Body scanner firm sees security worries boosting business

Tighter security at airports may be an inconvenience to passengers, but for one firm near Frankfurt, Europe's third-largest hub, it is a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.

Body scanner firm sees security worries boosting business
Photo: Smiths Detection

Smiths Detection, a Wiesbaden-based subsidiary of a British company, already holds around one-third of the global market in airport security systems and hopes that stricter controls after a number of alerts will boost this share further.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States “transformed our industry,” Bernhard Semling, the firm’s director of strategy, told AFP in an interview.

Founded in 1946 by a manufacturer of television components, the firm moved into X-ray scanners in the 1970s and is now pinning its hopes on body scanners, a technology that allows police to detect items concealed under clothing.

For Semling, Thursday’s meeting of European Union interior ministers and US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about installing such scanners at EU airports is a key moment in the development of the industry.

“For the body scanning market to take off properly, we need a legislative framework,” he said.

Washington is trying to overcome European doubts over personal privacy in a bid to increase security after a failed bid to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, an event Semling said instantly boosted demand for his products.

He also dismissed concerns about personal privacy.

“Our system does not show the body, just a video indicating suspect areas. We can also offer to blur out certain zones, such as the face,” he continued, adding that the computer can be configured to ensure, for instance, that images of women can be accessed only by female staff.

Smiths Detection exports roughly 80 percent of its products, but Semling acknowledged the potential is limited by cultural differences – for example, there is minimal demand for body scanners in the more sensitive Middle East.

In emerging markets, too, the technology is less in demand. “Countries where manpower is cheap prefer to develop body searching by hand rather than invest in technology,” he said.

Nevertheless, in the past five years, the market for airport security has enjoyed annual growth of between eight to 12 percent.

And in response to some analysts who doubt whether airports will install the body scanners, Semling said: “It is completely imaginable to sell them in private establishments.”

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Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.