Austin-based Athena Security launched a fever-detection system on March 18th, a few weeks after the new coronavirus swept into the U.S., and there has been a hectic buzz at the company ever since. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Chris Ciabarra says the company is in negotiations for tens of thousands of orders.
According to Ciabarra, one of the potential orders is for 70,000 units. The Air Force has placed an order. The Navy and Army are in discussion with the company. Foreign governments are interested.
"The phone is ringing off the hook," he says "The orders are coming from all over the world—companies, hospitals, cities, countries."
Athena's thermal imaging system is designed to detect possible COVID-19 cases before the individuals enter a building and potentially spread the coronavirus. The system can screen up to 1,000 people per hour.
The company says that as individuals look at the camera from five feet away, artificial intelligence instructs sensors to focus on the hottest part of a person's face. This will usually be the inner eye. If the person is wearing glasses, the system will go to the forehead. The system is able to ignore non-facial heat sources such as lights, cell phones and hot drinks.
The customer running the system can choose the body temperature at which an alert is issued. The user can choose to receive these alerts through a web app or a mobile app, or to have them sent through existing security platforms and video management systems.
There have been thermal cameras used in the past, especially during the SARS and swine flu outbreaks. Similar systems are still in use today. Ciabarra says they are less accurate, because instead of using artificial intelligence to pinpoint the hottest spot on an individual's face, they simply pick up the hottest object within their field of vision.
He also says the other systems require someone to be looking at the camera feed to detect elevated temperatures, whereas the alert element of the Athena system means that no one needs to be monitoring the feed. The Athena system runs a visual camera along with the infrared thermal camera, so that an image of the person with a fever can be sent along with the thermal alert.
Athena recommends confirming high temperature readings with the use of a medical thermometer. Ciabarra also says Athena is hoping to partner with a company that is moving towards the launch of a coronavirus test that could be done on site and provide results in 45 minutes.
Before it developed this system to fight the spread of a potentially deadly virus, Athena was focused on stopping another killer. The company makes a gun detection system that is sold to malls, restaurants, schools and religious organizations.
Ciabarra and Athena co-founder Lisa Falzone developed the weapons-detection idea after they left Revel Systems, the iPad-based point of sale business they had founded."We were watching TV, saw all the school shootings, and thought, 'Let's fix that,'" says Ciabarra.
The founders decided to move to Austin to create their new business, because the city had a strong technology community that was growing and would allow them to hire good employees. Athena now has about 30 employees, and Ciabarra says the city was a good choice.
The company developed a camera system that, according to the company website, can recognize 300 firearms, as well as "motions that are commonly used to commit a crime." With the help of thermal imaging, it can detect the firearms even if they are concealed.
About two months ago, as the COVID-19 threat grew, the company began adapting its detection system to the new challenge. Ciabarra says it was very easy to do.
Athena gets its camera hardware from third parties and develops the software to run the detection systems. At present, it uses two camera vendors. Interest in the new systems is so strong that Ciabarra expects to end up with five or six camera suppliers to keep up with demand.
The hardware requirements of the weapon-detection system and the fever-detection system are similar, though not identical. It is the artificial intelligence and other software that is more strongly specific to the system and needed to be developed.
In addition to the fever-detection product it has just launched, Athena is working on two modifications. One is a system that it says will be able to assess multiple people at the same time. Ciabarra hopes to have this variation ready in a month.
The company is also working on creating a less expensive package. The current product costs $8,900 for the first year, and $1,200 for each following year. The goal is to make a system that would cost about $2,000. Ciabarra expects this version to be available within 30 days.
The less costly system would not automatically scan people as they walk past, but rather the individual would have to walk up to the system and push a button. The results would be slightly less accurate than those produced by the current product. Athena says the current system is accurate to within 0.4 degrees Celsius. That margin of error is expected to increase to somewhere between 0.5 degrees Celsius and 1 degree Celsius in the less expensive version.
The systems involve surveillance, and this can raise concerns. Ciabarra points out that the fever-detection systems do not do facial recognition. Instead, they do facial detection.
