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Avoiding Inappropriate Contact via the iPhone

The TSA gets into the Mobile App Game.

Travel Advisory!

The holiday season has been marked by:

  • Airports inundated with travelers heading to “Grandma’s” house.
  • Over indulgence at the Thanksgiving feast.
  • The eve of the Christmas shopping frenzy.

Oh, and yes, Dallas Cowboys fans are thankful for losing close this year. That’s some good progress and exercise in humility for the ‘boys. I’m not bitter for them firing Tom Landry a couple of decades ago. Really, I’m not.

What makes this year’s Thanksgiving season a bit different is the uproar around the new “x-ray” machines at many of the nation’s airports — and the consequences of saying, “no thanks” to the nude picture booth.

The ‘net is full of stories about travelers’ experience with the machines and the “pat-downs” that may accompany them. I will leave it to others to comment on whether this is a good or bad thing other than to say that despite the aggressive stance taken by the TSA, they have not left us entirely empty-handed in the middle of all of this excitement.

It turns out that in addition to hi-tech x-ray machines and low-tech latex gloves, the TSA is also now in the “app” business. That’s right: “TSA — there’s an App for That”.

My TSA

While reading about one of my fellow citizen’s run-in with the TSA a few days ago, I came across a link to the TSA’s iPhone application. All kidding aside, it’s actually somewhat useful and represents a good use for mobile technology.

Here is a quick pat-down of the app’s features:

We’ll start with the FAA-provided airport status updates. This “status” does not include actual flight data but rather passenger traffic volumes, ground-traffic congestion, general delays, etc. The “Map View” is pretty cool, though probably a bit over the top because unless you work for the FAA, you are likely not interested in seeing all the dots on the map at once. The color coding scheme ranges from green, which means delays from 0-15 minutes up to red which means delays of more than 90 minutes or even black, which represents an airport closure.

Map view of Airport Status
Map view of Airport Status

Users of the application can specify their time spent waiting to go through the various security apparatus at a particular airport terminal.

Pick a terminal
Pick a terminal

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

In a forward-looking move on the part of the TSA, they put the “comments” feature deep beneath the About screen rather then directly next to the Wait time entries!

Feedback!
Feedback!

The app does prompt you for permission to read your location directly from the phone.

Trust me?
Trust me?

Hmm, do we trust them with this info?

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