School District Admits Not Following FDA Guidelines With 144, No Blackbody, Hikvision Fever Cameras

By Charles Rollet, Published Aug 21, 2020, 09:02am EDT

The Baldwin County School District has admitted it is not following FDA guidelines for its Hikvision fever camera system. This is in response to IPVM reporting such risks and CBS affiliate WKRG's investigation.

IPVM Image

The FDA declared, in May, that these systems "work effectively only" when these guidelines are followed.

The district also released its contract for the system, confirming it does not use blackbody devices, which are crucial for accuracy. Yet school officials doubled down at a press conference, saying the cameras "have done exceptionally well" since schools reopened last week and potential accuracy issues "doesn't concern us", even while stating system accuracy is not being tracked.

The district even wrongly claimed that Hikvision cameras were the only reasonable/ affordable choice, telling local news "it was these cameras or none at all."

Finally, the district defended its usage of Hikvision - a Chinese government-controlled company that has been sanctioned over human rights abuses - by dismissing "conspiracy theories out there" and stating "we haven't had any conversations with China, I don't call China up, China doesn't call me".

Not Following FDA Guidelines

The school district's CFO admitted, even emphasized, that they were not following FDA guidelines to WKRG:

The full quote is below:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

WKRG News: But the Chief Financial Officer for the school system says they never intended to buy that [blackbody] device or follow FDA guidelines.

School Chief Financial Officer John Wilson: We're not looking for that, we're just looking for an early warning system that will allow us to identify the children or employees that have above normal temperature so then we can move forward with individual screenings [emphasis added]

Work Order Released, Confirms No Blackbody Devices

The district released the single-page million dollar order, screen-capped below:

IPVM Image

While the document confirms no blackbodies were obtained, the document does not even list the model number of the Hikvision thermal cameras sold.

Risk For Children

The school defended the system the deployment in a press conferencing emphasizing 'no false readings':

The full quote was said at this point in the press conference and is reproduced below:

Reporter: Some have said that you may not be able to register temperatures at 30 [people] per second, it should be more of a one-at-a-time, the camera needs more time to really register that temperature accurately, it's been brought up as a reliability...

Anthony Sampson, Director of Prevention & Support Services: it hasn't been brought up as a reliability from our nurses. We rely on Hunter Security to vet the technology so that we can use the technology. The nurses have not given me any indication that they're being inundated with false readings or this reading or that reading, it's doing what it is designed to do and it's helping them facilitate their assessment of students [emphasis added]

While it is quite possible that there have been no false positives (i.e., students without fevers detecting as having fevers), the most significant risk is false negatives (i.e., students with fevers that the system does not detect as having a fever). Indeed, this is the most significant risk we have found with Hikvision and other 'fever cameras' especially when deployed without a blackbody.

False negatives are particularly problematic as they give the impression that the system is running smoothly (with no errors or 'false' reads). During the conference, Anthony Sampson stated that the cameras "have done exceptionally well" since schools reopened last week.

The full press conference is embedded below:

"No Need" For Tracking Accuracy

IPVM Image

In the press conference, Superintendent Eddie Tyler stated the district is not currently tracking system accuracy because "right now there is no need for that":

If you're coming in and you got 100.4 [from the camera system] or higher you're going to the nurse, and the nurse puts the infrared to the forehead and it's 98.6, are we tracking those things? If we felt that was something that was becoming an issue then we would hear that from the nurse. But right now we rely on Hunter Security, so that's a valid question, but right now there is no need for that, we feel comfortable with what we're doing and if all of a sudden it seems like it was just getting really sideways we would address it with Hunter Security, but right there everything seems to be good [emphasis added]

Clearly, if accuracy is not being tracked, there is even less of a chance the district will realize there are any accuracy issues. However, on the accuracy, Anthony Sampson, Director of Prevention & Support Services, stated it "doesn't concern us" because the system is "front-line, first-line" defense:

IPVM Image

Reporter: when someone or anyone questions the accuracy and reliability of the cameras, I mean does that concern all of you, are you saying maybe we should take a second and look...?

Anthony Sampson: it doesn't concern us because at the end of the day the thermal camera that's above your head it's a screening mechanism. As Mrs Broughton [Principal of Fairhope East Elementary] said, it's a front-line, first-line defense. So if it gives us an indication, OK, maybe I need to go check on that. Nurses then fall in and they check and they validate and they look for the symptoms and they follow the appropriate protocol and if a kid needs to go home, they go home. [emphasis added]

Nonetheless, a "front-line" system is of little use if it misses fevers in the first place.

"These Cameras Or None At All"

In another local news report, the school district was quoted as stating "it was these cameras or none at all":

IPVM Image

Ask Hunter Security, Says School District

The school district superintendent admitted not knowing about the technology, deferring to Hunter Security who sold them these cameras, saying:

I'm sorry, you're not going to get an intelligent answer from a superintendent that is involved in education. but we're dealing with Hunter Security. they are subject matter experts. and so I would direct any further questions that you might have about the cameras to Hunter Security.

IPVM Image

While Hunter Security finally commented to the local NBC affiliate, the company's GM Scott Hunter furthered the claims about the cost savings of the products he sold:

There could be some that are FDA approved, and that's terrific. They probably cost ten times than what the school board was able to budget for this project

That is not true. There are many options at equal or significantly lower prices that follow FDA guidelines, such as:

  • FDA cleared FLIR has EST specific models in the same price range as Hikvision.
  • Seek, whose Scan product does follow FDA guidelines costs just ~$2,000 for a full system including a blackbody, a fraction of what Hunter charged the school district plus actually scans the inner canthus, unlike Hikvision which only measures the forehead.
  • Kentix has a model under $1,000 that scans the inner canthus, following FDA guidelines
  • And for really low-cost options, there is the K3 / K7 models for a few hundred dollars that are wall-mounted IR guns, similar to commonly used hand-held IR guns but faster and without the risk of cross-contamination.

All of these, in IPVM testing, had better accuracy than Hikvision without a blackbody. And the later 3 options listed (one US-made, one German-made, one China-made) would all have saved the schools hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I Don't Call China Up, China Doesn't Call Me"

IPVM's investigation also noted the ethical issues with buying cameras from Hikvision, a PRC government-controlled company that has been sanctioned by the US government over human rights abuses. In response, Superintendent Eddie Tyler dismissed "conspiracy theories out there" saying "everything we're doing is legal":

we haven't had any conversation with China, I don't call China up, China doesn't call me. I know there's all kind of conspiracy theories out there, but everything we're doing is legal. We have one of the best law firms around, it's Stone Crosby. They advise us, they guide us, so we're very comfortable with what we're doing in our schools to protect our students and our employees. [emphasis added]

No one has claimed any 'conversations' between the school district and 'China'.

Problems With No Blackbody

Blackbody devices are crucial to accuracy as they provide a reference temperature for the system to properly calibrate. IPVM's own testing of Hikvision's thermal system found it became less accurate without the blackbody, with both increased false alerts and missed detections. Hikvision itself recommends blackbody usage for its thermal cameras:

IPVM Image

Not Following FDA Guidelines Problems

The FDA is clear that screening multiple people at once is inaccurate:

Thermal imaging systems have not been shown to be accurate when used to take the temperature of multiple people at the same time. The accuracy of these systems depends on careful set-up and operation, as well as proper preparation of the person being evaluated. [emphasis added]

'Fever cams' are considered medical devices by the FDA, meaning the FDA regulates their sale and use. The FDA has told IPVM that it "does not intend to object" to these devices' usage only as long as they are used "under the circumstances described in the guidance and where such use does not create undue risk".

While many users, in practice, violate FDA guidelines, this is the first instance IPVM has found of a user announcing they do not follow FDA guidance. Penalties for FDA violations run the gamut, from a "warning letter" to fines and criminal prosecution.

Districts are certainly under great pressure to get back to school but poorly selected, planned, and implemented fever cameras systems are not only costly financially but to the health and safety of the public.

