Synapse Technology
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Synapse Technology

Fig. 1: An airport security screener analyzing X-rays of passenger baggage.

Airport screeners missed at least three firearms in 2018: Why AI can help.

The Very Human Limitations Of Security Screeners

  • Time constraints
  • Distractions and divided attention
  • A long (and growing) prohibited items list
  • Mental fatigue
  • Low frequency with which dangerous items appear
  • Low motivation and emotional exhaustion

Time Constraints

Fig. 2: Sample X-rays of baggage. There are two firearms and three knives in this image set. In security X-rays metallic objects show up as blue and organic objects like clothes show up as orange. Everything else takes on a greenish color in the middle. Denser objects are more opaque.

Divided attention

Fig. 3: An X-ray screener watching the monitors.

A long prohibited items list

Fig. 4: An example of a subset of prohibited items from a 2013 TSA list.

Mental fatigue

Fig. 5: Exponential performance decline with increasing time. It’s hard to find another task where human performance drops off so steeply. From: Meuter, Renata & Lacherez, Philippe. (2015). When and Why Threats Go Undetected: Impacts of Event Rate and Shift Length on Threat Detection Accuracy During Airport Baggage Screening. Human factors. 58. 10.1177/0018720815616306.

Low frequency of dangerous items (sporadicity)

Fig. 6: Can you find Waldo? What if I told you that there was a 0.1% chance he was even in this image at all? (This Image is from a blog post on using computer vision to find Waldo.)

Motivation (or lack thereof)



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Bruno B. Ferrari Faviero

Co-Founder and COO of Synapse Technology, investment partner at Graduate Fund. MIT ’15.