Athena CEO Criticizes 'Deplorable' 'Nitpicking', IPVM Refutes

By John Honovich, Published on Mar 27, 2020

Athena Security's CEO Lisa Falzone has strongly objected to IPVM's reporting on Athena, calling it 'deplorable' and repeatedly criticizing IPVM's 'nitpicking'. We refute this here.

Falzone told PCMag that:

We find it deplorable, possibly orchestrated by competitive motives, that anyone would manufacture a 'hit job' of this nature while we're doing our best

What was deplorable was evidently not that Athena Security ran a faked thermal fever detection display on their website for 2 weeks:

The deplorable action was IPVM reporting it.

Athena shrugged off responsibility for this, telling Fast Company that:

Athena says the misrepresentations are the work of a third-party web marketing company that it has now fired.

Nonetheless, Athena is clearly responsible for claims that it publishes and markets on its own website.

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However, Athena's CEO dismissed IPVM's concerns to us as a "nitpicking of marketing approach". But the FTC's Truth in Advertising guidelines surely views such deception as more than that.

Thermal Camera Choice

Athena's CEO also complained about IPVM's nitpicking on what thermal cameras they use, saying:

We work with many manufactures like I said so if I give you the Asian manufacture as I don’t want it to get nit picked and pigeon holed bc we might not stay with that vendor - we are a software vendor and don’t care which hardware As we can use any camera. [emphasis added]

And in another message, said:

We specified an NDAA compliant private-labeled supplier in China.

The thermal camera chosen is absolutely critical to the performance of fever detection systems. 99%+ of thermal cameras are absolutely incapable of even trying to do fever detection as they do not have anywhere near close to the precision needed for detecting subtle differences such as a person with a temperature of 37°C vs 38°C.

FLIR Fiasco

In the midst of this, Athena's President Michael Green attempted to prove the quality of their offering by declaring:

Hardware is critical, so we realize how important temperature/accuracy range is. We have bought a wide variety of cameras for testing. FLIR high sensitivity camera Invoice, below.

The invoice, excerpted below, is for a FLIR FC-644-ID-N:

That camera cannot even attempt to do temperature / fever detection. Indeed, it is marketed as a "security camera for perimeter protection". Athena should be an expert in thermal cameras but they cannot even read a website?

FLIR confirmed the obvious, saying to IPVM that:

The FLIR FC-644-ID is not part of our 510k certification. It is also not a radiometric camera and does not support the FLIR temperature screening mode feature.

Adding that:

This product is not radiometrically temperature calibrated for absolute temperature measurement. We recommend cameras that have radiometry be used for elevated body temperature screening.

This is a serious, serious problem, showing the lack of expertise that Athena has in this core component of their fever detection system.

Athena CEO Responds

Athena's CEO ignored our feedback about that FLIR model's problem; Instead, extending this offer:

I have ways and could create more viewers for you and more members in the long run if we could just work together nicely. I am happy to discuss this with you.

We are not interested in this. We pursue truth and justice, not deals with companies to cover up issues.

If I really wanted to make lots of money, I would put up a website and sell fever detection systems in the midst of a crisis. As Athena's CEO told Forbes last week, "We have a pipeline and orders of tens of thousands of cameras just within the last several days"

Or I could offer crisis communications PR services and make big money bailing out companies like Athena.

Enter a "Nationally Recognized Expert in Crisis and Public Affairs"

Now, Lane Kasselman, a "nationally recognized expert in crisis and public affairs", enters. He touts that:

I enable some of the world’s leading companies, organizations and individuals to recover quickly from crises through strategic management of their public affairs and communications.

Kasselman tells IPVM that:

I help Athena with communications and Lisa and Michael asked me to get back to you regarding your story.

Note that the invoice sent to you yesterday detailing a purchase with RHP International as an example, was in error and does not reflect the cameras currently in use for the Fever Detection System. Rather that invoice, from November of last year and before the launch of our new products, is for the Gun Detection System. As you know, the Fever Detection System and Gun Detection Systems are separate products.

While Athena is a software company, our customers can use any camera that they prefer. We are currently sourcing cameras from companies such as Flir and ICI for our customers to use.

Should you have additional questions for Athena, please direct them to me.

