Israel-based security firm X-Test thinks that mice may be better suited for contraband sniffing at airport security checkpoints than dogs--and much better at detecting explosives than humans. Mice have a keen sense of smell and are easy to train—groups can be taught all at one time by a machine—making them perfect candidates for an airport process in dire need of greater accuracy. The biggest hope is that a switch like this could help detect explosives that have been implanted in the body, something that has been difficult to detect in the past.
The idea—which was first introduced in 2012 at the International Conference on Homeland Security in Tel Aviv—is that the trained mice are conditioned to react when they sense contraband, sending info to a computer that alerts the security team. Don't worry, the furry animals wouldn't be running freely over your bags. The firm's idea has the mice doing their jobs from the safety of a cage.
X-Test's Vice President, Yuval Amsterdam—also a former bomb-disposal expert for the Israel Defense Forces—has big hopes for this innovation: "We can teach them anything that has a scent—whether it's explosives, whether it's dugs, whether's it's ivory in Africa. Anything that has a smell." Could this help lift the TSA out of its very public internal investigation failure? Only mice will tell. Currently, there are no airports looking into utilizing these small-but-mighty sniffers.
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.