Here’s a guest post on airport security and innovation from Basil Papadales, an innovation expert who has served as an R&D manager in government and industry. Basil writes:
As the Thanksgiving airport crunch approaches, the news media is reporting increasing airline passenger frustration with newly instituted airport security measures that include full-body scanners and rather thorough security pat-downs. Politicians have framed the issue as privacy versus security, suggesting that Americans who are against scanners and pat-downs are pro-terrorism.
But these are not the only two choices, if we are willing to reframe the issue as one of innovation—not government innovation, but private sector innovation on a grand scale. One possibility is an X-Prize-like competition where a significant cash prize is awarded for the best solution suggested in the next 90 days. Another possibility is an open innovation (or crowdsourced) project, where people can contribute ideas to achieve a common goal. NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have recently begun these kinds of projects. There are certainly other possibilities that exploit America’s innovative strengths.
Skeptics might ask if the private sector finds a workable solution, can industry quickly ramp up for mass production? Shouldn’t we at least try? What a wonderful way to put more Americans to work in high tech jobs.
A more important question is: would TSA accept it? The Washington Post just reported that scientists offered a solution to this problem in 2006 and were turned down by TSA. Despite the best intentions of the leadership in Department of Homeland Security and TSA, the reality is these are big bureaucracies—the kind of organizations that typically don’t encourage and embrace innovation. Maybe the White House and Congress could help with that.
This holiday season we will suffer with long lines and intrusive security measures. But if we encourage innovation, maybe it will be our last.