Philly’s Airport Rolling Out TSA Wait Time Screens Across Terminals

July 12, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Flashy, big dollar video walls and experiential installations at renovated airports tend to get the attention of industry writers and observers, and that makes sense, but there is a whole subset of very pedestrian – even boring – deployments that are just as important to making passenger experiences enjoyable. Like TSA screening status boards at Philadelphia’s main airport.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) has now wrapped up the second phase of its Queue Management System – which uses sensors and algorithms to provide real-time updates on expected wait times to get processed through the security checkpoints. The first wave of the screen program was started as a pilot in Nov. 2021 and now it has been expanded.

“The pilot program gave us an opportunity to understand the system and review how it interacted with passenger volume and what passengers thought of the tool,” says PHL Chief Information Officer Allen Mehta. “We learned that knowing how long it would take to get through the checkpoint reduced passengers’ anxiety. We’re happy to now complete the QMS installation throughout all of our checkpoints.” 

From the airport’s website:

QMS SignageDigital displays in ticketing and along the approach to the security checkpoint from all points of entry let PHL passengers know exactly how long it will take to get through the checkpoint. Passengers can decide if they will have time to relax and grab a bite to eat or shop before their flights, or, if they are arriving close to boarding time, seek assistance or an alternate security checkpoint with shorter lines.

PHL selected LiveReach Media’s (LRM) platform for its QMS program. The system uses a fusion of sensors placed strategically from the start of the security queue through the entire screening process to measure passenger dwell time. The data is fed to digital displays at key locations in the airport and to PHL’s website. Information is updated every 30 seconds based on the current checkpoint status.  

There are 12 monitors in place at Terminals A-East and A-West, along with the nine previously installed at Terminal D/E. Installation of QMS monitors at PHL’s Terminal B and C checkpoints is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

I like the ambitious, experience-driven installations that seem to be supplanting or at least complementing the grand-scale public artworks that have long been part of airport renos and new builds, but the benefits tend to be super-soft – like making passengers excited about travel.

That’s fine, but airports can also do a lot for travelers by just helping them find their way around, and easing common worries like missing originating or connecting flights. I want to know where I need to go, how long processes like screening will take, what stays on me and in bags and what needs to be in a screening bin, where are the washrooms and, if the planets align, the location of a too-frequent flyer lounge I have access to.

The sort of thing PHL is doing is pretty easy to do, as machine learning-based pattern detection is common, and analyzing line-up lengths is easy to pull off (relatively speaking). The security camera by the screen is very probably the source for the video stream used to estimate people counts and wait times, as one of the attributes vendor LiveReach talks about is the ability to do their thing using existing camera systems.


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