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New body scanners coming to Chicago's O'Hare airport

Posting in Technology

A new type of body scanners will arrive at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in January, promising faster lines and a more generic image of passengers as they pass through the machines.

They are officially called millimeter wave body-imaging devices, and 29 of them will replace the 23 backscatter X-ray machines that many have criticized for being too revealing. Those machines were installed in 2010.

Jon Hilkevitch has the story for the Chicago Tribune:

There are several advantages to the new generation screening technology, although both methods screen passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats including weapons and explosives concealed under clothing, without making physical contact, officials said.

The older backscatter devices raised privacy concerns because the contours and folds of each individual's body are displayed on a screen inside a locked booth where a TSA officer scans the image for possible hidden weapons or explosives. The image is deleted once the passenger is cleared, officials said.

The 29 new machines at O'Hare are equipped with "automated target recognition" software that detects any possible threats under a passenger's clothing by displaying a generic outline that is identical for all passengers, on a monitor in the imaging portal that the passenger can see, officials said.

Despite the new technology, passengers will still have to remove shoes, belts, jewelry, shoes and pocket objects -- putting into question the claim that lines will speed up. The machines can screen a person in 10 seconds, faster than the minute duration of scans by the previous machines.

Photo: Chad Kainz/Flickr

— By on October 23, 2012, 12:26 AM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure