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X-ray Body Scanners Arriving at Airports

Radiation dosage is minimal in backscatter detection system

3 min read

2 March 2010—In the wake of the attempted bombing of an airplane flying into Detroit last Christmas Day, more U.S. airline passengers can expect to encounter an alternative to the traditional metal detector at security checkpoints. The U.S. Congress has appropriated funds to install 450 full-body scanners that rely on X-ray backscatter to detect objects hidden under clothing. The first units are set to be installed this month.

The technology is not particularly new, says Joe Reiss, vice president of marketing at American Science and Engineering (AS&E), in Billerica, Mass., which manufactures SmartCheck X-ray backscatter scanners. The company started marketing X-ray scanners in the 1980s to screen baggage. More recently, its personnel scanners have been used at high-security sites such as military installations.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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