"We don't look at who a person is," he says, "we just detect where the face is."
Back in 2010, at the birth of Revel Systems, Michael Lappert was Ciabarra's very first customer. Lappert makes ice cream, as his father did before him, and he has 18 ice cream shops as well as several restaurants.
At the moment, Lappert is installing an Athena fever detection system in Lappert's Ice Cream in downtown Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. He says the shop is usually an extremely busy place. The Bay Area, however, has been under a shelter-in-place order since March 16th. Because the shop serves take-out food, it is allowed to remain open. Things are much quieter, but Lappert says the shop still plays an important role in the community.
"There are a lot of parents with young kids, and no school, and no place to go, so for them it is a happy thing to do," he says.
He points out that he is "hemorrhaging money," but the buildings that house his businesses are paid off and he is not carrying debt, so he will make it through. The customers who do still come in help keep his employees fed, and he believes that once the measures are lifted, the crowds will return.
When this happens, he wants them to feel comfortable."We just wanted to give them a safe feeling that whoever comes in here, we can at least do a diagnosis of sorts, which is to check for an elevated temperature," he says.
He views the system in his store as partly addressing public perception, but he also thinks it is doing a service. He notes that he will have to figure out how to handle it when someone is found to have a fever.
Many of Athena's detection systems will be installed in hospitals and government agencies, where strict protocols will be in place regarding the reaction to an individual with a fever. At the ice cream shop, in the heart of an idyllic seaside community, Lappert plans to take a different approach.
"I think I would say, 'Hi. Excuse me. This thing is showing that you have an elevated temperature, and maybe you should consider going home," Lappert says. Then he decides he would probably add, "'And by the way, here is a coupon for a free ice cream for the next time you come in.'"At present, as he lets in two people at a time and keeps them six feet apart, the scanning will begin. It will continue as measures become less strict, and Lappert sees it becoming a permanent fixture in the shop. He may also install the system in his other high-volume businesses.
"It's even good for the flu in general," he says. "Every flu comes with a fever, and everyone who has the flu should not be out in public. I think you will see more and more of that kind of biometric screening."
In what could be one of their least energetic showing to date, Austin FC was outperformed by home team San Jose in a 4-0 road loss late Wednesday night.
As the first team officially out of playoff contention in a loss on Saturday, the team seemed defeated from almost the moment they hit the pitch as Quakes standouts Chris Wondolowski and Javier "Chofis" Lopez scored on the team.
A tenth-place San Jose maintained a clean sheet in the match as they inch closer to a last-minute spot in playoffs.
Just as they did in their 1-0 loss Saturday, it was Austin FC who struck first in the match. Captain Alex Ring forced a save from Quakes keeper JT Marcinkowski in just the second minute of play, while star forward Sebastian Driussi followed soon after.
A little over 10 minutes later, San Jose responded with a shot of their own as Austin keeper Brad Stuver was forced into action with a diving save. But with a failing back line and a lack of energy throughout, a frustrated Stuver wouldn't be enough to stave off the home team Quakes in their four-goal triumph.
After a slow first half, San Jose star Chofis was the first to strike after sneaking past Stuver to make it 1-0 for the home team to kick off the second half.
Just five minutes later, Quakes midfielder Benjamin Kikanovic broke free with a fast-paced drive in a play that saw two Asutin FC players hit the ground to double the lead. Stuver and other players were immediately outraged in the controversial call after an apparent handball in the box.
MLS' top all-time scorer Chris Wondolowski capitalized on the slow Austin defense next, taking a pause in the box to score the third goal unmanned in the 59th minute.
Finally, Carlos Fierro clinched the win for the home team after placing a header from six yards out off of a cross and corner kick to end the match 4-0 for San Jose.
Austin head coach Josh Wolff attempted to staunch the wound with a series of subs starting at the beginning of the second half, subbing in native Austinite McKinze Gaines for Moussa Djitte and Rodney Redes for Cecilio Dominguez. But no subs were enough to push back against the 'Quakes as the team lost their second match in a row.
