shift away from in-person classroom training.

While separate from existing virtual reality technology, the metaverse is a still-nascent platform that comprises both VR and augmented reality (AR) technology to fuse together real and virtual worlds, offering deeper immersion than what VR alone can provide.

The reason the metaverse is so appealing as a digital experience and training platform right now is because airline customers and workers have new expectations when they travel, said Kuravilla Mathew, metaverse expert and chief innovation architect at UST, a digital transformation solutions provider.

“The world has definitely changed in the past two years,” said Mathew. “How do we provide a good digital ecosystem that supports the employees and gives the customers better service at the end of the day? We are looking for the travel experience to be as seamless and frictionless as possible, which puts a lot of stress on agents in the airport, airport staff, ground crews, airline crews — all of them have to do their job, which is now transformed.”

Since 2021, UST has partnered with a major U.S. airline to develop immersive digital experiences in the metaverse with the goal of improving the quality of the airline’s training and travel experiences.

In the UST-airline metaverse scenarios under development, trainees can access the experience from anywhere via different devices, including desktop, mobile and headset, but Mathew notes that the device used to access the metaverse is less important to the experience than the immersion.

“Immersion is the ability for you to get engaged in content that is so compelling, that you are drawn into the story and you are actually in the story. When you get immersed at that level, the ability for you to connect with things is huge,” he said.

“From a training perspective, you’re presented with scenarios that could be from first-, second-, or third-person perspectives, but you’re making all the choices. You’re immersed in a scenario, and you’re being presented with some sort of dilemma and you have to address it. It takes you down one path versus another and the story evolves. It’s your engagement that customizes the training experience based on the choices you make,” he said.

Mathew notes that when building metaverse training modules for any company, regardless of industry, designers ideally should begin their work with the organization’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). Those building the metaverse first need to identify what are the company’s processes for being in compliance and other requirements, in order to effectively visualize and build out specific scenarios that will fuel the digital experiences.

“Whenever you are in an immersive experience, it is very visceral,” he explained. “It connects you to that world. You can see the kinds of problems that are around you, and then you can connect the dots. And then you say that, okay, these are solutions that we can solve for.”

When UST first started on this airline project, its team went to the airport to study and understand the issues to be addressed in the metaverse context. From there, “we created a technical specification. We created graphic novels and a diorama that tells the human side of the story. When you tell the human side of the story, then what you build for is more fine-tuned and accurate,” Mathew said.

UST uses an empathy-first design approach to ensure that its digital experiences are relevant, powerful and memorable for trainees who need to retain important information and lessons learned. “One of the things that we are looking at in building this is going with an empathy-first approach, meaning let’s understand what people go through in these scenarios. Let’s not build a digital solution that doesn’t connect with people or doesn’t solve a problem,” Mathew said.

“UST always has been looking at what can we do for people,” he said. “How can we transform their experience? How can we make their lives better? That comes with empathy-first design, and really focusing on empathy and not just on usability and building a beautiful-looking user interface. Instead, let’s build a solution that’s going to help transform their lives.”

Through a Scanner Darkly: Body Scanning in Airport Security

Through a Scanner Darkly: Body Scanning in Airport Security

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been hugely disruptive to travel and other global industries over the past three years, it has taken place during a period of technological advancement and societal change touching all aspects of daily life. As air travelers have gradually returned to the skies in ever-increasing numbers, commercial aviation passengers now have higher expectations for their travel experience than ever before – including the airport security experience.

Since the introduction of the first backscatter x-ray body screener in the 1990s, and especially following the events of 9/11 when countries drastically overhauled their airport security procedures, body scanning machines have evolved significantly in a relatively short period of time. These tools have not been without controversy at times, sparked by passengers seeking greater privacy and fair practices during the screening process, but today’s machines are designed to mitigate such concerns.

As this technology continues to move forward in leaps and bounds to speed up scanning times, increase detection abilities and improve the passenger experience, some countries are now adopting the latest solution for safeguarding people and planes at airport facilities, in the form of millimeter wave imaging using advanced imaging technology (AIT).

According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), AIT safely screens passengers without physical contact for both metallic and non-metallic threats that may be concealed under a passenger’s clothing. Today’s AIT offers threat detection software and algorithms that can detect explosives, weapons and dangerous items, and display markers on a generic human-like representative figure on a screen to show where threats are located without exposing the details of passengers’ bodies and unnecessarily invading their privacy.

