It may sound like something straight out of Minority Report, but starting this week, travelers will have the option to get through part of security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport via iris and fingerprint scans.
Biometrics company Clear anticipates launching its screening terminals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport sometime this week. There will be two terminals at each of the airport’s three security checkpoints. Construction delays pushed back the launch, and Clear was hesitant to give a definitive opening day as a result.
The technology provides an alternative to the part of the check-in process where passengers wait in long, winding lines to have their ID and boarding pass checked by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents. Instead, passengers can get iris or fingerprint scans while a Clear employee scans their boarding pass, and off they go to the body and carry-on scanners.
“It ensures that you are you, and it does it in consumer-centric way,” Caryn Seidman-Becker, CEO of Clear told GeekWire.
Clear has a presence in 15 other airports across the country and boasts more than 600,000 members nationwide. Clear expects to have its service in 24 airports by the end of the year. A partnership with Delta Air Lines will bring Clear terminals to all of its major hubs.
Seidman-Becker compared Clear’s potential growth to ATMs at banks. When the technology first came out, there was maybe one ATM to every four or five tellers. Now, she said, you might two or three ATMs to every teller.
“It is cheaper and easier to scale technology than it is people,” she said.
Seidman-Becker said Clear’s technology has been certified a “qualified anti-terrorism technology” through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Safety Act. She insisted the company will not sell or share any customer data. Clear uses AWS GovCloud to protect its data, and Seidman-Becker said the company’s security procedures surpass industry best practices.
Potential customers can sign up right there in the airport and get a free trial for a month. The cost is $179 per year for an individual and $50 for every additional family member, and Clear says registration takes five minutes.
Clear’s debut comes as Sea-Tac has become busier than ever. Last year a record 42 million passengers moved through the airport and this year is on pace to surpass that. As of June, Sea-Tac has seen more than 19.2 million travelers for the year, an increase of 10 percent and more than 1.7 million people over last year at this time, according to statistics from the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport. And all that comes as TSA has cut staff and faced issues with leadership.
One way airports are getting around these issues is by partnering with private security companies like Clear. Sea-Tac brought in 90 private contractors earlier this year and is beefing up its TSA staff as well.
Clear’s technology was originally conceived in 2003 and launched in 2005 as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. But Seidman-Becker said the product wasn’t viable at the time because of cost, debt and other reasons, so the founding company went bankrupt.
Seidman-Becker and her team acquired the technology in 2010 and debuted it in Orlando and Denver that year. Over the next few years more airports started using the technology, and the company expanded to sports, launching its first terminal at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Other airports using the technology include San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston (Bush and Hobby), Baltimore and Washington D.C. (Dulles and Reagan). Clear has terminals at seven stadiums across the country, including both New York City baseball venues, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
Clear remained self-funded for the five years after Seidman-Becker and her team bought it. Recently outside investors like T. Rowe Price and Delta got involved.
Before acquiring Clear, Seidman-Becker spent 17 years in asset management, where she founded Arience Capital. The company focused on turnarounds and investments in aerospace, homeland security and cable companies, among other industries.