How many errors does this company make day after day? They cannot give a straight answer to the fundamental question of what thermal cameras they actually use.

Now, they are saying they use, e.g., the FLIR A320 Tempscreen but that's a $10,000+ camera while Athena had been selling their system for $8,900. So they are losing thousands of dollars on every sale? And that FLIR model does temperature scanning and alerting so why would one then use Athena?

Athena Security Be Warned

Athena Security's execs may be good people, they may be bad people. But when it comes to knowing the basics of the fever detection solution they are selling, they continue to demonstrate profound incompetence.

If you are considering buying such a "coronavirus" detector, whether from them or anyone in the midst of this crisis, please be cautious. It is hard. People's lives and businesses are at risk so there is a lot of pressure to do something, anything, at whatever the cost. But beware such solutions causing more problems.

3 reports cite this report:

FDA "Does Not Intend to Object" To Unapproved Fever Detection Cameras If No 'Undue Risk' on Apr 17, 2020
The US FDA has declared it will not go after the many companies marketing...
The Problem With Fever Detecting Thermal Sunglasses on Apr 15, 2020
While the media has promoted using thermal sunglasses to detect fevers, this...
Faked Coronavirus Fever Detection, Athena Used Hikvision; Responds - Selling NDAA Compliant Cameras, Pledging 50% Of Profits to Victims on Mar 24, 2020
US company, Athena Security, faked its coronavirus fever detection marketing,...

Comments (59)

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So they're buying the camera for $10k, and selling the solution for $9k. The good news is that they're sharing the profits with the victims of corona virus. Oh wait - since there are no profits, does this mean they expect the victims to pay for the difference? This could be a new way to make money.

Thanks for the update!

FLIR does not make and or sell any device capable of detecting a virus. They make sensors that are capable of distinguishing temperatures based on very specific environments. Any company stating as Athena has done...puts themselves in a very bad position. Pretty sure Athena tried to market gun detection with thermal sensors before. That didn't work out for them either. This cavalier cowboy approach in this market creates so much unnecessary noise it's laughable. The fact that they tried to brush off a 644ID as a temperature camera is first of all...plain insulting. Any of the FLIR devices that have the sensitivity necessary to "detect" a fever are in extremely short supply and are weeks or even longer from possibly being delivered...this according to FLIR themselves. Every manufacturer that utilizes a FLIR core should be put on notice that the entire industry is watching...IPVM gives all of us watching, a place to raise concern and have our voices heard. Stop LYING to the market!! You all know who you are!!!

Any plans for IPVM to order and test their solution?

This should be good....

We tried to get A320 TEMPSCREENS with a blank check and Flir laughed. I'm betting the backorder is 10,000 units

Whatever. Who cares. This industry has already devolved over the recent years with the DIY mediocre alarm systems and asian manufacturer garbage. No one is going to police the industry anymore. This industry is turning into dog eat dog and barely above snake oil sales tactics.

That being said, how many reputable manufacturers have screwed integrators or customers with their crap products and bs marketing claims. Lenel video anyone? PSIM?

History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes.

No one is going to police the industry anymore.

That's literally what this post is for, to police the industry. Public shaming works better, hurts more, and lasts longer than regulations ever could. And Google never forgets (terms and conditions apply within the EU).

Wow! Come on Athena - just admit your fraud - the cover up is worse than the initial fake offering.

FLIR FC-644-ID-N

They used that camera for concealed weapons detection and even promote that.

This is contrary to the laws of physics, does not work with loose-fitting clothes, and works only if the weapon was very cold before being pressed to the body, but who cares?

Failed to sell concealed weapons detection service? It will turn out to sell for fever detection!)))

While Athena is a software company, our customers can use any camera that they prefer.

It is impossible to emphasize just how wrong this statement is.

In a theoretical fever detection system, the thermal camera and its accuracy, setup, and calibration would be absolutely crucial to getting reliable results. This would naturally result in a very narrow set of applicable cameras, the exact opposite of "customers can use any camera that they prefer".

I get personally frustrated when analytics companies attempt to try and leverage a crisis, or a federal grant program, or any other initiative to try and promote unworkable solutions. It ultimately just sets everyone back and does damage to the industry as a whole. In this case, the problem is even worse, as false claims can lead to potential deaths from unworkable solutions that are deployed as trusted sensors.

