Remember those sci-fi movies where people living in the future use thumbprints and eyeball scans to do all kinds of cool things quickly and easily, like paying for dinner and accessing top-secret government facilities?
The prequel to this technological revolution – which is known as "biometrics" – is now playing out with a new service at many of the nation's airports, including, as of Wednesday morning, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The airport has officially debuted Clear, which checks in travelers and gets them right through those dreaded security lines using biometrics – such as fingerprints and iris scans.
How does it work?
New York-based Clear says the initial sign-up process happens at the airport and takes just 5 minutes, with the help of a Clear "ambassador" who shows you how to use the company's check-in terminals. The firm promises that users can "speed through security lines" once they're checked in.
The video below gives you a pretty good idea of how the new system works:
Anyone at least 18 years of age can join, and the only documentation that's needed to enroll is a valid photo ID, like a driver's license or passport. Once you're signed up, Clear says, all it takes is a tap of a finger – or an iris scan – and you're on your way to security screening.
The Star Tribune says the Clear machines are at both checkpoints in MSP's Terminal 1. The paper also notes that MSP is the 22nd U.S. airport where the blue and white machines have popped up, and more are coming over the next six months.
So what's the catch?
For one, the service is not free. An annual Clear membership costs $179.
Compare that to the TSA PreCheck program, which also promises expedited security screening and costs just $85 for a five-year membership. As USA Today points out, however, "trusted travelers" enrolled in the TSA program still end up waiting in long lines "before they can even gain access to the expedited lanes."
And though Clear does allow members to skip certain lines, they still have to go through metal detectors and bag scanners, the Pioneer Press writes.
The company's biometric screening has also been rolled out in sports venues across the country. Here's more about where you can find Clear and how the system works.