Axis Compares Fever Camera Sellers to 9/11

By John Honovich, Published Sep 18, 2020, 08:15am EDT

Axis Communications, the West's largest surveillance camera manufacturer, has quietly sat out the fever camera gold rush. No more.

In a new NBC News investigation into fever cameras in schools, Axis spoke out against this, comparing them to opportunistic sellers in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

However, what fever camera salesmen are doing is much worse. While post 9/11 sales were very bad and many people bought useless or broken equipment, many fever cameras are rigged giving a false sense of security that increases the risk that more die.

Axis To NBC News

Below is what Axis told NBC News:

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Some of the more established vendors of security products to schools, including Axis Communications, have avoided the fever detection business altogether over concerns that thermal cameras aren’t accurate enough to detect fevers quickly in large groups because of how sunshine, exertion and masks can alter readings.

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"If you have 500 students entering between 8:00 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., we don’t believe we are going to make a product work accurately enough," said Fredrik Nilsson, vice president of the Americas at Axis Communications, a major supplier of surveillance cameras to schools, retailers and other businesses. "We are very long term and not opportunistic."

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"If you have 500 students entering between 8:00 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., we don’t believe we are going to make a product work accurately enough."

He compared the proliferation of companies selling fever detection tools to those that sold facial recognition technology in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"A lot of airports went out and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to install facial recognition at check-in and realized it wasn’t accurate enough and they had tens of thousands of false positives a day," he said, warning that schools could find themselves in a similar predicament. [emphasis added]


Axis certainly has a point here. But our testing shows it is even worse.

While undoubtedly hundreds of millions were rashly spent after 9/11 on video surveillance systems that were ineffective, it was much easier to see ineffective video analytics or poor quality cameras than it is to see ineffective fever detection.

When a perimeter protection systems alarms on a headlight, the user can immediately see the system is 'broken'. When a facial recognition system alarms on someone who looks nothing like the watchlist, the user can immediately see the system is 'broken'.

When a fever detection system misses someone with a fever, people cannot simply look at a person and tell (as they can with video analytics and facial recognition mistakes). Worse, since so few people have a fever and almost everyone nearly has the same temperature, it is easy to trick people into thinking it is working.

This has created the phenomenon of rigged systems:

It is good that Axis spoke out on this issue and we encourage more industry professionals to do so.

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Comments (54)

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Good to see more industry leaders speaking out on this and citing the limitations instead of trying to promote ineffective solutions.

We should also speak out about the hundreds of millions spent installing “Object left behind” cameras and analytics that didn’t work and left people with a false sense of security, thinking that backpack was only a backpack.

thinking that backpack was only a backpack.

Nice try, fever camera salesman!

Compare: 950,000+ people have already died of coronavirus in the past 6 months. How many have died from backpacks with bombs inside?

How many died that had gone through a fever scanning system? Isn’t a single life worth it? That’s always the argument.

I also sold security analytics and had to constantly remind people of what it wouldn’t do and the added risk of deployment. NY started the “See Something, Say something” after spending how many millions to secure their transit system? Which big boys sold those? Which manufacturers offered it?

In the past 6 months, there have at least been $500 million in fever camera sales, how many people with fevers have been caught for that price? And how many people were missed? And how many of those went on to die of coronavirus or infect others that die of coronavirus?

I doubt we will ever know.

How much of that money could have been used on solutions that could actually make a difference? 500 million more dollars to plaster billboards around the country in low-mask-wearing areas would save more lives.

I'm a broken record, but I'll continue to point out that even if these systems worked as promised, they would still be harmful. Asymptomatic and non-fever-symptomatic carriers make up a significant percentage of covid-19 transmitters. These systems provide a false sense of security that could very well lead to less careful protection practices among people, making things worse.

Asymptomatic and non-fever-symptomatic carriers make up a significant percentage of covid-19 transmitters. These systems provide a false sense of security

The false sense of security is made much worse by the fact that so many of these systems are designed and/or operated in ways that miss even people who are symptomatic.

So I don't disagree about the asymptomatic and presymptomatic points but I can tell you from interacting with many non-industry health and thermal experts that they are not aware of how badly so many of these rushed products are.

Absolutely. The fact the these systems also don't work well makes it exponentially worse. I'm embarrassed that our industry glommed onto the first bad idea in an attempt to be relevant in this crisis and is holding on like a junkyard dog.

I would agree with you. Fever cameras are certainly not the only thing in the industry that has been marketed well beyond its performance capabilities. I can't recall how many times left object came up in discussions at VideoIQ and Avigilon where I tried to explain to people why it was not likely to work the way they hoped. Probably lost a couple of deals because of it, which I am fine with.

One of the most comical parts of it is the lack of remarketing done by companies when the product comes to the US. Sometimes it seems they put the sales document through a translator to spit out an English version. Then the vendors reach out with these documents and say, I'm sure your customers are buying these solutions... I wouldn't forward that documentation to a customer even if I got a yeti tumbler for every customer I forwarded it to. ;) Axis has never ran a sprint from the starting line but they typically always win the race.

Everything comes down to having an honest discussion with your client about the pros and the cons and disclose all limitations of the solution. There are many drivers behind a client's inquiry about the "fever cam" systems and our job is to educate them and allow them to make the decision for themselves. Unfortunately, that is not the case most of the time and damages the reputation of the industry as a whole.

Questions from the context of an End User.

Do integrators know who the "bad apples" in the industry are? Can they tell over time who would sell a nothing burger vs. the ones that wouldn't?

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Do Integrators Know Who The "Bad Apples" In The Industry Are?

I suspect that many end users buy thermal cameras to limit their liability. A large percentage of CCTV systems have been bought with liability limitation in mind.

As regards performance, how many integrators have laid out effective CCTV coverage systems, only to have the end user severly cut the number of cameras, thereby reducing the performance value of the system? Few integrators have the courage to refuse the sale when their design count is decimated, and install a less than "good" system.

We may all agree that thermal cameras are a mixed bag, with over 200 vendors now throwing out wild claims, but are they totally useless? When lawsuits are increasing regarding how someone got infected, liability limitation may be a major factor to install thermal camera systems.

The ubiquitous inexpensive handheld thermopile units can fall into the same category of giving false readings of temperatures when improperly operated by untrained personnel, but no one is telling end users not to buy them.

A large percentage of CCTV systems have been bought with liability limitation in mind.

Sellers have certainly pushed that. However, Temperature Screening Is Ineffective, Says US, UK, Canada, Israel, And Ireland Health Leaders. They may be exposing themselves to lawsuits by using such systems especially as greater awareness to certain systems being rigged.

To play devil's advocate here, is this Axis saying it isn't needed because they don't offer it?

Just like for the past 5 years Axis saying "You don't need H.265. It is for the broadcast industry." This is because they didn't have it ready for their lineup and still only offer it in a handful of products and not the broad lineup???

No, Axis sells thermal radiometric cameras. They could go after this market if they wanted to, IMO.

Just like for the past 5 years Axis saying "You don't need H.265. It is for the broadcast industry."

In fairness, Axis' argument was more sophisticated than that - see Axis Anti-H.265 Document Uncovered, screencap summary from 2014:

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They were correct on these fundamental points. Also, Zipstream / smart codecs at that time were delivering far more savings.

is this Axis saying it isn't needed because they don't offer it?

I don't think Axis is questioning the need for it but the implementation of it. Axis specifically says:

If you have 500 students entering between 8:00 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., we don’t believe we are going to make a product work accurately enough.

That's clearly addressing the mass, on the move, no removing hats / glasses, screening that violates FDA and international standards.

The company I work for does not distribute Axis, they are a competition product. That said, Well done Axis for telling the truth.

I personally tell my customers not to waste their time on fever cameras, they are waste of time & money & give a false sense of security. I then give them a few facts

Up to 80% of sufferers have no symptoms at all, including no temperature.

Whilst people who are infected are infectious for about 14 days, those without a sever infection (ignoring the 80% above) typically only have a fever for a few days.

Between 5 & 10% of people have a naturally low body temperature, this means when they have a mild fever their body temperature really only reaches the upper end of normal.

Lets put all of this together. Assuming we have 100 infected people pass in front of the wonderful thermal camera based covid detection system.

80 have no symptoms so by definition will not be detected

Of the remaining 20 they typically only have a fever for about 25% of the time they are infectious so our possible detections are now down to 5.

Now take out detection of people with a naturally low body temp.

Now take out detection of people wearing hats, glasses, etc

Now take out those missed due to the relative inaccuracies of the technology

Now take out the error factor due to incorrect implementation

We are left with a 3% (?) catch rate.

Now ask the question, would you be happy with video analytics which work 3% of the time?

If not why do you even consider fever cameras?

It is actually even worse than the above due to the false detection rate which will lead to apathy from the operator at the best of times.

People buy many types of insurance in case they have an issue they prepare not to have. Why? This is a billion dollar industry.

Many great and informed comments on the rush to market with Fever cameras. Often times, first movers are over taken by the second wave bringing a better, more effective solution. I believe that may be the case this time as well, probably I’m biased given my company’s maniacal focus on delivering a scientifically accurate Fever camera that meets the standard as a medical device as per the FDA. I think it is also important to note that COVID-19 is only one pandemic. There have been many before and there will be more. Fever is a very common early indicator of contagious illness. Flu anyone? What happens when the flu finally mutates in such a way to kill millions? Oh yeah, it does that every year.

Interesting feedback / pushback from an end user:

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There is the router that FLIR, Avigilon, Bosch, JCI is taking, i.e., products that conform with the FDA, science, and reality. Axis could conceivably take that.

Short of that, Axis could help themselves and the industry by speaking out more about this.

We hear from lots of security end users who demand mass screening, it has to do 30 people per second, it can't require people taking off hats and glasses. But this is like demanding to be 9 foot tall or to live to 200 years old but security end users don't understand this and they are further confused by various sellers who have profiteered off the chaos and confusion of the pandemic, claiming to do these things. And then when 99% of people are 98°F anyway, systems are rigged to show that, reinforcing that it 'works' when it does not.

Net/net, Axis can help things by speaking out more.

Not to pick on this end user - this is an extremely common position - but this kind of thinking is known as technological solutionism.

This is the idea that every problem should primarily be solved with a technology product, rather than another method (e.g., behavioral change, "social engineering" which is an incredibly loaded term, incentives or consequences).

And this is understandable when government has largely ceded their role to business. Businesses make products, of course, and they want to make profitable products, so they're naturally likely to be expensive and/or complex.

So, even though it's likely that temperature cameras are at best a misuse of resources better spent on something else and at worse actively making the problem worse, it's still what we clamor for.

"Companies [like Axis] have to do something!" pleads the world. Because, correct or not, we don't trust news, science or government officials as much anymore. In Products We Trust is all that's left. And that leaves a lot of room, for both unethical and ethical people, to try and solve problems, even if they aren't the best way.

"Companies have to do something."Huge fallacy. Absolutely untrue. Frequently not only false but destructive.

Companies have to do something, IF something effective can be done.

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, if the only thing which can be done is counterproductive.

"We have to DO something!!1!1" is animal-level fight-or-flight reactionism.

"What can be done which will actually improve the situation?" is the most important question.

Think first. Then act if action is beneficial.

There are some situations for which an effective technological solution does not exist.

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: "Companies Have To Do Something."Huge Fallacy. Absolutely Untrue. Frequently Not Only False But Destructive.

Have not considered such sensors for all the reasons noted. Is there a standard for these cameras and these applications? Should the FDA standard rule? Is this a correct standard?

Is there a standard

Yes, see World IEC Fever Screening Standards Explained and FDA Defines Correct Operation of "Fever Cameras". Also, our graphic may help visualize the basics:

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At Fever Inspect, we're working hard to produce the market leading, medical grade, fever screening solution. As such, we generally agree with the guidelines above but also note there is emerging research from FDA scientists indicating the inner canthus may not produce optimal results compared to full face screening.

To be clear, full face + the inner canthus. What many vendors are doing is just forehead. This is the problem. Also, as others have mentioned elsewhere, that's assuming climate controlled, adjusted subjects, people walking in off the street will have worse results with forehead (as foreheads more easily heat up or get colder).

As I read it, they do not describe a full face + separate inner canthus measurement but obviously the inner canthus region would be included in a full face measurement.

And that's the issue, most companies in our testing are not scanning the inner canthus.

Quoting from the article, it's top key finding: "One of the most significant insights was that targeting the full face for temperature screening resulted in greater accuracy than narrowly targeting the inner canthi, as recommended by the ISO guidelines."

Please stop. I understand and have read the study. I am concerned people will be confused by your statements and think that it's OK not to scan the inner canthi as many products have done to use super low resolution or super wide FoV products.

Can you list those super low resolution or super wide FoV products?

Do you know any fever scan thermal camera on the market which can meet the IEC standard from your testing?

Not speaking on behalf of John or IPVM in any way, but I can share that Fever Inspect has designed our product with the intention of meeting or exceeding IEC/FDA guidelines as a medical device. We'll be presenting during IPVM's upcoming New Products show on Oct 1st, hope you can join us!

Look forward to it.

Utilizing a Mass Fever Screening System you don’t need to worry about these things or even if the people are moving, wearing masks and or glasses!!


Hang on guys, Im a bit late to the game......I need to look up "Inner Canthus" in my daughters Med School Books. Apparently, the plural of Canthus is Canthi. I'd ask her directly but she will just roll her eyes........


Anatomical terminology. Canthus (pl. canthi, palpebral commissures) is either corner of the eye where the upper and lower eyelids meet. More specifically, the inner and outer canthi are, respectively, the medial and lateral ends/angles of the palpebral fissure.

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Just a quick refresher. Carry on........

Given the fact the thermal screening is new normal, how do we ensure compliance to this standards

Well done Axis. This is another reason why you will continue to be first choice.

Thermal screening might not be a perfect solution, but can you recommend another alternative efficient solution?

What Dr. Fauci recommends:

The remarks are transcribed below:

[Col. Blaylock]:Has there been any demonstrated utility that you're aware of to capturing COVID-19 infection coming in the doors of hospitals by actually taking temperatures?

[Dr. Fauci]:You know, Colonel, this is going to disappoint a lot of people by saying this,but the answer is no. The benefit is marginal. We have found at the NIH, that it is much,much better to just question peoplewhen they come in and save the time because thetemperatures are notoriously inaccurate many times.So at the NIH Clinical Center across the street from you guys, and at the White House where I go in every day,we've abandoned entry of a determination of temperature

And if you are going to use thermal cameras, do it properly with cameras that are not rigged or use wall mounted IR guns, related What Would IPVM Recommend For Schools To Assess High Temps?

That's easy.

The K3 Non Contact Wall-Mount Thermometer has very good accuracy and only costs about $200 per unit. There are deeper discounts available based on quantity.

Why spend $10,000 on something that will be dated in a matter of a couple of years for a requirement that's still questionable? It seems even the CDC changes their mind on the effectiveness of detection and prevention methods every couple of weeks.

If you think fever cameras are the end all solution for temperature screening, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.

Just use a time proven method that's a fraction of the cost.

Lol. If I am reading right, Dr. Fauci suggested to abandon a determination of temperature, no matter whether it's a thermal camera or an infrared thermometer.

I am curious what questions Dr. Fauci suggested to ask? "Do you have a fever today?"

You are right. Proper setup is the key.

I agree 110%. This is why we settled on non-contact temperature solutions.

We had multiple opportunities to sell quite a bit of this “technology” early on. Some of our customers would have paid anything, sight unseen. I wrote a letter to our largest accounts explaining that we felt the technology, along with some of the manufacturers related claims of accuracy was “dubious at best” and that we would not be participating in this particular market segment. Fast forward to today, I take great pride in writing and sending it (at great cost to our sales and profits) We have sold $0 of this junk. At the end of the day, if we cant look the customer in the eye and feel and speak confidently that what we are selling them will prove to do the job we say it will do, and to be the successful solution they are looking for, we cant and wont put it on the table.

Precisely how we feel at Fever Inspect and that drives our product specification and capabilities. Hope you can make it to the IPVM New Products event when we will present on Oct 1st.

Are you claiming (or implying) that your product can determine a bonafide fever from elevated skin temperature?

On the surface your comment promoting a technology called "Fever Inspect" in response to a comment about dubious manufacturer claims seems...intriguing.