Accurate temperature (fever) detection via thermal camera in high throughput/standoff detection scenarios is an unrealistic expectation right now. If any company is going to solve this problem, it would be one that has been working on it and studying it for a duration much longer than COVID-19 has existed.

As a rule of thumb, I would probably run any proposed solution through a quick Google search or Wayback Machine search. If you don't get any hits prior to November 2019, you can probably move on.

Seconded. It's a farce. And despicable too.

I completely agree. I'm a pretty detail oriented person and they have provided no details proving that their system works. Yes, they may not like the article. It would have been better to have admitted that they messed up (instead of throwing another company under the bus), provided cameras used and spec sheets, and provided a video demonstration (not a marketing video).

Independent testing is also something many manufacturers are afraid to do and only publish the results when favorable. The best loudspeaker manufacturers have their loudspeakers independently tested and the results are generally published in the spec sheets and are utilized for the acoustic model. This provides integrity to the product and removes the conflict of interest. Other loudspeaker manufacturers publish perfect spec sheets that aren't believable or provide minimal data. This is often the case with home audio vs pro audio. For the home market, manufacturers often try to sell with emotional words and then attach a high price to it. Think of all the buzz words found in esoteric cables. The best quote I learned (it's also a book) and the main reason the loudspeaker issue is a much smaller issue than the Athena Security claims.

If Bad Sound Were Fatal, Audio Would be the Leading Cause of Death

That quote encompasses the entire spectrum of audio. If you go to a concert and it has bad sound, better luck next time. If you are selling a system that claims to detect fever with a high level of accuracy, back it up with evidence. Making statements like "we have the ability to save people’s lives" is pretty extreme. The danger is when the system doesn't work and it provides a false peace of mind. Considering the symptoms don't appear right away and some can be infected, but be asymptomatic, this helps no one.

I get that companies want to help, but rushing to market a solution with an error-filled website that later gets taken down, doesn't lead me to trust mistakes weren't made in the creation of this detection system. It goes back to the attention to detail.

Thanks again to IPVM.

Hired spokesperson, "Stop saying those things, you're hurting our bottom line.

Great reporting team! This is what I want from my national news as well.

The problem is traditional news outlets simply can not do investigative journalism.

If they rip a company then the company will no longer buy commercial air time.

If they rip into a person (President, Senator, Representative, Actor, Lawyer, Doctor, etc.) they wont be able to call on them the next time they need a quote, an interview, an expert witness, etc. Not to mention they may end up getting sued and if they lose they lose lots of money.

So, they just stay away from the hard stuff that may cost them money.

If they rip a company then the company will no longer buy commercial air time.

I don't think that's correct generally, e.g. Anyvision CEO Threatened To Sue NBC News And Said That Anyvision Was The “Most Ethical Company Known To Man". NBC News did a very critical investigation that put both Anyvision and their investor Microsoft in a bad light.

I definitely think this is common among 'trade' or 'niche' publications where they have a very limited advertising base but for national or international publications, this is less of a concern.

IMO A little unfairly focus only on CEO Athena's. Chris Ciabarra, Athena's CTO, gave interviews, starred in all commercials and was responsible for faking the service work. In addition, he personally called IPVM liars and threatened a lawsuit.

It is very strange that before the scandal he was everywhere and then suddenly disappeared.

It would be interesting to hear his explanations of the "wonderful properties" of their service.

That is because the CEO called me directly and then sent a number of follow up emails. As I did not speak with the CTO or exchange emails with him, I simply don’t have any information to share.

Both the CEO and CTO made public statements to other publications about IPVM. We stand by our reporting and this post provides more evidence in response to the allegations.

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is ...Lane Kasselman?

I’m actually wearing this shirt today. I wish I would have thought of posting it first.

This strikes me as a mad scramble for damage limitation after the truth came out.

They would do well to just stop talking either that or clean up their act.

It would have been interesting to bait her a bit more and see what she was prepared to offer in hush money. What is their budget for IPVM bribes?

In no case! This can be regarded as an attempt to extort. Now Athena's direction may face jail, they can do anything, even provoke.

Most important: there is no way to detect "corona" with any camera. One might have been carrying the virus for 14 days in the meantime spreading it around before bodytemperature is rising.

