Company Watch: Clear targets sports for its fingerprint tech
Clear — the biometrics company that allows travelers to bypass long lines at airport security checkpoints via fingerprint scans — has high hopes for its sports business following a new high-tech concessions deal with Seattle’s CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field.
“We’re in growth phase. We’re really looking for the next opportunity to integrate our technology in the fan experience and create a more frictionless, more secure experience for all sorts of different sports and entertainment venues,” said Lauren Stangel, Clear’s vice president for sports and entertainment.
Stangel, a former executive with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Madison Square Garden and the NBA, said that once Clear secures another airport client, it turns to potential sports venues in that market.
Clear was founded in 2010 and raised $15 million in 2015 from T. Rowe Price’s New Horizon Fund. The company is partially owned by Delta Air Lines, which uses Clear’s fingerprint scan technology for boarding passes and access to airport clubs.
The New York-based company operates at 25 major U.S. airports including LAX, JFK, LaGuardia and all three airports around Washington, D.C.
Frequent travelers pay $179 per year (or approximately $15 per month) to sign up for Clear at airports. Members scan their fingerprints and identification into Clear’s database and then can bypass longer TSA lines by swiping their finger at airports that use the company’s technology.
Sports fans don’t pay to sign up for Clear at sports venues and can sign up in person on site, a process that takes about five minutes. The sports deals are a value add for Clear’s airport members and a convenience for sports fans, according to Stangel and executives from teams where the company operates. Clear would not disclose how its sports deals are structured.
New York-based Clear already offers access at 13 sports venues — including Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York, Marlins Park and AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Coors Field in Denver, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Avaya Stadium in San Jose and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
co-founder, chairman and CEO
co-founder and president
Headquarters: New York
No. of employees: 1,300
What They Do: Clear offers biometrics technology at airports and sports venues that allow people to get access through security and entrance lines faster by scanning their fingerprints. Fans at Seattle sports venues can also make food and beverage purchases if they are signed up with Clear.
• AT&T Park
• Avaya Stadium
• AmericanAirlines Arena
• Banc of California Stadium
• CenturyLink Field
• Citi Field
• Comerica Park
• Coors Field
• Marlins Park
• Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
• Safeco Field
• SunTrust Park
• Yankee Stadium
“We started in sports in 2015 with the Yankees and the Giants and we’ve expanded to nine MLB teams and 13 venues,” Stangel said.
She said Major League Baseball has been Clear’s initial focus considering the number of games. The company announced a deal in July with MLB and Tickets.com that could expand to more ballparks.
In Seattle, fans at Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders games can sign up for Clear (for free) and buy concessions — a first for Clear and sports venues. It also includes alcoholic beverages via approval of the use of biometrics information to confirm age.
Washington was the first state to approve biometrics for alcohol sales, said Trevor Gooby, senior vice president of ballpark operations for the Mariners.
Stangel said Clear is “going state by state” where it operates to talk to state and local liquor boards about the same kind of biometric age approval done in Washington.
The Seattle concessions effort was launched in August. Gooby said fans could buy food and drinks at two locations at the ballpark. “We are going to look to expand the concessions to more locations,” Gooby said.
He said the biggest challenge on the concessions front was finding locations that had the wireless bandwidth to accommodate Clear’s technology and kiosks where fans can enroll.
Clear is talking to other teams and venues about using its access and concessions services, including its first move into college sports, and may take its technology to airports and sports venues outside the U.S.
Walker Monfort, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Colorado Rockies, said this year is the second full season Clear has been used at Coors Field. Monfort said the Rockies have Clear fingerprint scanners and dedicated entries at two of Coors Field’s five gates.
He said the Clear entries offer shorter lines for later arriving Denver sports fans for busier attendance days. “From an operations standpoint it’s been great.”
Monfort said the Rockies and Clear have talked about potentially bringing the biometrics system to concessions.
Henry Willis, a security and biometrics expert and senior policy researcher with the Rand Corp., said the team deals give Clear a way to tout its airport service.
“Anyone who has been to a professional sporting event the last few years has experienced the lines that queue up as you try to get in,” Willis said.
The idea of scanning your fingerprint and personal identification into a database (for air travel or getting into sporting events) can create some privacy concerns. But Willis points to other venues such as music festivals, Disneyland and Disney World that offer RFID bracelets that carry customers’ information to use for access and purchases.
“This is just another place you are giving information,” Willis said. “This is just another piece of information that is out there.”