Leidos scan

Airport Body Scanners: An Overview

Full-body scanner technologies used for airport security around the world fall into three main categories: x-ray, millimeter wave and infra-red. These security tools can detect concealed objects without requiring physical contact or clothing removal.

The first body scanners developed for airport security were backscatter x-ray machines, which emit low levels of electromagnetic ionizing radiation, or low-energy x-rays, that bounce off the surface of the skin and are reflected back to the machine to detect and generate a photographic image of concealed objects. This type of x-ray scanner is still used by airports worldwide. By contrast, transmission x-ray scanners use higher dosages of radiation that pass directly through the body before being captured by detectors, providing the ability to detect objects inside body cavities, but these machines are virtually unheard of for airport use these days and more typically used by correctional institutions.

Millimeter wave body scanners use non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation in the form of low-energy, high-frequency radio waves to send energy across scanned surfaces, which reflect off the surface of the skin to be interpreted by the machine and reveal objects hidden on a body. These scanners detect threats by using one or more antennas that move around a person’s body to construct a 3D image.

Backscatter x-ray and millimeter wave machines today are the two main airport body scanner categories in use globally, but some airports are now also using infra-red thermal conductivity body scanners as a supplemental solution to identify people with elevated temperatures, as well as hidden objects.

Infra-red scanners don’t use electromagnetic radiation but instead use temperature differences on a surface to detect the objects and measure the thermal energy, or heat, emitted by a person. By flagging potentially ill individuals who have a fever, this technology became more widely adopted in some countries during the COVID pandemic when airport staff needed to quickly identify anyone spreading infection within the airport, but according to industry experts, they are not likely to replace the other two categories of scanner at airports anytime soon.

Notably, North America and Europe have largely discontinued use of backscatter x-ray units at their airports in favor of millimeter wave scanners that offer the very latest advanced imaging technology. In fact, the TSA currently has approved only two millimeter wave AIT airport scanner providers for all U.S. airports to meet its congressionally mandated automated threat detection requirements: Leidos and Rohde & Schwarz.

Rohde & Schwarz image
Rohde & Schwarz image

Scanning Solutions on the Horizon

Leidos’ flagship millimeter wave body scanner, Pro:Vision, was first in the industry over 20 years ago, and they currently have over 2,600 systems deployed worldwide.

“Airports choose Pro:Vision because of its high threat detection capabilities, low false alarm rates, image-free scanning, small footprint, ease-of-use for both passengers and operators, and TSA and EU ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference) certifications,” said Brad Buswell, senior vice president and operations manager at Leidos. “Our systems support high throughput needs, up to 300 passengers per hour, per system.”

In February 2023, Leidos announced the TSA awarded it a contract to upgrade the agency’s full fleet of Pro:Vision AIT systems used at airport checkpoints with a new AI-based algorithm. This upgrade will impact more than 1,000 Pro:Vision AIT systems across the U.S. and help strengthen U.S. airport security with an improved threat detection methodology that will significantly reduce false alarms, which lead to unnecessary pat-downs and checkpoint inefficiencies.

Known as the Pro:Vision 3, Leidos’ new system will be commercially released this summer. “The Pro:Vision 3 has a new antenna design, improved radio frequency boards and deep-learning AI-based algorithms to increase threat detection, reduce processing time and achieve throughput rates above 400 people per hour, per system,” Buswell said, noting the upgraded system also will give passengers a more comfortable arms-down pose during the fast-screening process.

Rohde & Schwarz’s R&S QPS201 AIT system achieved TSA Qualified Products List status for the first time in mid-2022, having already been approved for use by ECAC. Currently, QPS201 passenger screening machines are being used in several U.S. international airports, including Denver (DEN), LaGuardia (LGA) and Las Vegas McCarran (LAS). Outside the U.S., more than 1,000 QPS201 units are deployed in more than 100 of the world’s busiest airports.

“The unique design and servicing capability enable several feet in reduced lane space required for passenger screening,” said Luke Olsen, business development manager for emerging technologies at Rohde & Schwarz, of the QPS201. “Faster scanning and processing speed, and lower false alarm rate enables substantial increase in footfall traffic in on-person body scanning.” The QPS201 is also wide enough to meet ADA requirements, enabling the elimination of the need for an additional ADA gate for each lane, he said.

Rohde & Schwarz image
Rohde & Schwarz image

Additionally, Rohde & Schwarz’s R&S QPS Walk2000 has recently been introduced to the North American market as a walk-through body scanning solution that allows airport staff to keep their shoes, jackets, outer coats, and hats on while walking at a normal pace through the system. The machine is capable of finding items that would not be found by a metal detector, while reducing the delays of employees performing daily job functions, according to the company.

