As much of a disorganized hassle as the Transportation Security Administration appears to be to the casual traveler, it’s actually fairly savvy on social media. With its brilliant Instagram feed—a stream of the innumerate guns, knives and illegal substances that don’t make it through airport security—the government’s transit authority proves it knows to use the Internet to its advantage on a daily basis.
Now the TSA is taking its online engagement one step further to address the main area most public observers agree needs improvement—customer service. The administration quietly launched a crowdsourcing competition last week to better organize its airport security lines, promising $15,000 to the innovator who can remodel its preflight chaos.
The campaign, billed as the “Next Generation Checkpoint Queue Design Model,” calls for smart people to do the TSA’s dirty work. The administration is on the hunt for science- and math-based models that better move travelers through security—through its “expedited screening” line for low-risk passengers in particular. “Current queue layouts at TSA Pre✓ airports will need to adapt to support the increasing population of TSA Pre✓ passengers,” reads the campaign, taking place on the crowdsourcing platform Innocentive.
As FastCompany notes, this TSA program is swelling in size. Some 400,000 candidates have filled out an online application and joined since December, allowing them to pass through security with their shoes on and laptops packed. The “Next Generation” campaign seeks a model that will ensure a wait time of five minutes or less for these fliers and 10 minutes or less for standard travelers—lofty goals, if laudable.
Unlike NASA’s crowdsourcing of the latest in spacesuit design, the TSA promises no “guaranteed award.” Such incitements tend to draw a large general audience, and most Americans probably aren’t qualified to employ advanced math and data modeling to transform the airport experiences of some 1.8 million daily fliers. Sorry, guys. As of last Friday, only 70 problem solvers had signed on for the challenge.
But don’t let the TSA’s high ambitions stop you. If you’re looking to supplement your salary and feeling savvy, head to Innocentive before Aug. 15, when the campaign officially closes. We believe in you.