This 'coronavirus detection system' is basically just a creepy thermometer
As coronavirus continues to spread, the lack of available tests is a persistent problem in the U.S. Now, a company known for offering controversial gun, knife, and fight detection cameras says it’s selling a ‘Corona Virus Detection system.’
On its website, Austin-based Athena Security boasts that its Fever Detection COVID19 Screening System operates on its existing threat detection platform, and that with the use of "artificially intelligent thermal cameras" it can detect fevers, and then notify the owner of the system that someone may be infected with coronavirus.
In a video demonstration of the product, an Athena employee shows off the thermal system, saying that the AI caught his 99.5 degree temperature. According to the company’s product description, the system uses AI to find the face of a subject, and measures their temperature through the eyes.
The company is so confident in its claims that on Tuesday it responded, "We can solve this," to a tweeted picture of an overly-crowded O'Hare Airport.
"Since higher temperature is one of the first symptoms, these cameras can be life-saving — warning the person they could have the virus and encouraging that person to take serious steps to self-quarantine," a company representative told Motherboard.
According to Motherboard's report, Athena claims the product will be sent to a variety of locations, “including government agencies, airports, and large Fortune 500 companies” over the next few weeks.
Ignoring that there are any number of reasons someone might be running a fever outside of coronavirus, the system raises a lot of concerns. Once a fever is detected, Athena’s co-founder told Motherboard, an alert is sent to the client. But it’s unclear what happens next. Given the severe shortage of available tests, and that the people who are most often being given first access to them are those who have traveled recently or come into contact with a lab-confirmed coronavirus patient, it would likely be difficult to obtain a test based off of a temperature read by Athena’s system.
But Athena isn't the only one proposing tech solutions to the coronavirus. Many are eyeing the potential use of phone apps to track the virus’s spread and those who are infected. However, just like with Athena's claimed thermal technology, there are a number of ethical concerns, as Mic explored yesterday.
"Having a reliable test, at this point, is the only accurate system for tracking COVID-19," David Polgar, a technology ethicist and founder of All Tech is Human, previously told Mic when asked about potential smartphone tracking. "The better use of our digital tools would be to help assist those with potential symptoms of COVID-19 to get a reliable test, which then allows the US to have a better picture of the current outbreak."