“Both our R&S QPS201 and R&S QPS Walk2000 technologies are based on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and deep learning detection algorithms to allow them to be trained and tailored to meet the specific and emerging threat needs of our customers,” Olsen said.

woman walking airport scanner

Meeting Today’s Security Challenges

North American and European airports are using these millimeter wave scanners with advanced imaging technology to address many security challenges – some evergreen and others more specific to our current moment as the airline travel industry continues to emerge from the pandemic.

For example, like many industries worldwide, one of the biggest challenges facing the airport security sector today is hiring qualified professionals to ensure adequate staffing levels after several years of layoffs, retirements caused by generational turnover and other employment disruptions.

“Post-COVID, airports are struggling to re-hire and retain security operators,” said Buswell. “To uphold security screening processes with low staff numbers, airports are seeking automated body scanning technologies to reduce manual intervention at checkpoints. This keeps passenger throughput high while maximizing the security posture.”

Olsen likewise notes that a pressing challenge for airport security is to increase passenger capacity and throughput to meet the predicted growth in air travel in the coming years. “This goes hand-in-hand with a reduction in divestment requirements for passengers, including the ability to keep shoes, coats and belts on to reduce re-composure time after being screened,” he said.

Travelers also have higher expectations than ever before for the passenger experience, and for how digital solutions can be used to support it.

The latest millimeter wave body scanners now feature intelligent technology designed to deliver faster scans and more accurate results, leading to fewer physical pat-downs, so airport security needs are met and the passenger experience feels less invasive overall. Scanners are also moving to a more comfortable hands-down pose during the scanning process, with the QPS201 already offering that feature, and Pro:Vision adding it soon.

Because airports are continually challenged with emerging threats, it’s vital that they have body scanner technologies that can evolve and scale as needs change, Buswell said. “Systems that leverage AI and ML methodologies, with regular algorithm and software updates, are best suited to this challenge.”

Leidos’ latest Pro:Vision body scanner uses AI and ML techniques “to provide higher detection while also reducing the false positives,” Buswell said. “For the traveling public, this has reduced the wait time at security checkpoints and the number of pat-downs, while also improving the security of our transportation systems.”

Additionally, “body scanners must provide the highest level of threat detection, support high-throughput rates, be easy to operate, and non-intrusive for passengers,” Buswell said. “When any of these attributes are missed, the impact to a security checkpoint can be detrimental, resulting in a poor experience for travelers.”

A promising advancement in body scanning technology is the ability to have gender-neutral algorithms, a feature of Rohde & Schwarz’s R&S QPS201 passenger screening system. The company designed the system’s detection algorithm so that it doesn’t distinguish between anatomical differences of different genders, Olsen said.

In situations where a person’s physical anatomy doesn’t match their outward appearance, a security challenge has been to develop body scanning software capable of scanning those people accurately and minimizing false alarms. “The transgender community has had a horrific experience going through airport security for the last many years because of the way software was designed,” said Olsen, noting that many passengers in those situations have felt discriminated against when being singled out by the machines.

However, for the newest generation of body scanners, “one of the great things about machine learning is that we can train the software to understand that humans can have different physical features based on height, weight, gender, or other characteristics, so the system learns to never use those as discriminating factors in terms of how it detects explosives and guns,” Olsen said.

Olson said near-term and ongoing enhancements to AI and ML algorithms are also improving the screening process by allowing passengers to keep their religious and cultural dress and headwear on, as well as jackets, belts, and most types of shoes, and achieving the goal of reducing alarm rates for these clothing items.

The R&S QPS201 system is Rohde & Schwarz’s third generation system, a phased array scanner capable of gathering a large amount of data with each scan that results in higher definition images than ever before. High image quality is important when using intelligent algorithms, Olsen said, because “having a better image means that the system can more effectively identify and detect potential threats.”


As new weapons evolve over time, the scanning software can be taught to recognize new types of physical objects potentially being carried by passengers by adding new scans to the existing library of images, which helps it quickly develop an understanding of new threats.

Looking ahead, body scanners will likely be doing more with integration of third-party provider solutions. For example, Rohde & Schwarz is engaged with global regulators on open-architecture algorithms to enable the hosting of third-party enhanced detection algorithms to operate on qualified platforms. “This enables the power of industry to continue to improve platform detection without compromising the baseline qualified product performance,” Olsen said.