airport security

Clear is a brave company. It’s trying to solve one of the most frustrating, sometimes stressful, and time-consuming processes we face every year: the airport security line.

Clear uses biometrics to usher flyers through the TSA line quickly and, as chief executive Caryn Seidman Becker hopes, with a bit of kind customer service. The company relaunched at The San Francisco International airport today, after shutting down due to “self-inflicted wounds,” in 2009, according to Becker. Before closing down, it was a beloved service found in airports across the country. A customer would register with Clear and gain an identification card, which was accepted as your proof of self. You took the card to a line separate from long lines of weighted down passengers inching up to the metal detectors, identified, and sent on your way.

“Even though it closed in a very unattractive way, people loved it and missed it,” said Becker in an interview with VentureBeat. “I’m a big believer that biometrics are a huge secular trend.”

Becker explained that mismanagement, a bloated cost structure, and high amounts of debt tore the then six-year-old company down. She and a number of other investors bought the company in 2010 for around $6 million, and have thus far reinstated Clear in airports in Orlando and Denver.

Today, Clear uses a combination of a “digitally authenticated” driver’s license and passport, a photo of the person, and either a fingerprint or iris image. Customers can choose whether they’d like to have an iris scan or finger print taken from them when authenticating their identity. This data is all compiled on to your Clear card. When a customer arrives at the Clear security kiosk, they supply the card and a finger or iris, receive a scan, and if all goes well, they’re through security in what Becker says is five minutes tops.

The card itself uses enough identifying factors that Homeland Security considers it a “qualified anti-terrorism technology.”

What excited Becker the most, however, is the opportunity to use this tech outside of the airport world, connecting any place you’d need to give identification with your profile on Clear.

“[This is] the ATM of identity,” said Becker. “We have the capability to do this cardlessly.”

Thus far the company has 500,000 customers and hopes the technology-focused crowd in Silicon Valley will re-adopt the service. The card costs $179 per year, but there are corporate and family plans available as well.

Airport security image via Shutterstock

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