Synapse Technology Corporation: Using AI to Take a Good Look at Airport Security

By Kathryn Shaw , Ian Cinnamon, James Jedras
2021 | Case No. E763 | Length 11 pgs.

Could AI-based X-ray scanning platform make flying safer? Airport security officers had just seconds to decide if someone’s luggage contained a knife, gun, explosive, or other potential safety threat, and the human eye was not designed to focus for hours on a scanning screen. This case study describes the founding and early years of Synapse Technology, which aimed to improve airport security performance by leveraging advances in computer vision to detect these types of threats with far greater accuracy.

The company set out to develop the AI solution they believed would work, building an AI model and then feeding it training data on which types of weapons and other items to flag as a threat, as passengers’ luggage went through the screening process. The case study explores the technical as well as entrepreneurial challenges in this new AI frontier, including locating a real-world test venue, and then determining how to measure and explain the return on investment to potential clients.

Learning Objective

Students will explore the unknowns that come with new technology and ground-breaking attempts to trial and prove new applications. Students also discuss the company’s steps to establish the full value of a new product, and how the company might decide where to expand next.
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