Surveillance Company Says It’s Deploying ‘Coronavirus-Detecting’ Cameras in US
Athena Security previously sold a system that it claims can detect weapons in video feeds. Now it says it’s applying a similar approach to spotting fevers.
An Austin, Texas-based technology company is launching “artificially intelligent thermal cameras” that it claims will be able to detect fevers in people, and in turn send an alert that they may be carrying the coronavirus.
Athena Security is pitching the product to be used in grocery stores, hospitals, and voting locations. It claims to be deploying the product at several customer locations over the coming weeks, including government agencies, airports, and large Fortune 500 companies.
“Our Fever Detection COVID19 Screening System is now a part of our platform along with our gun detection system which connects directly to your current security camera system to deliver fast, accurate threat detection,” Athena’s website reads.
Athena previously sold software that it claims can detect guns and knives in video feeds and then send alerts to an app or security system.
Athena’s new system claims to do much the same but for people exhibiting a fever, with the system designed to send an alert if it detects someone with a higher than normal body temperature, a company representative told Motherboard in an email.
“The AI detects it, and it says I have a 99.5 degrees temperature. It notices that I have a fever, and that I am infected,” an Athena employee says during a video demonstration of the product.
“Since higher temperature is one of the first symptoms, these cameras can be life-saving— warning the person that they could have the virus and encouraging that person to take serious steps to self-quarantine,” the representative added in a, suggesting that it could deploy them at polling locations. “Although many voters today are bound to get it, steps in the coming weeks could prevent them from spreading the bug to loved ones and strangers alike.”
The representative claimed that the software is accurate within half a degree and that it detects a dozen different parts on the body. They added the system has “no facial recognition, no personal tracking.”
It is not clear what makes the camera system specifically artificially intelligent beyond a thermal camera with an alerting system attached. It is also not clear who exactly would receive the alert, be that the person being scanned or the company or agency operating the camera.
The product is not yet launched publicly, but is already available directly to customers of the gun detection product, the representative added.
Thermal temperature systems are commonly used in China and have been deployed during the coronavirus pandemic there. Civil liberties experts have warned that while new surveillance technologies could have some use during the pandemic, the emergency must not be used as an excuse to infringe on basic civil liberties.
The Athena representative claimed the product is live at The Capital Factory, a Texas coworking space. The Capital Factory did not immediately respond to a request for comment.