6 reports cite this report:

Six Flags' FDA Violating Outdoor Dahua Fever Cameras on Oct 26, 2020
As Six Flags scrambled to reopen parks amid plummeting revenues caused by the...
No Blackbody Mistake, Half Million Dollar, Hikvision Fever Camera System in Georgia on Sep 16, 2020
A Georgia school district touted buying Hikvision fever screening "about...
Hikvision Impossible 30 People Simultaneously Fever Claim Dupes Baldwin Alabama on Sep 01, 2020
The Alabama school district which spent $1 million on Hikvision fever cameras...
InVid Flaunts Violating FDA Guidelines on Aug 28, 2020
InVid Tech is showcasing an open violation of FDA fever screening guidelines...
Thermology Expert: "95-99%" Doing Fever Screening Wrong, Unjustified Compensating Algorithms "Insane" on Aug 27, 2020
A thermology expert tells IPVM "95 to 99% of people" are doing fever...
Temperature Screening Is Ineffective, Says US, UK, Canada, Israel, And Ireland Health Leaders on Aug 25, 2020
Health leaders around the world are increasingly speaking out about the...

Comments (51)

Only IPVM Members may comment. Login or Join.

Charles, excellent reporting!

Beyond the strong points in the post, I would add for any end-user / buyer, if you get or approve a 1 page 'work order' / contract', you are putting your organization at risk (whether it is fever cameras or other equipment). You really need to know and verify the details involved. For example, this work order does not even list the model number of the cameras being bought, a very basic oversight.

I predict a multi person "stepping down" or "firing" in the future for this district!

My bet would be the security vendor has a long history with the district, which is why it wasn't put out to bid. Or it could be that nobody else wanted to touch the liability. I still can't believe a one million dollar project with 48 thermal cameras came through and was approved on a page bid. One can only imagine what the rest of their security infrastructure looks like.

I still can't believe a one million dollar project with 48 thermal cameras came through and was approved on a page bid

That's because it was 144 thermal cameras across 48 schools! ;)

Agreed about the concerns on the rest of the infrastructure if this is the approach taken.

How can the school district confidently affirm that things are going well if accuracy is not being tracked?

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

I don't know how well it applies, but it's fun to say.

It actually makes perfect sense.

An absence of fever detection does not necessarily imply an absence of coronavirus in students and staff entering Baldwin County schools.

We haven't sold any of the "Fever" systems. I just can't morally do it. You are right Robert how do they know the cameras are working, either properly or not properly if they don't have any metrics. I would think for a million dollars one, the community, would want to know their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Shannon, I dug up this interesting tidbit from our friends at the local NBC affiliate.

Alabama lawmakers discuss how to spend $1.8 billion to fight coronavirus in schools | WPMI

The Baldwin County thermal cameras are mentioned in this article. It looks as if the school boards received access to the CARES Act funds and were pressed to spend the monies over the summer. As government authorities the world over have shown this year, action is preferable to inaction, even if said action is misguided. Into the void walks Hunter Security with the Hikvision 'fever' cameras, and the rest is history.

Given the pandemic and since the funds used for the cameras did not come from the regular 2020 budget and are not tied to local property/sales taxes, the school board probably was not as circumspect as they should have been before green-lighting this. It is a shame, especially since Charles does a great job here highlighting less expensive solutions that follow FDA guidelines.

I've lost track, are we listening to Fauci this week, or is that next week?

Do you think temperature screening is accurate?

Not at all.

How accurate is accurate enough?

I have heard several integrators say they stayed away from doing any kind of EBT/EST applications because they didn't want to wind up in a mess if expectations were not met. It looks like this school district is already queuing up Hunter Security to take the fall if the system comes under further scrutiny.

Who’s fault is it? Mostly Hunter or mostly the school?

A good example of "caveat emptor", but bad optics on the sellers.

Can't really say, my invite to the design meeting must have gotten caught by my spam filter. From the comments from the school board, I do not get the impression that they take much responsibility for the design.

The Baldwin County Board of Education has been a customer of Hunter Security (who appear to be a relatively small local alarm company with at least some experience in commercial integrations) since at least 2014.... - httpHunter Security | Your Security Is Our Business

imo, any heat that comes from the school district using this stuff falls pretty much entirely on Hunter. They are the trusted advisor in this field, no?