Sorry, but X-RAY can...

True, but to show lung damage (perhaps permanent) would strongly indicate that this person had other symptoms, that they were infected with something should be blatantly obvious by this point.

Yes, but it at least something what can be useful for ai/ml analysis.

Yes an xray in a hospital, read by a radiologist and performed on a patient that has already screened positive for the virus can tell us that the patient has or has had some type of respiratory illness such as pneumonia and is a good candidate for having COVID-19. What does that have to do with security camera's? Absolutely nothing, sorry a xray machine is not a surveillance camera.

Everybody who voted "unhelpful" . I will be expecting that you can change your opinion after reading this - Detecting COVID-19 with 97% accuracy: beware of the AI hype!

Really? Again this has nothing to do with a vendor falsely marketing thermal imaging for Covid-19 detection. Xray's have nothing to do with video surveillance, unless you have a new camera that can take diagnostic quality Chest Xray's on the fly and plan on constantly irradiating the general public. Also the article is talking about how flawed using AI with a limited data set is and that this study was completely bogus. Did you even read the headline? Even if it was able to detect advanced Covid-19 infections at a high rate, so can a human at that level of damage the person has likely already been diagnosed as likely having Covid-19 and has been put on the preventative measures. It also still requires lab testing for the virus to confirm which with new rapid testing kits can be completed in 15 minutes, which is faster than the Xray can be taken and read and actually gives you a positive or negative result that can be assured, not just a possible infection.

Surely this a marketing experiment in how not to do damage control....

Knew I recognized the name Athena. Really pushy sales team who didn't bother to introduce themselves or ask anything about our operations when they contacted me... they just started talking about a random solution I didn't ask for. It was super odd.

I'll take a verkada rep over a Athena rep anyday. Atleast I get a Yeti.

"nitpicking of marketing approach"

"I don’t want it to get nit picked"

so, Athena, is it one word or two? which is it??

*note: the above is a demonstration of nitpicking*

repeated deceptions regarding a product used for life and death decisions is anything but.

I believe I read this in one of the other posts and see it still isn't fixed. I don't like to be the grammar police as when in discussions such as this where many of the responses can be quick or typed on your phone, but when it's the home page of your website, have someone proofread the first statement you want your viewers to read.

I feel at a minimum, it takes little effort to spell check publications automatically and now many of the programs have grammar check. These tools aren't perfect, but when they point it out out issues that are legitimate, there's really no excuse. A simple copy and paste suggested a quick fix:

Although at this point it might make sense. The Fever Detection is trying to social distance itself from the rest of Athena which may be better for everyone.

I speak on this lightly, but errors such as items on your home page just point to a lack of detail. You would expect there to be a team of people so one would think someone would have caught this and fixed it by now. It's probably just another web company's fault.

I feel at a minimum, it takes little effort to spell check publications automatically...

a part of apart is better off apart

Awesome Update! Most buyers would not see the deception and pay for something that will prove useless...

Blinding drive to succeed at any cost- which Stanford blonde wore it better?

Who in the world would vote "Unhelpful"? Do you not know who Elizabeth Holmes is?

I think it's funny. But I also agree - they are very similar. I have never spoken with Elizabeth Holmes, but I watched the documentary. I have spoken with Lisa Falzone, and the similarities are there.

I totally agree with you than between them a lot similarity.

But IMO comparing them is too big complement for Lise. Holmes is much more cunning and clever. She herself organized her scam. Lisa is just a face for the magazine cover. In my thought the main con man there is Athena's CTO Chris Ciabarra.

He organized all "demos" and responsible for the site, as well as gave interviews for TV and journals. But at the same time, he never been noted in the dialogue with IPVM. I am sure that he simply does not want to get dirty.

Who in the world would vote "Unhelpful"?

4 billion women?

That's a lot of women. I'd have to disagree, there aren't that many women on the globe, and there's nothing misogynistic about my comment. "Who wore it better" is pretty common place in pop culture and the synergy between the two is there. Maybe she shan't be so Holmes-ish when in this situation again (like, right now maybe) and folks who are familiar with famous females in business won't draw those parallels.

...there's nothing misogynistic about my comment. "Who wore it better" is pretty common place...

wait, what happened to the "blonde" bit?

the fact the you don't defend (nor even quote) what is clearly the most objectionable part of your statement indicates that you can't.

