Fever Detecting Doorbell Wins CES Award, Fools WSJ

By John Honovich and Zach Segal, Published Jan 14, 2021, 07:56am EST

Fever detection was a booming, comical, and dangerous market in 2020. While the market has now mostly busted, a new entrant has won a CES award for a doorbell that claims to detect fevers.

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In this note, we examine the fundamental problems of detecting fevers with doorbells, how CES distanced itself from the award it gave this company and how the WSJ was fooled by this.

Company Background

The 'Ettie' doorbell is from Plott. Plott says they are a New Jersey company with a factory in China that builds tools for the DIY community to measure their surroundings and plan projects.

Plott's phone number is answered by a company named Northwest Instruments that says they design AR measuring tools for home design and construction. Northwest Instruments shows 5 employees on Linkedin, none of whom have experience with thermography or are listed in mechanical engineering roles.

Plott's CEO is David Xing, who has a background in finance and their creative lead is Matt Cultera, who has a background in graphic design.

We attempted repeatedly to speak with Plott. While the company responded initially, they never provided any information or material response to our questions.

CES Award

Ettie won a CES 'Innovation' award with the description centered squarely on its fever detection capabilities:

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The First video doorbell that combines temperature tracking, image recording, real time alert and capacity management. Ettie senses the guests temperature and will give visual & audio alerts for whether the guest is permitted to enter based on their temperature reading. [emphasis aded]

CES Response

CTA, the organization behind CES, told IPVM that even though they gave them this award they were not endorsing the 'product claims' made:

The Consumer Technology Association does not endorse any product claims of Innovation Honorees. All products are reviewed by an outside panel of judges.

This is an odd position to take. The award is clearly based on the product claim of temperature screening. Otherwise, it is just another doorbell.

WSJ Fooled

The CES show fueled a stream of publicity, even the WSJ jumped on board, fooled by an admitted 'nonworking prototype' they borrowed and this obviously flawed demo:

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It is as if Plott and the WSJ said "How can we demonstrate violating FDA guidelines, world standards, and science in as many ways as possible?"

This demo shows many fundamental problems:

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  • Placing a temperature screening device outdoors is highly unreliable and against standards. As the temperature rises and falls throughout the day or as wind increases or decreases, this impacts the accuracy of the reading. Climate controlled screening is critical and standard.
  • Moreover, screening people outdoors is highly unreliable. Being outside in the cold (like the snow in the background of that demo) or the heat will materially change people's skin temperatures and make it far less likely to accurately relate to true body temperature. Preparing subjects for screening is fundamental, e.g., the FDA guidelines call for waiting 15 minutes indoors before the screening and, even if you think that is too long, doing it outdoors with no time to adjust, is clearly dangerous.
  • Screening people while wearing a hat causes problems and is against FDA guidelines. The hat obscures the forehead, further impacting the reliability and accuracy of the results.

For reference and contrast, here are the relevant sections of the FDA guidelines:

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And:

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We have reported this to the FDA as this marketing violates FDA guidelines and, if the public were to use this, to face increased risk in determining entrance to one's home or business.

1 report cite this report:

CES: Our Awards Are Not Endorsements on Jan 15, 2021
The CES show has added an Orwellian disclaimer that it does not 'endorse' the...

Comments (13)

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More and more crap on the market

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Wow, what a statement

"CTA, the organization behind CES, told IPVM that even though they gave them this award they were not endorsing the 'product claims' made:

The Consumer Technology Association does not endorse any product claims of Innovation Honorees. All products are reviewed by an outside panel of judges."

What did the panel of judges review? The packaging saying how good it was at detecting fever?

I understand that CTA will not endorse the product, but the fact is they have issued the reward, do therefore giving some endorsement. They cannot hide behind the statement "an outside panel of judges" as they most have chosen those judges... They have to ensure that they understand the technology a bit, but have ensured that the judges know what they are doing!

Very poor..

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We asked CTA / CES about how they judge, they responded:

A panel of industry expert judges review applications in each product category and provide a score from 1 to 10 (1 being lowest; 10 being highest) based on the evaluation criteria. All entries are reviewed and scored based on the following criteria:

  • Engineering and functionality
  • Aesthetic and design
  • What makes the product unique and innovative

For the judging process, we issue a call for judges and candidates apply to participate in judging. We review applications and resumes from designers, engineers and members of the media and select the judges from those that apply.[emphasis added]

We followed up with CTA, asking them how they specifically evaluated the 'engineering and functionality' of these products as well as whether or not they tested products. CTA did not respond.

Note: products do not need to be shipping to win awards and can be released as late as 2+ months after the show.

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So I Guess we cannot trust CES awards anymore since they just hand them out like candy without validating.

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I have not seen a tradeshow award where the award was based on testing or even rigorous analysis. If there is one, someone please let me know.

Related: Best New Product Awards Investigated, The Embarrassing Story of ISC West's Best New IP Camera,

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Thats good to know John. Consumer trust is important and the consumer probably does assume there is testing and the award has merit. Sad reality really.

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IPVM...conduct your own. Your expertise is needed. Is an award needed? Is an award needing to be validating by an IPVM audience?

John, you are on to something and have the resources to counterfact the rigorous analysis. Do It.

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You get a participation ribbon and you get a participation ribbon....and on and on.

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My guess is they either had an expensive booth, or threw a great party.

More to the point, my understanding is once you have a detectable fever from COVID, you are already quite sick and very unlikely to want to go anywhere.

I think earlier IPVM articles have suggested fever detection is mostly COVID theater.

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My guess is they either had an expensive booth, or threw a great party.

It's all virtual this year, so, if it was, it was one hell of a Zoom room :)

I think the judges and the media liked the concept and did not understand the technical and scientific realities involved.

I joke sometimes that you should enter a perpetual motion machine for a trade show award and you would win. It is, after all, a great concept.

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This is actually Plott's second appearance on IPVM:

CES 2018 Show Final Report

The measuring wheel at least had a working in-person demo. I wonder if they would have tried to show this doorbell product live if the show had been done IRL.

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I wonder if they would have tried to show this doorbell product live if the show had been done IRL.

Well doing it indoors with a controlled climate would help :) My gut feel was that, even though an indoor doorbell did not make much practical sense, Plott would have had a sense of the basics about temperature screening to not share a demo with the WSJ of it being done outdoors in the winter.

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Ridiculous!!

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