Airport biometrics company Clear has big expansion plans

Forget skipping the security line — Clear wants you to use it for all of your credit card purchases.


October 15, 2020

Once upon a time, the security line went toe-to-toe with premade sandwiches as the worst part of the airport check-in experience.

The biometrics company Clear was your best bet to skip the line. In exchange for registering your fingerprints and eye scan with the company, you could breeze past the normies.

Now, Clear wants to outgrow its “skip-the-line” reputation. And per OneZero, its biometrics data could potentially undergird all of your purchases.

How did Clear work originally?

Pre-pandemic, the company got most of its business from airports.

Some 5m frequent flyers shelled out $179 a year for a Clear membership. Clear shared 10% to 12% of these profits with airports (~$35m last year).

The company also set up shop in sports stadiums, where, as a Clear member, you could prove you were 21+ and buy a beer by scanning your fingerprint.

That all collapsed in April

Clear’s revenues fell by as much as half in some airports. To survive, the company is innovating. A few of its newer ideas:

  • A Budweiser vending machine called “Bud Now” will rely on Clear-verified fingerprints to prove the buyer is 21+.
  • The NHL, the 9/11 Museum, and restaurants like Chop’t and Dos Toros have bought into a Clear program called “Health Pass,” which tracks the symptoms and last test dates of their employees.

That’s only the beginning

The company’s CEO, Caryn Seidman-Becker, calls Clear a biometrics “platform” modeled on the same concept as Amazon.

“Now you think about adding hotels, now you think about ride-share… You are your credit card when you enroll,” she said last year.

Every time you make a purchase or flash your health insurance card, Clear wants to be there, confirming it’s really you.

And that might make biometrics a mundane part of our everyday lives.

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