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New Smart Tech At Pittsburgh International Airport Allows Customers To Pick Best Way Through Security

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's summertime, and a record nine million passengers are moving through Pittsburgh International Airport.

So maybe it's no surprise that the wait to go through that TSA security check line seems longer than ever.

"This is my first time going through the Pittsburgh line, and this is a lot longer than I anticipated ever," said Mark Guzman of Seattle as he waited in line.

Sometimes it seems like those lines to get through those TSA checkpoints go on forever, but now the airport has the ability to figure out exactly how much time it takes to go through those lines.

The question is, is that really helpful when you still have to go through it?

After viewing a new screen at the airport that posts the wait-time to go through the TSA screening, most customers say yes.

"There's a lot of anxiety associated with air travel and we're anxious right now to check our bags and get on time, so when you see this, it looks like it's helpful," says Bob Concilus of Squirrel Hill.

The real-time wait-time calculation is the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off called Zensors.

"Here at the airport we have deployed cameras and our artificial intelligence network to basically see and count the number of people in line at the TSA and convert that to an estimated wait time, which then gets broadcast out on the airport website and on the displays here," Chip Homer, head of solutions at Zensors, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

The cameras are strategically located, and on the basis of the number of TSA agents working and the number of customers in line, the wait time is calculated and posted on-line and around the airport for the main customer line, the TSA-Pre line, and the first-class line.

"Pittsburgh is a leader in robotics and AI and that should be reflected here at the airport, so for us, it's a no brainer to bring this type of technology in, and this is only the beginning," says Bob Kerlik, spokesperson for the Airport Authority. "We want to see more of it. We signed a memorandum of understanding with Carnegie Mellon University with the goal of becoming the smartest airport in the world. So Pittsburgh is a world leader in artificial intelligence. We're working with CMU on a number of projects."

The wait-times are updated every few minutes, but as seasoned travelers know, TSA lines depend on the airport.

"We're flying home to Denver and the Denver lines are way longer than here, so this line is fine," said Christy Henry of Denver.

That's good news to Pittsburgh International Airport as it continues to upgrade its smart technology.

"We're applying some really, really cutting edge technology," said Zensors' Homer.

Homer says with the use of cameras and artificial intelligence software, it can compute the wait time pretty accurately.

"We apply mathematical functions based on the number of people in line, as well as the flow of people coming and entering the line, people exiting the line, and we convert that into a really, really accurate estimated wait. We're accurate generally within two minutes plus or minus of our estimate," Homer said.

Right now, the Airport Authority is only posting the wait time in the main checkpoint, but soon, hopefully in the next week or so, they're going to have the alternate checkpoint under camera.

That will give the customer the ability to choose which line is shorter to go through.

"We'll be adding the alternate security checkpoint so as a passenger when you walk in you can look at live wait times and decide, I should go to the main line or I should scoot on over to alternate security," said Homer.

The airport authority says it's all part of making the airport experience less stressful.

"It eases the stress for the traveler, right. So when they get here, they can see, hey, my flight's in an hour, the line is 15 minutes. I have plenty of time," added Kerlik.

This is only the start.

Next, the airport is also looking to measure wait times at those airline ticketing counters.

"We want to be the smartest airport in the world," Kerlik said.

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