...there aren't that many women on the globe.

there are 3.8 billion females "on the globe", i think it's a fair rounding.

The have a similar look, hair color is part of that. Feel free to mentally substitute whatever you’d like when reading it. Those looking for something, especially today where it’s trained and celebrated behavior, can find it wherever they want.

Thats all I’ll say about that. No need to encourage by providing a response to such garbage.

The have a similar look, hair color is part of that.

got it. so if one was a brunette, that'd kinda ruin it.

like trying to compare Bernie Madoff to Charles Ponzi, impossible!

I see what you did there, very witty. Very accurate too, I wonder what drives people to knowingly misstate their position in such a way?

Thanks Malcolm, based on the voting not everyone knows who Elizabeth Holmes is, where she went to school and what she did. I highly recommend "The Drop Out" podcast for good info on her. So current too, she hasn't gone to trial yet. Super glad you engaged and great question. I think part of it is "seldom wrong but never in doubt" mindsets are dangerous in tech, not sure how I've made it 17 years in business considering! but seriously I assume she asked someone and they gave her the confidence to hammer forward. Maybe in some fields there's enough gray area that you can continue to market and sell a product in that gap and she doubled down on that; ours is not one of those fields. It seems shes involved in a lot of stuff.

No problem Jason, to draw attention to the similarities between these two individuals in their...somewhat flexible(?)...approach to the representation of facts is, to my mind, entirely valid. I think that someone, perhaps, suffered from a case of pique that you thought of the connection first?

Other solutions in this space include SATIR and Sunell which are the same identical product except for branding from what it appears in a side by side comparison. Both manufacturers claim to be the real manufacturer and that the other is an OEM partner with a private label. Clearly one if them is not telling the truth about who or what they are. Does anyone have insight to the real provider and claims around their fever detection solutions? Lots of requests and noise going around about these products, so the truth would be good to know.

IPVM Image

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Sunell Vs SATIR - Who Is The Real Manufacturer?

Small update from Athena Security: looks like they are using some unknown chinese camera in the hospital in Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. I think this is a good reason for visit that hospital and check their system in action.

Meanwhile, Athena Security published 3 video during three days with their advertisement.

Seems to be, they had installed systems in:

1. Ruckit company

2. Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center

3. Propeller Airport

The reportage on the Fox 26 channel became the cherry on the cake.

But I saw next things:

1. They changed camera from Hikvision on some unknown. More likely something like that

2. This camera has no ventilation holes or built-in cooler. This means that the accuracy of her testimony greatly depends on the time spent in working condition. What has repeatedly proved IPVM during the testing such solutions.

3. The system for work requires that the visitors approach it one at a time and stop. What is very different from what was announced 1.5 months ago ("This is far faster than the current system being used in airports–the handheld temp readers–which have snarled lines at airports like Chicago’s O’Hare" and "1,000 temperature readings an hour")

4. They began to use the black body, although before that they claimed that it was not mandatory and the system was accurate enough without it.

5. Their software caused either laughter or tears. You just look at it! Even unknown Chinese brands have better quality of UI/UX experience. One gets the feeling that it was taken some kind of open source solution and just flooded the logotype of Athena Security. Maybe someone even knows what they used? Pay attention to the logo in the Window's taskbar.

6. At the moment, all their statements about 1000 cameras sold for Fortune 500 companies do not have any confirmation. So far, it’s only clear that they have installed their systems in 3 places, it’s quite possible that for free.

OMG, The Wall Street Journal also here... It become a fashionable among journalists to write articles without any fact-checking, or am I not understanding something?

“And many contagious illnesses start with a fever, so anything we can do to help prevent transmission and sustain good health is a good thing. Imagine the impact of having this information early.”

Yes, flat out lies. Illness does not start with a fever. A fever is the body’s response to an illness that already exists.

This technology does not help prevent transmission and sustain good health. People do that by their behavior.

In fact, this use of technology probably does the exact opposite giving people a false sense of safety.

Chris Ciabarra, Athena's CTO, cannot say that they are just selling low-quality Chinese cameras with a sself-made desktop client on Python. Therefore, he has to constantly portray that they are doing something important and unique. Why he can't you just stop lying?

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