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January 18, 2013

TSA Removing the Remaining OSI System Scanners from Airports

By Michael Guta, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Going to airports at one point in time used to be an enjoyable experience, something families and friends did together to bid someone they cared about a farewell. Those days, however, are long gone. Now  airports  are  scenes of never ending security rituals we must all endure if we want to fly. Although we understand the job the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing, they are the last people we want to see before we board an airplane, especially when the technology they use to perform body scans are unnecessarily revealing. So the removal of the Rapiscan machines, made by OSI Systems (News - Alert), responsible for these images comes with great relief for many travelers.

OSI Systems had several opportunities to change the software of the scanners to reduce the amount of detail the machine revealed during the scanning process, but each occasion was met with more delays from the company. The company said it might be able to finish the task by June, 2013, however, the TSA could not wait that long and it ended the $5 million contract with the company and ordered it to remove the scanners from all airports at the company’s expense.

The security agency first removed the machines from the busiest airports in the United States last year, because of all the negative press and revealing pictures that were produced by the scanners. At that time, a total of 76 machines were removed and the 174 remaining scanners will now be removed by the company.

The TSA will be using machines made by L-3 Communications (News - Alert), which has a total of 60 machines at the moment in airports around the country. An additional 60 machines will be purchased from the company in January and February of this year.

 The L-3 machines use a millimeter-wave technology with radio frequency to find metallic and non-metallic objects on a person. On the other hand, the Rapiscan uses low-dose X-ray radiation called backscatter technology, which allows it to find objects beneath clothing. During this process, the image that is revealed is more illuminating than most people would like to show for security purposes.

The Rapiscan has received a lot of negative attention from privacy advocates since it was first installed in airports around the country. The agency was pressured into moving the screens with the images into to separate rooms, but that didn’t quell the fire. The final solution was the removal of the machines.

OSI Systems wants to make it clear that the removal of the machines is not because they were ineffective. As a matter of fact the machines were very effective, but they are being removed because there is a congressional mandate to remove them.

The TSA is always looking for the next generation of scanners that will provide more accurate readings, while protecting the health and privacy of the passenger, as well as their patience before they board their flight.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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