New technology installed at the Windsor Regional Hospital, meant to help detect weapons coming into emergency rooms, may not be as effective as its billed — and it's been controversial in some U.S. cities where it's been used before.
The hospital this week became first in Canada to implement the Evolv Technologies weapons detection system, which uses AI to find knives and guns, reportedly without setting off the alarm for common items like cell phones and keys.
But independent research firm IPVM tells CBC News the system is not foolproof.
"At schools, for example, in the United States we're seeing false alert rates as high as 60 per cent," said Conor Healy, a Torontonian who is the director of government research for IPVM.
Conor Healy is the director of government research for IPVM. (Dale Molnar/CBC)
He says the system issued a false alarm when detecting, "items like phones, Chromebooks, binders, water bottles."
He says IPVM also reviewed research by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. Evolv commissioned that research, which found the system detected about 58 per cent of knives that passed through the system.
The Utica City School District in New York got rid of the system it spent nearly $4 million on when, last year, a student was able to take a hunting knife through and stabbed another student several times.
On October 12, Evolv notified shareholders the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was investigating the marketing claims by Evolv.
In a filing, the company said it was "pleased" to answer the FTC's questions "as well as educate them about our mission to make communities safer and more secure."
"Like many companies, when Evolv receives inquiries from regulators, our approach is to be cooperative and educate them about our company," the filing reads. "The Company stands behind its technology's capabilities and performance track record, and is proud to partner with hundreds of security professionals to add a layer of advanced technology to their safety plan."
Evolv did not respond to a request for comment.
But Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj says the hospital stands by the system.
"Is it going to be 100 per cent foolproof? No, nothing is.There's no detector in the world that's like that," Musyj said. "It's a very good system. It works well and we stand by it."
Musyj pointed to four cases of guns or knives being brought into the hospital over the past year staff became aware of after the patient's entry. Since the system was installed two days ago, a hospital spokesperson told CBC News it had already detected 12 knives.
The hospital is spending $8,000 a year on the systems installed at both campuses.
David Musyj is the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital (Dale Molnar/CBC)
When it comes to false alarms Musyj says he'd rather have that, than not have a system that also detects the weapons.
But Healy stills suggests the hospital do its due diligence when dealing with the company.
In a statement to CBS Pittsburgh, a company spokesperson said the systems aren't "fool proof." The company now says it provides a "safer zone," though the CBS report notes the company's original marketing material says it would create "weapons-free zones."