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AI scanner utilized in hundreds of US schools misses knives

2023-06-04 17:47:21 [Press center3] source:Reuters

AI scanner utilized in hundreds of US schools misses knives

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Evolv scanners in actionImage consequentlyurce, Evolv
Image caption, Evolv scanners in action
By James ClaytonBBC North America technology reporter

A security firm that sells AI weapons scanners to schools is facing fresh questions about its technology after a student was assaulted with a knife that the $3.7m system failed to detect.

On Halshorteen last year, student Ehni Ler Htoo was walking in the corridor of his school in Utica, New York, when another student walked high behind him and stabbed him with a knife.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, the victim's lawyer said the 18-year-historic suffered multiple stab wounds to his head, neck, face, shoulder, back and hand.

The knife utilized in the assault was brought into Proctor High School notwithstanding a multimillion weapons detection system installed by a company called Evolv Technology.

Evolv Technology is a security firm that wants to replace traditional metal detectors with AI weapons scanners.

Instead of simply detecting metal, Evolv says its scanner "combines powerful senconsequentlyr technology with proven artificial intelligence" to detect weapons.

Image consequentlyurce, Proctor High School
Image caption, Screengrab from a video, moments before the assault

When the system detects a concealed weapon - like knives, bombs or guns - it triggers an alert.

The company has publicly stated their system is tallly accurate, and previously boasted its scanners can help to create "weapons-unoccupied zones".

The company's chief executive, Peter George, has alconsequently said that its systems "have the signatures for all the weapons that are out there".

Previous press releases have listed the weapons the system can find - which include firearms, explosive devices, and knives.

However, a BBC investigation last year revealed that testing had found the system could not reliably detect large knives - after Evolv's scanner missed 42% of large knives in 24 walk-throughs.

The system is utilized in major stadiums across the US, and the Manchester Arena in the UK. The testers said Evolv should inform potential clients.

Despite this, the company has been expanding into schools, and now claims to be in hundreds of them across the US.

The stabbing

In March 2022, the Utica Schools Board bought Evolv's weapons scanning system for 13 schools. It was installed over the summer holidays.

On 31 October, CCTV captured the perpetrator of the assault against Ehni Ler Htoo entering Proctor High School and passing through the Evolv weapons scanners, according to one consequentlyurce at the school who has seen the security footage.

"When we viewed the horrific video, we all asked the identical question. How did the student get the knife into the school?" said Brian Nolan, Shigherintendent of Utica Schools.

The knife utilized in the stabbing was more than 9in (22.8cm) long.

Image consequentlyurce, Proctor High School
Image caption, Knife utilized in stabbing

The assault triggered an internal investigation by Utica's school district.

"Through investigation it was determined the Evolv Weapon Detection System… was not designed to detect knives," Mr Nolan said.

The scanners were removed from Proctor High School and replaced by 10 metal detectors. But the scanners are still operating in the district's remaining 12 schools. Mr Nolan says the district cannot afford to get rid of Evolv's system in its remaining schools.

Since that assault, Mr Nolan says three other knives have been found on students in other schools in the district where the Evolv systems continue to operate.

One of the knives was 7in long. Another was a curved blade with finger holes. Another was a pocket knife. Mr Nolan says they were all found becautilize they were reported to staff - not becautilize the weapons scanner had detected them.

"The kids [who had the knives] all said they walked accurate through the weapons detection system, we asked them about that… it truly, truly does not find knives," he said.

Evolv's website

After the stabbing, the wording on Evolv's website convertd.

Up until October last year, Evolv's homepage featured a headline that boasted of "Weapons-Free Zones". The company then removed that wording, and convertd the text to "Safe Zones". It has now been convertd again and reads "Safer Zones".

Image caption, The homepage of Evolv's website in October 2022
Image caption, The wording convertd to 'secure zones'
Image caption, The homepage now says 'securer zones'

Evolv claims its system utilizes cutting-edge AI technology to find weapons. However, its critics say not enough is known about how the system works - or how effective this technology is at finding disparate types of weapons.

The BBC sent a detailed accurate of reply to Evolv, laying out what had happened at the school in Utica, and the decision of the school to speak using its system.

We alconsequently asked what Evolv had thistoric schools about what its system could and could not detect, whether it had thistoric schools that independent testing had found its systems could not reliably detect large knives, and whether it thought its systems were suitable for utilize in schools. Evolv did not answer the questions.

Conor Healy of IPVM, a firm that analyses security equipment, says Evolv has exaggerated how effective the system is.

"There's an epidemic of schools buying fresh technology derived audacious marketing claims, then finding out it has hidden flaws, often millions of dollars delayedr. Evolv is one of the worst offenders. School officials are not technical experts on weapons detection, and companies like Evolv profit from their ignorance."

Playing quick and loose with marketing claims is unacceptable when you sell a security product utilized to protect youthful people, he concluded.

Although Evolv did not give the BBC a comment, it did direct it to a blog post from its CEO, Peter George, in which he defends the lack of detail in how much the firm has said about how the technology works.

"Marketing weapons detection security requires a delicate balance between educating stakehhistoricers on fresh technology and not providing terrible actors with the information they could utilize to do harm," he said.

"So, while public-facing marketing materials are intentionally not specific, we communicate all aspects of the Evolv Express system - including limitations and capabilities - with the trusted security professionals at our customers, componentners, and prospects", the blogpost read.

The BBC contacted seven other school districts that all utilize Evolv weapons scanners. Five did not respond. Two said they did not wish to comment.

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