Fix This: How Koniku and Thruvision Aim to Alleviate Airport Security Bottlenecks


Image: Marcelo Cáceres

Sometimes it takes an outsider to pinpoint a pain point in an industry that’s set in its ways. In this segment of “Fix This,” we look at how two startups, Koniku and Thruvision, are working to address a perennial air travel problem: security checkpoints that lead to airport bottlenecks.

Global IT provider SITA found that 42 percent of airports (up from 31 percent in 2017) now have wait-time monitoring in place to help address long lines and manage rising passenger numbers. But with air travel still on the rise, security bottlenecks at airport checkpoints remain a source of stress for travelers. 

For now, dogs and machines still scan for explosives at airports, but science fiction-sounding Koniku makes a microchip that can smell traces of explosives, much like airport security canine teams are trained to do. The device, which fuses live neurons taken from animal stem cells with silicon, has received positive response from key stakeholders, Koniku founder Oshiorenoya Agabi says.

“You can’t have 500 or 5,000€¯dogs in an airport,” Agabi says, “but in chip format, you can essentially scatter it around, and suddenly you have an airport where you don’t have to wait in long lines.”

“You can essentially scatter the microchips around, and suddenly you have an airport where you don’t have to wait in long lines.” €” Oshiorenoya Agabi, Koniku

And already in use in the customs area of some Asian airports to detect smuggled items, Thruvision’s passive terahertz imaging technology, which can screen small groups of travelers from up to 25 feet away, is now being tested in the US by the TSA as a possible complement to existing checkpoint screening processes.

“The technology differs quite a bit from what most passengers are used to seeing in airports,” Kevin Gramer, vice-president of Thruvision Americas, says. “It’s like a camera with a sensor that measures the thermal energy coming from the body.”

No anatomical details are revealed with Thruvision’s technology, nor is there any radiation emitted. “People can be screened safely and efficiently,” Gramer says, “and we can detect more items than what’s normally seen by a metal detector.”

“Fix This” was originally published in the 9.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.