John. As both a security consultant, with a history in Security Integration, as well as a School Director of the 5th largest school district in PA, the weight of responsibility falls on the school district due to its moral and legal responsibility of serving its students, staff and community. This does not negate the seller from any responsibility. I am sure they will be paying a price.

Educators are promoted to leadership positions in school districts, oftentimes without the necessary training or experience. I am not sure a lifelong educator, who is now superintendent of a $500M organization would be chosen to lead a $500M business. Unfortunately, this incestuous promotion occurs even under the watchful eyes of business people who serve on the Board. The business community does not understand the "black box" of education and throws blind trust to educators. This can contribute to large egos among educational leaders.

"How can you judge the decision we made to spend $1M to safely educate our students. How dare you?"

Charlie, thanks for the feedback! On your side, what are you hearing about school usage (or not) of fever cameras?

In my limited world, it seems that most school districts have avoided falling prey to the "sharks of fever cameras." There are none in my region that I am aware of.

3rd largest school district in PA

Which school is this Charlie?

Hey Mike - Allentown School District, which is actually the 5th largest. The City of Allentown is the 3rd largest - corrected above.

That is one of my main concerns for selling this solution. Especially that quantity. From my experience a solution like this will swamp my service techs to keep the system running properly. As usual it would be there fault for the inaccuracy of the system. They would take the brunt of the abuse from the customer.

WKRG | Baldwin Co. Superintendent responds to a critical report on thermal cameras

The cost of getting and installing the equipment was $1m. The cameras were manufactured by a Chinese company controlled by the Chinese government—their products have been banned for use by U.S. government branches.

“We haven’t had any conversation with China–I don’t call China up, China doesn’t call me,” said Superintendent Eddie Tyler. “I know there are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there.”

I dont call China, China doesnt call me... Sorry I found this to be hysterical.

How does he know his Hikvision cameras aren't calling home :)

They aren't tracking that either...

IPVM Image

Good to see the Placebo Effect is working well for the school district. I am just thankful I am not even in AL when that lawsuit hits...

I should have sent this district a trial IPVM membership.

Whenever I see / hear about a very smelly deal like this I always wonder what is the real relationship between the vendor & the the decision makers at the client. How many paper bags were passed around?

Typically this is type of stuff is laziness and ignorance, but in this case, who knows...

C - Crazy

A - Ass

R - Ridiculous

E - Expenditures

S - on really Stupid Stuff

I have heard stories of Millions of CARES dollars being made available to school administrators with less that 36 hours to determine how to spend/waste it.

That sounds like the movie Brewsters Millions from the 80s.

I didnt see FDA guidance in this paper on the need for a blackbody. rather the paper guides on proper us of a blackbody if it comes with the camera.

Thermal Imaging Systems (Infrared Thermographic Systems / Thermal Imaging Cameras) | FDA

Preparing the Thermal Imaging System

  • Some systems require the use of a calibrated blackbody (a tool for checking the calibration of an infrared temperature sensor) during evaluation to make sure measurements are accurate. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if a calibrated blackbody is needed. Some devices do not require one.
  • Turn on the entire system 30 minutes before use to warm it up

Using the Thermal Imaging System

  • Measure only one person’s surface skin temperature at a time.
  • Position the person at a fixed distance (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use) from the thermal imaging system, directly facing the camera.
  • The image area should include the person’s whole face and the calibrated blackbody, if using one.
  • If an increased temperature is seen using the thermal imaging system, you should use a different method to confirm a fever. Public health officials can help you determine if the fever is a sign of infection.

blackbody is mentioned 5 times in the paper. 3 appear in the text above. the fourth is in a picture caption

You're correct that the FDA guidance does not mandate blackbody use:

Some systems require the use of a calibrated blackbody (a tool for checking the calibration of an infrared temperature sensor) during evaluation to make sure measurements are accurate. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if a calibrated blackbody is needed. Some devices do not require one.

