The convenience of biometric identity verification has proven itself to more than a million airline travelers in the U.S.
Clear, a technology company the government authorized to provide biometric identity screening at airports, has expanded to 23 airports nationwide, marking one of the most visible signs of consumer acceptance of the technology to date.
While Clear plans to add more airports in the near term, the company has expanded its customer base to sports stadiums and is exploring additional applications.
How it works
Instead of standing in the identification screening line at an airport and waiting for an officer to review an ID and boarding pass, Clear members go to the Clear kiosk, known as a "pod," and verify their identities by pressing a touch pad or looking into an iris scanner. A Clear "ambassador" then takes them past the regular identity screening line directly to the baggage screening and metal detectors for their Transportation Security Administration physical check.
Travelers can enroll in the service at Clear "pods" in about five minutes and use the service immediately. To enroll in the program, members provide a government ID, which Clear then validates. The passenger then takes a personal history quiz to further verify their identity. The system takes 10 fingerprints, an iris scan and a high resolution facial photo.
"Those biometrics become the key to your verified identity," David Cohen, the company’s chief administrative officer, told Kiosk Marketplace.
There are Clear ambassadors on hand at airports to assist travelers through the biometric identification process.
Delta Airlines invests in Clear
Clear's airport screening service has enabled airlines to reduce the amount of time needed to screen passengers to such an extent that one airline, Delta Airlines, has invested in the technology company. Delta Air Lines took a 4 percent stake in the company last year. U.S.-based Delta SkyMiles members now enjoy an exclusive rate to enroll in Clear.
Delta Airlines is also allowing eligible Delta SkyMiles members at Ronald Reagan National Airport to use fingerprints as proof of identity, foregoing a paper or mobile boarding pass, at the Delta Sky Club. Phase 2 will allow members to use their fingerprints to check a bag, check in at the Delta Sky Club and board a flight.
"Delta's Clear partnership is an extension of our broader innovative approach to helping customers get through security lines a bit easier — an effort we started last year in Atlanta by investing in the highly successful automated screening lanes that are now expanding to other key airports," Gil West, Delta's chief operating officer, told Kiosk Marketplace.
Additional applications emerge
As noted in part one of this three-part series, travel and immigration presently account for the largest share of biometric applications.
While Clear envisions continued growth in the travel sector, it has expanded its service to other areas. The company has expanded its technology to customer check-in at major league sports stadiums in the U.S. Clear members skip the security line, step up to a screen or mounted tablet and press a touch pad. The customer still presents their ticket to a ticketing agent.
Participating sports stadiums, according to Clear's website, include Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies; American Airlines Arena, home of Miami HEAT; Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins; AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants; Citi Field, home of the New York Mets; and Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees.
A long journey
Clear began at the Orlando International Airport in 2005 and expanded to 18 U.S. airports. In 2008, a security breach occurred and subsequently created many issues for the program, including negative public relations, legal expenses and loss of confidence from its members, according to flyclear.com.
After the program shut down in 2009, CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker and Ken Cornick, president and CFO, bought the company out of receivership and relaunched it in 2010.
"Today, Clear, in its current iteration, and in the vision of our CEO, is really providing a biometric platform that allows people the opportunity to use their verified identity and their biometrics for facilitated access to a whole host of areas," Cohen said. "Anywhere where your verified identity or security is required, we think biometrics has a place." Cohen said the company is actively exploring applications in other verticals, but he did not wish to elaborate.
"Purchases with a credit card today could be easily replaced with biometrics," he said. "That's really the power of biometrics."
Cohen does not see a need for the "ambassadors" in all applications, only the most secured ones.
"We certainly see down the road an opportunity for fully automated biometrics as well," he said.
The essence of the company is in how it manages its database, Cohen said. The hardware is agnostic. Cohen said the company works with different technology suppliers.
"We are a biometric data management platform that can be deployed in a lot of different ways," Cohen said. "We do not have any exclusivities with any one biometrics producer."
One thing is for sure, however. The biometric identity serves as a gateway to a more convenient lifestyle as well as improved operational efficiencies for businesses, organizations and government.
Part 3 of this series will explore some of the roadblocks to biometric identification in kiosks.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.