Ready for a new acronym?
“NCIT” stands for “non-contact infrared thermometer.” This refers to remote thermal cameras that can detect body temperatures at a distance. Airports, retail establishments, stadiums, arenas, concerts, offices, mass transport, etc., are expressing high interest in setting up these remote cameras, so they can identify anyone with a fever.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a critical paper last week questioning both the effectiveness of this technology and its clear invasion of privacy rights. If a person is identified by one of these remote thermal cameras as having a fever, he/she can be stopped, subjected to further testing, and forced to leave the premises.
As we noted in last week’s Trends Journal, when traveling via airports, passengers may well be quarantined or detained by government health authorities when temperature monitoring becomes enforced.
The ACLU states, “We don’t want to wake up to a post-COVID world where companies and government agencies think they can gather temperature or other health data about people whenever they want.”
The report cited data questioning the accuracy and effectiveness of these remote cameras. One of the most obvious problems is if a person is accurately measured to have a fever, it could be a symptom of a non-contagious disease.
Even the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which has approved the technology, admits readings from remote cameras “can be disrupted by many factors, including head covers, environment and positioning on forehead.”
The report also pointed out that some of the cameras have proven inaccurate and need to be recalibrated on a regular basis or the results get even further off.
Also, a discrepancy has been shown in the accuracy of the cameras. Cameras with the most reliable readings cost up to four times as much as less expensive versions. The ACLU report points out, “There is a veritable gold rush of companies scrambling to put ‘fever detectors’ on the market and cash in on the crisis. The result is accuracy levels that appear to be all over the map and a certain degree of snake oil.”
According to the ACLU report, there are three major problems in using body temperature to protect against coronavirus:
- These cameras, as with thermometer guns used by some security officers, do not measure the true core temperature but only surface heat. This means a measurement can be affected by sunburn, a few drinks of alcohol, or even sweat.
- A fever does not mean a person has contracted COVID-19 – the reading could be the result of a non-contagious disease.
- Most people who actually have the virus are asymptomatic and have no fever. Recent studies show that up to 25 percent of all people who contract COVID-19 do not have a fever. Therefore, a thermal camera reading is useless in many cases.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at ACLU, said, “Nobody should imagine that blanketing our public spaces with thermal sensors is going to serve as any kind of effective automated ‘COVID detection network’.”
“Smart” Helmets… or Another “Stupid” Idea?
Police at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, as well as security forces in China and Dubai, are using “Smart” surveillance helmets to scan the temperatures of passengers and pedestrians.
“Smart” helmets are being manufactured by the Chinese company KC Wearable and can be used up to a distance of just under seven feet. As with the NCIT cameras, these helmets will miss all of those with the virus who are asymptomatic and will cause problems for people with fevers from non-contagious ailments.
The data captured is recorded and stored in the helmet and can be used for facial recognition as well as taking body temperature.
According to Dr. Jie Guo, the manufacturer’s Global Head, “Government authorities and some private buyers are using the helmets. In China, local policemen, nurses, security guards, and people [staffing] checking points at metro stations are all using the helmets.”
In addition to China, Italy and Dubai already are using the helmets, and the Dutch government has ordered some for testing.
More COVID Gadgets
Other inventions being considered to address society’s fear of COVID contamination include:
- Hands-free door openers: Described as hygiene-friendly, these hooks help open potentially infected door handles without one’s hands having to touch them. A manufacturer in London has put out the “Hygienehook,” which can fit your pocket and is easy to clean.
Note: the latest research by the CDC, as cited in our “SPREADING FEAR, IGNORING FACTS” article in this issue, states COVID-19 does not spread easily from door handles and other surfaces.
- The Seattle-based company Slightly Robot has developed a wristband that sets off a buzzer every time the user’s hand goes near his or her face. It also goes off when the user bites his/her nails or touches his/her hair.
- A Chinese architect proposed a design for a body shield called “Be a Batman,” which is installed with an ultra-violet light for self-sterilization. The shield is shaped to resemble bat wings and can be worn the same way as a backpack.