The End of the Line
Steven Brill's plan to improve airport security—and save you 30 minutes.
So, will Verified Identity be the next Court TV? Or will it be the next Brill's Content?So far, it's a small business: 12,000 customers paying $80 a year adds up to less than $1 million in annual revenues. And the process of signing up individual airports is laborious. Plus, there's some deep-pocketed competition coming. Biometrics company Saflink earlier this month said it was forming a partnership with Microsoft, Johnson Controls, Expedia, and other companies to offer a similar service. Last week, Laura Meckler reported in the Wall Street Journal that Unisys is interested in the market as well.*
On the other hand, with several hundred airports and millions of frequent flyers who would be glad to pay to avoid inconvenience, there's probably room for several competitors. And the risk that the government would simply decide to offer this service on its own seems low. In November, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Kip Hawley said the government is "committed to maximizing private sector involvement in the operations of the Registered Traveler Program."
Four years after Brill's Content folded, Brill may have launched a product that lots of people are willing to subscribe to.
Correction, Dec. 23, 2005: In the original version of this article, Dan Gross misspelled Wall Street Journal reporter Laura Meckler's name. He also undercounted the number of registered traveler program pilot projects. Initially he wrote that there were four. There were five. Both errors have been corrected.
Daniel Gross is the Moneybox columnist for Slate and the business columnist for Newsweek. You can e-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter. His latest book, Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation, has just been published in paperback.
Photograph of Steve and Cynthia Brill by Jimi Celeste/PMc/Sipa Press.