Technology is changing the security picture for airplane passengers.

The TSA (Federal Transportation Security Administration) reportedly will relax its rules on liquids in carry-on luggage by the third quarter of 2009. Although liquids will still need to be placed in a separate bin, the development of an advanced X-ray will enable TSA screeners to tell the difference between liquids that pose a threat and those that do not.

Further progress in the screening technology means that most if not all restrictions on liquids in carry-ons may be removed by the end of 2010.

In the meantime, one way savvy road warriors have discovered to deal with the ban on taking, say, a bottle of water is to take an empty bottle through the screening process. Once you're through security, you can fill up at a faucet or fountain. An insulated coffee mug works, too.

Of course, right now you are limited to carrying on all the three-ounce bottles of liquids, aerosols, or gels you can fit inside a 1 quart plastic bag. But once current restrictions are eased late next year, business travelers will once again be able to carry toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles larger than three ounces.

Then, when the new checkpoint X-ray technology is rolled out the year after that, travelers likely will be able to take those larger liquid containers right in their carry-on bags and right through the screening process. That's one small step in the right direction because it's one less thing that harried business travelers will have to deal with. I look forward to more of those kinds of changes in this New Year.

Happy New Year, and happy to trails to you.