The surprising ways Clear is expanding beyond airports

Clear is designed to help customers breeze through airport security check-in by skipping to the front of the line. But the technology company is now betting on far wider applications at retail stores, online and even in the healthcare world.

“It never made sense to me that you are pulling cards out of your wallet to show who you are and what you have access to, when biometrics can do that more easily,” Clear CEO Caryn Seidman Becker told The Post.

The Manhattan-based company operates kiosks at 57 airports globally — in Germany, Italy, England and Canada, as well as the US — where customers bypass the usual driver’s license or passport check and opt in to having their iris or fingerprint scanned.

CEO Caryn Seidman Becker (above) and CFO Ken Connick bought Clear out of bankruptcy in 2010 and relaunched it as a biometrics company in 2012. Emmy Park for NY Post

Membership costs $189 annually and is offered as a perk with several credit cards.

It also has a presence at 15 stadiums and arenas across the country, including Yankee Stadium, Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden (where MSG CEO James Dolan controversially used the biometric technology to identify certain people he wanted banned from the venue). At SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles County, for instance, members can quickly gain entry next month to see the Rolling Stones without having to show their physical tickets.

Clear began in 2003 as a digital identity start-up but filed for bankruptcy after its co-founders left six years later. Seidman Becker and Ken Connick, now president and CFO, bought and relaunched it as a biometrics company in 2012.

Seidman Becker said it was easiest to introduce the technology in a setting like the airport, where people already expected security screening.

“Travel was the obvious place to start, especially in a post 9/11 environment … it’s where customer experience, security and identity collide,” the CEO said.

Clear operates at 57 airports worldwide, as well as entertainment and sports venues including Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center.
Clear has also brokered partnerships with sites like LinkedIn, where customers can verify their account and password via selfie. LinkedIn

The expedited security program has already brokered partnerships with companies like LinkedIn, so customers can snap a selfie to verify their identity instantly — a process that typically takes closer to a week with other social media platforms.

Similar partnerships exist with the retail brokerage Public and online health portal Well Star.

In the future, Clear’s technology will be used at the doctor’s office: A camera can scan your face and retrieve saved medical data. The company has already created the technology, a source said, and is now focused on applying it in as many ways as it can.

At Clear kiosks, biometric data including retina scans and finger prints is used to verify identity. UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Clear currently uses retinas and fingerprints to identify customers — but, in future, the company plans to use faces as the primary biometric for even faster recognition. Corbis via Getty Images

“Think about the clipboard in healthcare…you’re filling out the same information every time to prove who you are in your electronic medical record,” Seidman Becker said.

The company is also working on bringing the technology to retail stores as a way to prevent fraud and make the shopping experience faster.

“At drugstores you could use your face which generates a QR code to unlock a glass door where you could get Tylenol as opposed to calling for an associate,” Seidman Becker said, adding that they plan to announce a retail partner later this year.

Clear is bringing its technology to retail stores as a way to prevent fraud and make the shopping experience faster. Emmy Park for NY Post

Even as the CEO envisions a future in which biometric technology will be ubiquitous, the company has faced challenges in its core business.

Seidman Becker acknowledged that Clear’s customer satisfaction at airports dipped in 2023 as more than 17 million people signed up for the service, overwhelming the existing agents and processes.

Clear tests new technology — like the pod shown here -— at its headquarters in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Emmy Park for NY Post

At its best, Clear ambassadors greet you as you approach airport security, help scan your retina or fingerprint at one of the company’s kiosks, and escort you directly to a TSA agent , skipping all other lines and the need to show ID.

But customers have complained about frequently having to show ID.

Seidman Becker said those issues have been resolved to make the customer experience frictionless moving forward. Up next: technology that will scan clients’ faces as they step onto the security line, removing the need to stop for a fingerprint or retina scan. 

CEO Caryn Seidman Becker told The Post that in the future, Clear will let customers zip through the airport without breaking stride. Emmy Park for NY Post
Clear is betting its technology will have far wider applications at retail stores, online and even in healthcare systems in the coming years. Emmy Park for NY Post

“We are moving to face-first technology so you won’t break stride when going through,” Seidman Becker said. “IDs are staying in pockets and our systems our faster.”

And the company believes that expansion beyond airports and entertainment venues will also make it relevant as airlines such as Delta introduce digital IDs that allow customers to zip through security.

Said Seidman Becker; “There will be a million more people coming through airports in 2030, so we’ve got to launch this innovation.”

This story is part of NYNext, a new editorial series that highlights New York City innovation across industries, as well as the personalities leading the way.

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