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Security tech firms look abroad for gains

As demand for security technology – from metal detectors to imaging scanners – has grown, the companies that produce and operate it have seen a boom in business.

But the surge may be ebbing in the United States, and these companies say they’re increasingly looking abroad to sell their technology as well as seeking ways to improve existing systems to deal with travelers’ most common request: Make the screening process faster.

Take Rapiscan Systems, based in Torrance, Calif. The company produces a range of security technology, including the baggage scanners used by the Transportation Security Administration.

After years of growth – the business went from $121 million in sales in 2003 to nearly $400 million in 2012 – Kant said there are fewer opportunities for new work in the United States, particularly in defense.

So Rapiscan is increasingly moving into services work, through which it can help users operate their systems more efficiently. In Mexico, for example, Rapiscan has 750 employees working at checkpoints equipped with the company’s scanners, he said.

Both Rapiscan and Smiths Detection, a subsidiary of the British company Smiths Group that sells products ranging from X-ray baggage scanners to systems to detect radiation, are also looking to improve their products.

This month, Smiths Detection announced that its new explosive-detection system, which focuses on high-speed screening of checked baggage, has received TSA certification. The belt moves at 98 feet a minute, allowing it to screen up to 1,800 bags an hour, according to the company, which has its U.S. headquarters in the Maryland Western Shore community of Edgewood.