GE Security teams with Verified ID for frequent flyers

Saturday, April 1, 2006

BRADENTON, Fla.--GE Invision, a division of GE Security's Homeland Protection business, announced in February an investment of $16 million in Verified Identity Pass, whose Clear service is the only functioning program expediting security clearance for frequent flyers. It currently operates at the Orlando International Airport and has more than 15,000 members, plus a recent announcement that Hyatt Hotels will be purchasing "tens of thousands" of memberships for Hyatt Gold Passport members.
Verified chief executive officer Steven Brill, known as the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer, said "the primary reason [I teamed with GE] is that they have been developing the kinds of equipment that we want to install in our lanes. If you give us $79.95 to get through a Clear lane, you need to get a lot of benefits for that, so you renew your subscription." During the Orlando implementation, Brill promised an outlay of $200,000 per Clear lane to make the security checkpoint experience better for subscribers. "We went on sort of a shopping expedition to see who had the best stuff," said Brill. "We found GE has this shoe scanner, and, if it works, while you're standing at our Clear kiosk and checking in you can be standing on this thing and it will screen your shoes and you won't have to take your shoes off." It's that kind of convenience that Brill wants to offer travelers for their yearly fee. Another GE product can tell with the touch of a finger whether you've handled explosives recently--that might make it so you don't have to take off your suit jacket.
Further, Brill said GE already had maintenance people deployed at most of the major airports, "and one of our great costs is maintenance of our kiosks," said Brill. Finally, Brill said his experience with General Electric's NBC arm during his days launching Court TV was a positive one: "That gave them some comfort with me and they were terrific partners."
Brill sees the relationship as an evolving one. "Let's take the shoe scanner," he said. "We'll create a market for the shoe scanner because it will work. That might demonstrate to TSA that it works so they'll want to buy that for all of the lanes. You might think that will be bad for me because then everyone will have the shoe scanner. But with GE we'll be one step ahead."
Asked if he thought his relationship with GE and Lockheed Martin, along with competitors like Unisys or the Saflink team-up with Johnson Controls and Microsoft, would create an "arms race" of sorts for airport security systems, he said, "that would be great for everybody in America except me. That's terrific public policy and exactly what the government ought to encourage. I like competition."
In June of this year, companies and airports can begin rolling out Registered Traveler programs like Clear through the Transportation Security Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Brill said he already has agreements in place with San Jose, Calif., and Indianapolis airports, with proposals out to a number of others. Regardless, all cards issued through the TSA's authority will be interoperable with whomever is administering the expedited security lane.