Escalators as Security Scanners

You’re riding up to the concourse anyway — why not let the escalator take some of the trouble out of flying?

For anyone who’s ever been annoyed or bewildered by the security-check process at airports — a demographic that includes virtually everyone who flies — inventors Charles Bombardier and Ashish Thulkar have a solution that will guide travelers through the process quickly, easily and without a second thought. They call it the Aerochk, a security scanning system mounted on an escalator that checks person, passport and carry-on simultaneously.

Passport, person and luggage enter the scanners simultaneously, keeping all three tagged together in the system.

The system, featured in online magazine Yanko Design, allows travelers to ride up to the gate concourse next to their luggage and passports, which ride on separate conveyors. All reach the top at the same time, squared away and ready to board. Now, if these guys would only turn their attention to the Department of Motor Vehicles and supermarket checkouts …

When travelers reach the top, it’s simply a matter or picking up their passports, grabbing their bags and heading to the gate.

Escalators Under Control, But Can the Robocop use them?

Easily getting the escalators to move in just one direction was just one of many high-tech aids on display at an event at Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport last month, CNA reported. Using more than 5,000 sensors, more than 700 closed-circuit TVs and more than 200 mobile devices, the Mozart security platform from Certis makes it all possible. Data from 12 different systems is integrated and analyzed and enables officers to make quick decisions in situations like crowd control and other security situations.

“I think the escalators (are) an interesting point, because nobody expected the crowd watching the (light) show to be so (big). . . . That kind of analytics help us make sure that you got no choice but to make both escalators go up during those timings,” Certis Senior Vice President and head of Certis Aviation Security Benny Lim said of them. He added that, once the crowds have thinned, the escalators are switched back to travel in alternate directions.

But, this feature is far from all the security suite offers. The “PETER” robot, dubbed a “Robocop,” is also on the prowl for parking violators:

Smithsonian.com Explores the “Strange World That is the Escalator”

Detail from Jesse Reno’s 1902 patent for the “Inclined Elevator”; U.S. Patent 708,663 via Smithsonian.com

Smithsonian.com recently explored the “strange world that is the escalator” in “How the Escalator Forever Changed Our Sense of Space.” The piece takes readers through the early history of the invention, from a never-realized 1859 patent for “revolving stairs,” to Jesse Reno’s mechanical escalator that debuted to awestruck crowds in Coney Island, New York, to the piece of machinery most similar to the escalator of today — conceived by Charles Seeberger around the same time as Reno’s invention and acquired and marketed by Otis. The escalator stole the spotlight at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and quickly proved transformative to retail, the workplace and public transportation.

Of the Paris Expo, Smithsonian observed:

“Organizers and government officials were concerned how this exposition would make its mark — after the introduction of the Eiffel Tower at the fair in 1889, how could the [fair] 11 years later complete? Officials entertained many bizarre proposals, many of which involved alterations of the Eiffel Tower itself including the potential additions of clocks, sphinxes, terrestrial globes, and a 450-ft. statue of a woman with eyes made from powerful searchlights to scan the 562-acre fairgrounds.” It ended up, however, that the escalator “shone brightest” at the expo, winning Grand Prize and a Gold Metal for its “unique and functional design”

Otis trademarked the name “escalator,” but, like cellophane, kitty litter and aspirin, the term became so ubiquitous that competitor Haughton — since acquired by Schindler — successfully petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark. Today, Otis and Schindler continue to be major players in a world in which the number of escalators doubles every 10 years.

thyssenkrupp escalator installation in Germany; photo courtesy of thyssenkrupp