Fever Detecting Doorbell Wins CES Award, Fools WSJBy John Honovich and Zach Segal, Published Jan 14, 2021, 07:56am EST
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.
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.
We attempted repeatedly to speak with Plott. While the company responded initially, they never provided any information or material response to our questions.
Ettie won a CES 'Innovation' award with the description centered squarely on its fever detection capabilities:
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]
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.
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:
This demo shows many fundamental problems:
- 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:
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.
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