Last updated: 10:04 AM ET, Tue April 05 2016

TSA Makes It Rain $336K On Random Number Technology

Travel Technology | Gabe Zaldivar | April 05, 2016

TSA Makes It Rain $336K On Random Number Technology

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The TSA, in its infinite wisdom, reportedly paid over $300,000 for technology that randomizes numbers.

That is as best we can do to gussy up that fact.

The Next Web’s Owen Williams discovered an intriguing tidbit behind that innovation that came to light last year – one that allows TSA officials the ability to corral travelers based on a set of random numbers.

This random process then procures a right or left arrow informing the TSA security official where to place a line of presumably impatient travelers.

Thanks to some informational spelunking from Shyp’s Kevin Burke we now know how much that kind of tech runs on the market.

Burke applied for a release that would illustrate how much that grandiose innovation cost government officials, and the total came to $336,414.59. And for that money, you would think it would have produced a giant sign that would have negated the need for a TSA agent delivering superfluous directions.

For those wanting to conjure random number at home, there is a free app called, appropriately, Random Number Generator, which is free. You may also have a 20-sided die laying around if you grew up on Dungeons & Dragons.

But more power to IBM, which reportedly won the contract to provide a service that essentially lets TSA officials place travelers in seemingly arbitrary lines without the hindrance of human bias.

And before we continue, we do have to say that there is an obvious need that is echoed in the report.

There are those sinister parties that look for patterns in security protocol at airports around the world. The more security can infuse a level of uncertainty, the better as it becomes at making it increasingly difficult to plan horrendous terrorist attacks.

That said, it’s pretty darn remarkable that a massive sum was paid to produce an innovation one would think is a fairly simple process. We welcome thoughts from any software engineers who might have more educated opinions to the counter.

Bloomberg Businessweek unveiled the app last May and explained it as thus: “To clear waiting lines more quickly, the Transportation Security Administration uses a ‘randomizer’ app at about 100 U.S. airports to sort which travelers get directed into the PreCheck lane, the one where you don’t need to doff your shoes, belt and jacket.”

It’s nice to know that in some airports, the random security checks are indeed random, powered by technology valued in the hundreds of thousands.

And it’s valuable to have some sense of transparency for TSA’s protocol, which is constantly the subject for umbrage for frustrated travelers.

However, we have to think drawing random numbers from a hat would be a little cheaper.


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