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Behind-the-scenes look at new security technology at Salt Lake City International Airport

Posted at 10:10 AM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 15:32:09-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks is just a few days away.

It also marks a pivotal moment in history that prompted the formation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) two months later.

Since then, the TSA has evolved with changing times, including the utilization of automated technology that the federal agency uses to keep passengers safe.

The Salt Lake City International Airport’s Checked Baggage Inspection System (CBIS) began screening traveler’s luggage in Sept. 2020. Baggage is transported from the ticket counter to the plane through a series of automated conveyor belts.

The CBIS has six integrated Explosive Detection System (EDS) units that create a 3-D X-ray image of what’s inside each checked bag.

Each day, around 13,000 bags are screened at the airport.

“If the technology flags a security threat, the image generated pops up on screen. A TSA agent has a finite amount of time to look at that image to determine if they can resolve that threat on screen,” said TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers.

If the issue can’t be resolved, the luggage is flagged to be physically inspected.

Dankers says their agents open less than five percent of bags, with technology clearing the rest.

“What we’ve been able to do is integrate technology into our processes that help with the efficiency. We’ve modified our procedures to make them relevant to today’s environment,” Dankers explained.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, she said the procedures involve integrating technology that reduces physical contact between travelers and TSA officers. An example of that can be seen right now for those flying through Salt Lake City.

This summer, TSA implemented the Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) unit, which is a facial verification system that helps an officer's ability to authenticate a traveler’s photo ID on-screen and in real-time.

“It scans somebody’s photo ID, but it also has a camera with it to take a live photo of the traveler to do a facial recognition match,” said Dankers.

She adds that TSA does not store the photos captured by the CAT unit and passengers can opt out of it.

Salt Lake City International Airport is one of a handful of airports nationwide that uses CAT. Dankers said the TSA selected the airport because it met certain criteria including size, infrastructure, location, and the airport’s willingness to implement the technology. Therefore, it’s likely more state-of-the-art technology will be featured at SLC in the future.