Known for its incredible ingenuity and technology-focused institutions, Silicon Valley--a region in southern San Francisco Bay Area of California--is home to numerous start-up and global technology companies--Apple, Google, Facebook, NASA Ames Research Center, Chegg, Netflix, etc.--and is one of the wealthiest area in the United States. Due to their incredible reputation, various high-authority corporations team up with the experts of Silicon Valley to help in research and development. This even includes the Transportation Security Administration! Just recently, TSA has enlisted the help of Silicon Valley to assist them in the development of new screening technology.

Is New Technology on the Way for TSA?

The Department of Homeland Security’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program might be lending its innovative ideas to help TSA develop new programs for bag screening. Under the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), officials are searching for different companies to submit pitches on different techniques to “automatically classify the contents of a passenger’s bag in such a way ‘that can support future algorithm development for explosives and/or prohibited item threats’” (source). Currently, they are looking at companies with 200 employees or less who haven’t had a government contract exceeding $1 million in the past year. In a press release, William N. Bryan, the undersecretary for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, explains, “This solicitation allows us to create a partnership between TSA and the nation’s innovators to develop revolutionary technology solutions to keep this country and our people safe.”

The Need For Advanced and Adaptable Tech

Currently, it’s a priority for TSA agents to implement a new screening technology that can do the following: recognize, interpret, and adapt to changes in certain objects and materials that comprise a passenger’s personal property. Additionally, TSA and SVIP are specifically looking for solutions that can be easily installed into the existing security screening machines, while providing an increase in user experience. Ultimately, the goal is to create an innovative screening technology that will easily identify the contents of a passenger’s bag, while maintaining--even accelerating--security lines. If qualified, companies have the ability to receive as much as $800,000 in funding.

TSA Administrator, David Pekoske, speaks out on this new venture. He states, “TSA is excited to partner with the Silicon Valley Innovation Program for the first time and engage with the startup company. The current threat environment requires a proactive and agile agency that coordinates closely with partners in government and industry. This is the key to identifying the very best ideas for increasing security while easing the passenger experience.” This is the very first time TSA and SVIP are partnering together to create a brand new screening technology and the result is sure to be incredibly ingenious. Currently, TSA and the Silicon Valley Innovation Program are accepting applications on a rolling basis. There are four quarterly deadlines to have proposals/prototypes submitted by--the first is July 13, 2018, and the last on April 17th, 2019. In due time, it will be interesting to see what innovative technology TSA and SVIP come up with to improve the screening process of airport passenger bags.