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LOD, Israel (Reuters) - Israel has introduced a step-on scanner that spares airline travelers the nuisance of having to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed for hidden weapons, though the new device cannot yet sniff out explosives.
Only the shoes of passengers deemed suspicious by Ben-Gurion Airport staff are removed, X-rayed and swabbed for bomb residues. Most people can now keep their shoes on.
Installed next to the walk-through scanners at Ben-Gurion, "MagShoe" announces within two seconds whether the footwear of the passenger standing on it contains unusual metal that might be a knife for a hijacking or a bomb detonator part.
"This innovation brings enormous logistical value as it significantly cuts down the discomfort and delays associated with standard shoe searches," said Nissim Ben-Ezra, security technologies manager for Israel's Airports Authority.
But he said MagShoe must be used in conjunction with other precautions, especially as it would not spot hidden explosives -- a major concern after the botched 2001 "shoe bombing" by al Qaeda sympathizer Richard Reid aboard a Paris-Miami flight.
A bomb-sniffing version of the suitcase-sized MagShoe is in the works, an Israeli security source said. The current version, produced by Israeli firm Ido Security Ltd., costs about $5,000.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is assessing MagShoe's feasibility for American airports and several other countries have expressed an interest, the Israeli source said.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland