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Trekking through any number of airports of late, it becomes apparent that no longer are there two lines for security, but three: standard, TSA-pre, and the novel addition, CLEAR.
A service that allows individuals to use physical biometrics as a form of identification, namely for airport security and security for sports events and concerts, CLEAR is a disruptive commercial innovation whose influence has proliferated. Below lies a deep dive into CLEAR, answering the key questions—how does it work, what else can it do, and why is it significant?
To understand CLEAR, an understanding of the physical biometric space is vital.
Biometric systems have overhauled the security industry, becoming a leading technique in authorizing identities. Physical biometrics are body measurements and features that are unique to each person. Because they are unique, they can be used as secure forms of identification. The most commonly used biometric identifiers include:
Though it may appear as if physical biometrics are highly sophisticated, this form of security is ubiquitous. Take the iPhone’s various biometric capabilities. In 2013, Apple debuted the Touch ID feature on their newly-released iPhone 5S. Because each phone owner has a unique fingerprint, Apple could assure users that their cell phones would be secure and that only individuals granted access would open the phone.
With the launch of the iPhone X, Apple ushered in another biometric breakthrough: authentication with facial recognition software that analyzes the pattern of 30,000 infrared dots projected onto the user’s face. Again, because users have a unique design of dots due to varying facial features, only users who registered their face with the phone can access its contents.
The global biometrics market reached an estimated value of $23.5 billion USD in 2020, with estimated growth to $55.5 billion USD by 2025, according to Biometrics Research Group Inc[d]. The global market for contactless biometrics will create $9 billion in revenue 2021, and is projected to grow at a 16% compound annual growth rate over the next ten years.
CLEAR is a technology that uses an individual’s biometric information as a form of identification. It allows users to expeditiously enter stadiums, concert venues and airports. Because the technology only requires anatomy, it also reduces the possibility of losing crucial documents.
Procuring membership for CLEAR is likewise simple. To begin, an individual can register either online, in the mobile app or in-person at a CLEAR kiosk. Registration requires a facial and retinal scan and a security check. CLEAR memberships are priced at $15 a month.
Once a member, users can enter the CLEAR checkpoint at airports as opposed to the standard security lines. Shortly after their identities are verified, a CLEAR representative escorts them to the standard TSA security screening (i.e. the x-ray scanner portion of security), bypassing non-members who went through the traditional authentication process.
With the onset of COVID-19 and the need for public spaces to ensure the safety of its users, CLEAR recently conjured a new biometric capability: a Health Pass section. CLEAR recently granted members the ability to upload their COVID-19 vaccine certification to their application to prove their vaccination status and add their temperature to their profile via a touchless thermometer. Either option is uploaded directly to the users’ profiles as evidence that they are healthy and able to pass through.
As with any technological breakthrough that requires the gathering of new types of data, CLEAR’s rise has been debated. While experts argue that this type of technology is “extremely effective,” for instance, problems can occur—like false positives or false negatives, which are much less likely to happen when using traditional forms of identification. But solutions are available. Multiple forms of authentication, such as a facial scan and a fingerprint scan, can solve the aforementioned, as it is almost impossible to have an error with both.
The debate, however, recently veered towards a broader topic: privacy. Individuals are wary about the loss of privacy that could come about due to the introduction of biometric technologies , and they fear companies keeping a centralized database of users’ biometric information. If biometric details were to fall into the wrong hands, people would not get new and secure information, as you can not return your fingerprints or other bodily metrics, nor can you reclaim them from a cybercriminal.
Despite these dangers, companies are still working to make biometric technology as fast and as convenient as possible, while slowly introducing this technology into our lives.
Over 40 CLEAR sites in the United States exist. These locations include:
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