We didn't claim the school district wasn't following FDA guidance on blackbody devices. Our article points out that, separately from the FDA, IPVM's independent testing shows much worse performance (thus leading to missed fevers) of the Hikvision system without blackbody use, while Hikvision itself recommends a blackbody in its instructions.

Meanwhile, the school district is openly violating the very clear FDA guidance to "measure only one person’s surface skin temperature at a time". We have asked the district repeatedly whether they follow the FDA guidance on making sure people remove "any face obstructions before measurement" and wait "at least 15 minutes in the measurement room or 30 minutes after exercising" to adjust; we received no answer on those.

Is there any test proof of the inaccuracy of measuring single person vs. measuring multiple people at a time?

Sounds like the school district went down the "good ole boy" path for convenience sake and they're irritated people are calling them on it. Having done contracting, I understand there are times where you can't really put out a proper competitive bid, but this is really a waste of taxpayer's money. The justification of "it had to be these cameras because they are cheap" doesn't reflect on the fact they are installed improperly or are being used improperly.

I hate the statement "it had to be these cameras because they fit the budget" because if that's the case they'd be better off with teachers using non-contact thermometers. Somehow my son's middle school uses 4 teachers to screen 500 kids during drop off time just fine, and it costs less than a single EST camera and is probably more effective.

My wife's college has one of the tablet/kiosk style units outside the building that you have to contort yourself to get your face to fit in the outline. She says it fails to detect the face more than it actually detects.

While I believe these solutions can be effective in limited cases when following guidelines, it appears most of the integrators out there who the customer look to for trusted advice simply don't know or don't care how to properly advise their customers, even if it meant no sale.

Now that Hunter has publicly admitted that they didn't vet the FDA compliant technology (quoted as saying that FDA approved deployments are "probably" more expensive), I wonder if there will be any fallout over the no bid and the blind faith that the district has shown in trusting Hunter. If I were a parent in that district I would certainly take issue with the way the money was frivolously being spent.

If I were a parent in that district

I don't think the money came from the local Board of Educations budget - and instead came from the Feds via the CARES Act - mentioned by Robert towards the top of this Discussion thread.

The school board publishes all of their meeting minutes, and there is no mention before or after June (when the 1 pg Million Dollar Estimate For Work doc was dated) of any monies allocated for fever camera solutions - Meetings Listing - eBoard Solutions

That brings into question the statement that federal funds were not used then. With the Aug 13th implementation date would this be grandfathered since the work order was from June? Or if payment hasn't been made yet, are they now banned from using CARES money for the HIK cameras?

Disagree and unhelpful....must work for Hunter Security!

WKRG | Baldwin Co. Schools react to report critical of thermal cameras

“We’re not a federal agency–I don’t have access to the DOD blacklist, it’s not something that I check. And we didn’t use federal funds to pay for these cameras,” he said.

- Chief Financial Officer for the school system John Wilson

From the wikipedia listing for CARES Act:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CARES Act

United States federal legislation

Description

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 116th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2020 in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So, did they use CARES Act funding or not?

And if not, where are the public meeting minutes where they appropriated their own funds for this fever camera expenditure?

Random, identity conflict detected.

Comment Time Out so....

Hi all you cool people!!!

disregard unless you want to see me talking to myself.

blah IPVM

blah IPVM

wait.....OMG

PEOPLE are POSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I saw some impressive installation practices............ NOT!

I won't say that no detection is better than bad detection but using 100.4F (referencing oral measurement) for detection will miss around 80% of the sickness. Furthermore if you don't take age into account you will find 98.6F is with 95% confidence, a fever in people older the 65. Again some 80% false negatives are better than missing 100% false negatives (do nothing) but can turn most people's stomachs from the dangers faced.

I won't say that no detection is better than bad detection but using 100.4F (referencing oral measurement) for detection will miss around 80% of the sickness. Furthermore if you don't take age into account you will find 98.6F is with 95% confidence, a fever in people older than 65.

Again, 80% false negatives is better than 100% false negatives (doing nothing) but the mere thought can turn anybody's stomachs over the dangers you subject people to, now knowingly.

Loading Related Reports