TSA finds app success in being responsive and playful
Public-facing mobile apps made by federal agencies do well when they adapt to public usage and when they add a little fun, said Lynn Dean, senior advisor to the deputy administrator at the Transportation Security Administration.
Dean, the project lead for the "MyTSA" smartphone app, told the audience at a Feb. 7 ACT-IAC conference that the TSA's best mobile successes have come from when it reacted to what consumers did with its app.
The "MyTSA" app allows customers to check if items can be brought on planes and Dean said that the app will become more helpful once it expanded its database to include brand names of products, because users are more likely to search if "Crest" is prohibited instead of "toothpaste."
There are plans to continually update the app with database improvements and new features "because air travel is impacted by other things, such as how a massive snowstorm in Denver can wreak havoc in airports that have no snowstorm," she said. This is why the app has added real-time updates for checkpoint conditions, airport delays and weather information.
Some of this information comes from TSA while other data was added through APIs published by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Dean also said a good sense of humor with the app has also allowed it to give consumers more information. When someone checks to see if they can bring a bomb on board a plane, the app says "Not permitted. You didn't really want to know if you could bring a bomb on a plane," but then offers a series of packing tips on how to get through security checkpoints faster.
Dean said the agency collects no data on who is using the app or where, but notes that it does often see searches in rapid succession once users search for an item that has a comic response.