Zen and the Art of Security

“Relaxation” and “airport security” aren’t terms that normally go hand in hand. But the folks at IDEO, Silicon Valley’s favorite design shop, are trying to make passenger screening a blissful experience. The idea? If normal travelers feel less stressed, it will help Transportation Safety Administration suss out fidgeting, nervous bad guys.

IDEO and the TSA last year teamed up to create an anxiety-free security zone at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Fliers are treated to ambient sounds, soothing murals, and blue lighting. A special IDEO-designed training program helps security officers give off a calming vibe.

And the spa-ification of airport security continues: Indianapolis International Airport now is adopting parts of IDEO’s scheme. But some authorities are skeptical, because of both the cost of outfitting all 450 of the nation’s airports and the lack of much evidence that “Zen security” actually works. “Is this security,” asks safety expert P.J. Crowley, “or security theater?”

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