Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport boasts new body scanners

3 Aug 2012

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand's premiere gateway, recently installed five new ProVision ATD (automatic target detection) body scanners, making it – what is believed to be - the first air hub in Asia to operate the devices.

These are located in various security checkpoints, including two at the east checkpoint, one at the checkpoint for domestic and international travellers and two at the new departure hall checkpoint, an airport spokesperson informed Business Traveller.

The new scanners use active millimetre wave (MMW) radio frequency technology to detect concealed objects made of any type of material, including metallic and non-metallic substances, the executive revealed. Previous technology could only spot metallic objects. It has also improved efficiency of security processing since examination requires travellers to stand still for only about two seconds.

Each body scanner can handle approximately 200 to 300 passengers per hour, Business Traveller was told.

Though the new technology penetrates clothing, the scanning process utilises an image-free approach, addressing controversial privacy concerns, according to the airport executive. This means that scanned images will not be generated for human review.

Instead, all scanned images will be solely processed by software to determine presence of threats. Should some suspicious object or material surface, the suspected body part will be highlghted to the operator using a generic mannequin that resembles the human outline.

Currently, Suvarnabhumi Airport is the only airport in Thailand that features the innovation, and airport authorities said they had no intention to install them in other terminals around the country.

The new generation body scanner technology – and all its various types and platforms – remains a topic of debate in several markets, not only because of privacy but also health issues. Late last year, the EU banned the use of "back-scatter body scanners", while further trials were being conducted to determine their safety (see here).

Manchester Airport was among the first airports in the UK to adopt the back-scatter body scanner machines and continues to use them despite the EU's hesitancy. Heathrow Airport utilises MMW, which was also chosen by Suvarnabhumi.

In the US, however, the new x-ray scanners are widely used and found in hubs such as Baltimore Washington International Airport as well as over 100 airports across the country.

In Asia, these still have to gain popularity. Both Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore Changi Airport, said through their respective spokespersons, that they have no immediate plans to introduce the technology.

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Michelle Fong

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