Yes, Fever Inspect determines a bonafide fever using elevated skin temperature. All human temperature measurement systems ultimately rely on linking a sensor value to a true human physiologic temperature.

This relies on developing technology around the science of the measurement and of physiology. In our case, the unique Fever Inspect technology linking thermal imaging to physiology, includes, in part: integrated blackbodies, ambient temperature sensor, distance to target sensor, and a full face reading approach.

To our knowledge, no other thermal imaging system has developed technology combining thermal imaging science with the physiolgic science of the human body. Instead, there is an over-reliance on thermal imaging reporting only "a surface temperature" , and adjusted data outputs pushed inappropriately to hover closely to 98.6F. The result is outputs which provide "safety theater" not safety.

On the thermal imaging science side, there is a wide gap between inaccurate surface temperature and accurate surface temperature capabilities. Moreover, when thermal imaging interacts with human physiology, there is an even wider gap between accurate surface temperature and an accurate body temperature determination.

We have decades of experience in thermal imaging and human physiologic measurement techniques. We believe the best of science should be providing best-in-class temperature screening, and that is what we intend to deliver. We invite you to learn about Fever Inspect during the IPVM Show presentation on Oct. 1, 11 am.

500 students between 8:15 and 8:30, not a problem for the SENTRY MK4!! It has been doing this kind of thing for over a decade!! When you use the wrong tool for the job, you won’t get the results you want!! Omnisense Systems SENTRY MK 4 Mass Fever Screening System is designed from the ground up specifically for this type of application. Omnisense Systems has be manufacturing and providing these systems for over a decade. With millions of operational hours proving the technology.

Omnisense Systems SENTRY MK 4 Mass Fever Screening System is designed from the ground up specifically for this type of application

Johnny, if the forehead and inner canthus are obscured, how does any system detect a 'fever' / elevated temperature? What's the science of theory behind that?

In the video, Dr F would not use such devices with the reason, that "they" are not accurate enough to be reliable and the body temp can vary depending upon a number of factors. His video was some time back (before his surgery); so I wonder if he would take that position now. How come we use skin temp sensors in my doctor's office if the accuracy can very as much as 10 degrees? Also, these sensors should not make a decision to admit; rather, they should just get the guy out of line for a more accurate test. It would seem to me that some records are made of such tests that would be valuable to determine accuracy, no?

I think the answer is rectal sensors. Just sit down on the thing and boom, you have an accurate temp.

When I was inundated with recommendations for fever cameras within our company back in May, 2020, I was skeptical.

I would try to refocus those asking for recommendations on the business requirements. The more we discussed this, the more it became clear that the requirements were very simple. We needed to take temperatures at entrances with as much accuracy as possible. No logging, no video, no photos, no HIPAA violation risks. Just temperature. At the most, we may need remote notification but not always.

At the time, we also knew that the FDA had just released a statement saying thermal cameras had not been effective when used to take the temperature of multiple people at the same time. Meanwhile many manufacturers were claiming their products could.

Additionally, The FDA also released guidelines surrounding room temperature, reflections (glass, etc.), drafts, radiant heat, lighting, facial obstructions, excessive clothing and more. The one that kept jumping out at me was the recommendation for the user to wait 15 minutes in the measurement room before attempting to record a temperature with a thermal camera. That wasn't going to work out for us.

Many that I spoke to within our company would go back to the cameras and the thermal imaging. They would say, "I seen this on the news". Many of them fell in love with the "CSI factor". For me, that meant nothing. We just needed accurate temperatures and in some cases, notifications.

Before the IPVM Fever Camera Show June, we narrowed our search to the K3 Non-Contact Thermometer. Later, the Fever Camera Show only confirmed our original choice.

If you're an end user and still on the fence, look hard into your business requirements and weigh that against HIPPA, internal procedures, FDA guidelines, CDC guidelines, IPVM reviews and more.

There's no need to spend $10k+ per camera on this...

If your traffic throughput allows this type of operation, by all means, we would agree. when you have hundreds of students, workers or passengers and the like this method quickly becomes impractical and this is where the Mass Fever Screening Systems becomes practical as well as cost effective.

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