The TSA gets into the Mobile App Game.
Of course, for those of us who have been traveling for years, we’re pretty accustomed to answering questions like, “Did you pack your own bags”? And, “Have your bags been in your possession since the beginning of time” and other tricky questions to amuse the would-be trouble-maker. However, thanks to the TSA app, we can now ask the questions that have long nagged us — the app has a feature called “Can I Bring…”. As in, “can I bring my xyz through the security checkpoint?” So for all of those questions that would land you in jail if you were to ask them while in line, you can ask to your heart’s content via your mobile phone.
For fun, I entered in “Sword”.
How about one of these?
As it turns out, the app recognizes three types of swords: the antique sword, the toy sword, and of course, the plain old sword.
None of these qualify as a carry-on, but they can be checked with the general luggage. Good to know.
Sorry, no toys allowed!
Of course, what if we don’t know what paperwork we need to bring to the airport? Or how about just how much shampoo is too much? No problem, the Travel Guide is there to help!
We’re in luck — government issued passports will do the trick.
Your papers, please!
Like any application, this one has been rated. So far, it looks like it has achieved 3 out of 5 stars. In order to move the ratings closer to a perfect 5, let’s see what else we can add to the app?
How about photo integration so you can take a picture of the screeners? If you’re going to get up close and personal with someone you don’t know you could at least pick which line to go through ahead of time? I have a friend who works over at Match.com…. I wonder if they could help?
A “Bump” feature. If you enjoy your pat-down, you can Bump the agent’s iPhone and exchange contact info to help keep in touch.
Adding a Geiger counter would be good also. We’re told these machines are safe, but perhaps some sort of measurement device would put us at ease. Nothing like accountability after all.
Of course, if the radiation doesn’t do us in, the Latex gloves used during a “full pat down” may cause a problem, so a simple to use photo-analysis tool to check for “glove cleanliness” would surely be a hit. A means of testing for a Latex allergy might be helpful also.
What is an app without Twitter or Facebook capabilities? It could even be preloaded with canned status-updates. Here are a few suggestions:
- No XXX-ray for me!
- Went through security, hope I didn’t catch anything.
- Don’t touch that!
- Thank you….
- Give me liberty… or a pat down…gulp.
I’ll conclude by saying that the upcoming release of Android, aka Gingerbread, really has the TSA’s mouth watering. Why? Gingerbread is rumored to enable Near Field Communications for payment processing. Imagine the convenience of paying the $11,000 Homeland Security fine without the hassle of credit cards, checks, or even an attorney.
Oh, and of course, you might want to read the fine print in the app, too, where all the data and its use are disclaimed by the TSA.
Read the fine print
Enjoy your mobile app and, please, don’t take your freedoms lightly.
is an entrepreneur, writer and mobile software developer who probably should have been a hardware designer, but soldering got in the way. Frank's technical interests are in mobile and embedded computing. Frank is the lead author of Unlocking Android 2e
, an intermediate text on software development for the Android platform. Use coupon code linuxmag for a 30% discount.