TSA on the Job: Innovation Task Force Manager

Monday, July 10, 2017
Mara Winn

As a branch manager with TSA’s Innovation Task Force, I work with a great team to identify security challenges at an airport or transportation hub. We take our findings to our industry partners and ask what they can create to address these challenges. We then work closely with them to test, refine, analyze, and eventually deploy new technologies.

These innovations improve the passenger experience, but more importantly, also enhance our security efforts. For example, there are more than 65 automated screening lanes currently deployed at five airports across the nation. The lanes feature multiple divesting stations for a better travel experience, and automated bin return and bag diversion features that allow our officers to concentrate strictly on security – it’s a “win” for everyone.

In developing new technologies, the passenger is always kept in mind. Travelers are from all walks of life, with different needs, shapes and sizes. Getting our technologies from our state-of-the art testing facility into our airports for demonstrations is critical in helping us collect real-world data on how passengers interact with the technology.

These demonstrations also help us identify efficiencies. A great example of this is the Biometric Authentication Technology pilot. Biometric authentication technology reads a passenger’s fingerprints as a way to authenticate their identity and also serves as their boarding pass. In our findings we realized that one of the systems works better when sunlight isn’t shining on it. This seemingly little piece of data can go a long way in improving this system and hopefully be deployed to airports in the near future.

In addition, we are also working on bringing Computed Tomography to the checkpoint. This technology has been used in checked baggage screening for years, where the large size and loud noise of the machines do not impact the traveler. The challenge lies in bringing the same 3D security capability to the checkpoint in a smaller and quieter system. We are currently testing these units in Phoenix and soon, in Boston, and are working with our partners to integrate CT and other technologies into our airports.

Next time you fly, you might see us testing new technology at the airport, and I hope that you will participate to help us towards creating new solutions in aviation security. I take pride in helping ensure our nation’s airports have the most efficient and effective technologies so that every day Americans can get to their destination with peace of mind.

Mara Winn

Innovation Task Force Branch Manager

Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis

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