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Five Factors to Improve Today’s Physical Security Screening Experience

Blog Post
3 Minute Read

Chris McLaughlin
Vice President, Global Solutions
See Bio


Publish date

Sep 10, 2018

Security screening technology is often measured by three factors – detection, alarm rates and throughput. At the macro level, these three metrics give a broad sense of whether or not a device will improve an overall security process. However, these three pieces don’t tell the whole story. Two other factors, closely tied to throughput, flesh out the overall security trade space. They are “touch rate” and “divestiture.”

  • The traditional factors – detection, alarm rates and throughput.
  • The five “must consider” factors – detection, alarm rates and throughput, along with touch rate and divestiture.

Only when the entire set of factors is considered as a whole, can the effectiveness and efficiency of the device be evaluated. In today’s world where physical security screening has become the “norm” in more and more of the places we gather, the latter two factors become increasingly important — to find a purpose-built device and the right process.

The age-old adage “there are two sides to every coin” speaks volumes. While “throughput” is important to security operators, it’s the combination of throughput, touch rate, and divestiture that matters to your customer.

With this is mind, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created the TSA Precheck Program, the focus was specifically on two things beyond detection: 1) touching people less and 2) letting them leave everyday items on or in their pockets and in bags. While “throughput” wasn’t the central tenant of the program, it was believed that doing the first two things for a growing population of travelers would ultimately speed up throughput for all travelers.

When the program was created its authors wondered whether these two things would be material enough to make a difference in the physical screening experience. More than half a decade later, there is a clear differentiation between the highly customer-focused TSA Precheck practice and “regular” screening, underscoring the point that customers place high value on an improved experience.

Customer experience matters.

Not all customer environments will be the same; each will have slightly different objectives. Some will be in high threat locations; others will not. Regardless of the customer or their venue, the following things will always ring true. First, your physical screening system must detect threats at a high level and with limited alarms. Second, your physical screening system must do this in a way that keeps people moving, minimizes physical touching and allows them to walk at their pace without losing control of their belongings. Finally, in a world of limited or shrinking budgets, your system must be able to deliver efficiencies – either in terms of hard budget savings or repurposed security resources.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s possible that you’re implementing a comprehensive security screening solution for the first time. Or, perhaps, you’ve already implemented something in response to growing threats over the past decade. In either case, I encourage you not to start at square one. Why not learn from the organization that has been the face of post 9-11 security for almost two decades? Certainly, the TSA has made mistakes. And, thankfully, they have also made significant advances. You can learn from both, and you don’t have to spend a decade to do it.

Consider the five factors discussed above and evaluate your overall security process through a customer lens. Is the technology in your current process, or the one you are considering, purpose built to meet today’s security concerns while also preserving the culture, look, and feel of your venue? If it isn’t, you have options. There will always be two sides to this coin, but there are ways to ensure that both shine for decades to come. Contact us to find out how.

Note: To underscore the importance of the customer experience, I highlighted the tangible changes to TSA Precheck screening. It’s important to acknowledge the foundation of the program is built on the concepts of trust and access, and the public’s willingness to share personal information for the benefit of this streamlined screening experience.

Chris McLaughlin
Vice President, Global Solutions
See Bio