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Even as the weather gets cooler, travelers will still be hitting the airways for vacations and visits to friends and families. Thankfully, eye tracking technology is making strides to keep us safer as we fly. According to FCW, a publication covering the federal technology and business sectors, eye tracking technology can provide insight that could lead to safer airports.


Top federal research lab Sandia recently harvested airport security checkpoint imaging data from the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) routine operations and used it to study ways of improving TSA’s performance.


In the first phase of the study, Sandia researchers focused on how transportation security officers (TSOs) screen passenger baggage at hundreds of airport security checkpoints. The research focused on threat detection efficiency, specifically whether there was an impact on TSO’s thought processes while working in Pre-Check lanes. These lanes allow pre-screened passengers to pass through security more quickly. Sandia wanted to know if expectations affect decision-making once passengers were allowed to move through these Pre-Check lanes. The goal, of course, is to make the security process as efficient and quick as possible – while still conducting thorough security checks.


Sandia realizes that, when humans and computers work so closely to achieve large goals such as airport safety, both the computers and the people need to be studied – especially how they work in tandem. To this end, Sandia employs not only engineering and IT specialists to conduct its studies, but also researchers with expertise in neuroscience and cognitive psychology.


According to Sandia researcher Ann Speed, “More and more around the labs, people are starting to realize that the human element can be just as important as the hardware, software or engineering.”


The next phase of Sandia’s TSA research will include eye tracking technology to study how TSOs physically view X-ray images at security checkpoints. Researchers will focus on where the TSOs are looking as well as how long they look at each area.
Image credit: “Airport” by Sean MacEntee is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit