People queue in the departure hall of Terminal 7 at JFK airport on March 15, 2020 in New York City. … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
When tech CEO Lisa Falzone started Athena Security in 2018 with co-founder Christopher Ciabarra, their mission was to use thermal imaging and computer vision to detect guns concealed under clothing. Now, they are using that same technology to detect fevers in the hopes of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.
“With Covid-19, you see the problem at airports today,” Falzone explains. “Passengers are waiting in lines to manually take their temperatures, which slows traffic down. With our technology, we can analyze 1000 people per hour.”
Athena Security uses infrared cameras and an algorithm that analyzes body temperature to detect people who have a temperature higher than 100 degrees. If a temperature is detected, the camera sends an immediate alert to the business owner or individual monitoring the space.
This technology is not new. During the 2003 SARS and 2009 swine flu epidemics, airports across the U.S. used thermal imaging cameras to spot travelers who had fevers. What’s different about Athena’s system, explains Falzone, is its ability to send out immediate alerts to the appropriate parties, who can then make an informed decision on how to act.
“There are other thermal imaging companies out there, but no one is combining it with software and alerting like we do,” she says.
Of course, privacy concerns abound when it comes to any type of camera in a public space. According to the company’s website, Athena’s system does not display a person’s race or ethnicity, nor does it track, collect or distribute any personal identifiable information from subjects.
Demand is already through the roof, says Falzone. “We have a pipeline and orders of tens of thousands of cameras just within the last several days.”
Existing customers include schools, places of worship, Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. military. New prospects include businesses that cannot close in times of crisis— hospitals, grocery stores, airports and pharmacies.
She expects the demand for fever-detecting technology to continue long after the coronavirus has subsided and says it will play a big part in the upcoming 2020 elections.
“With voters heading to the polls, they risk infecting other voters or bringing the virus back home,” Falzone asserts. “Athena’s cameras can help voting stations detect those with fevers and help stop the spread by redirecting those with fevers to a safer venue.”
She hopes the Covid crisis will help us better prepare for the future.
“This is a wakeup call for all of us. Many businesses— restaurants, sports arenas, malls— will need to rebuild trust,” she says. “We have the technology to do that.”