Austin FC has four final matches to end the season, including two remaining home matches against the Houston Dynamo at 4 p.m. on Sunday and a final match at Q2 Stadium against Sporting Kansas City at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4.
85' San Jose makes it 4-0
Austin FC once again can't plug holes in the box as San Jose scores their fourth goal of the match off a set piece and header to make it 4-0 in the 85th minute. The Quakes' Carlos Fierro scores on a header from close up after a well-placed cross from Cristian Espinoza as a frustrated Stuver is unable to block the six-yard shot.
Frustrated and sluggish, Austin FC appears to have lost their chance at a win or draw in one of their worst losses by scoring margin this season.
59' Wondolowski scores for the "Quakes
Just a minute after he hits the pitch, MLS' all-time top scorer Chris Wondolowski tacks one more onto San Jose's lead as the home team leads 3-0 in the 59th minute. A beleaguered Austin leaves Wondolowski undefefended as he receives the ball in the box, pauses and scores in the bottom right corner of goal.
It's looking to be an especially bad match for Austin, who already sit at the bottom of the West. The Verde and Black continue to be outperformed in their late season road matches.
53' Austin doubles the lead
After a rough-and-tumble drive that saw two Austin FC players take a fall, San Jose's Benjamin Kikanovic shoots past Stuver to score the second goal of the match for the home team. The play drew ire from Austin FC players including Stuver, who said there was a handball in the box. Austin's defense continues to be outperformed in the match.
47' San Jose scores first
The Earthquakes finally capitalized on a sluggish Austin FC as San Jose's Javier "Chofis" Lopez snuck one past keeper Brad Stuver and a last-ditch dive from Austin's Jhohan Romana to net the first goal of the match. The goal is Lopez' 12th on the season.
40' Romana gets yellow carded
Romaña is trying to play flag football 😂 #AustinFC— Seth Davis (@sethdavis512) October 21, 2021
Austin FC's Jhohan Romana is the first to get yellow carded in the match after grabbing a jersey in the 40th minute of play. Seconds later, Austin nearly gets an opportunity as San Jose keeper JT Marcinkowski fumbles a blocked shot, but he passes the ball off before the Verde and Black can get one in off the rebound.
The Quakes repeat the move in the 41st minute as they nearly get one past Stuver, who is able to hold it down unguarded and grab a shot from Jeremy Ebobisse.
18' Stuver keeps it clean
Just like Saturday, it was Austin who struck first with a shot by Captain Alex Ring in just the second minute of play. Star newcomer Sebastian Driussi came soon after with a shot of his own, but the ball was once again kept out of goal.
Just over 10 minutes later, Austin keeper Brad Stuver got his first big test as the Quakes' Jeremy Ebobisse shot one towards the bottom left corner. In signature fashion, Stuver was able to keep a clean sheet.
Austin's "strongest lineup yet" may not have been able to finish in Saturday's loss, but they created plenty of chances. Wolff seems to have confidence in the starting XI and hasn't changed much for tonight.
Nick Lima is in for right back in Hector Jimenez's stead, while Cecilio Dominguez, Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi lead up front. Center back Matt Besler remains out on concussion protocol.
Tesla's third-quarter profits were released on Wednesday afternoon and current richest-man-on-earth Elon Musk topped the charts since his high-profile transition to Austin.
Q3 held record-high deliveries for the electric vehicle manufacturer, despite chip shortages and supply chain issues. Revenue came in slightly shy of expectations but still yielded the most profitable quarter thus far for Tesla. Plus, adjusted earnings per share are also on the up and up.
"A variety of challenges, including semiconductor shortages, congestion at ports and rolling blackouts, have been impacting our ability to keep factories running at full speed," Tesla said in a statement. "We believe our supply chain, engineering and production teams have been dealing with these global challenges with ingenuity, agility and flexibility."
According to Tesla's update, the EV giant's Q3 revenue came in at $13.76 billion—a big year-over-year increase as Tesla recorded $8.77 billion in Q3 of 2020. The expectation was $13.9 billion and though the company came in just a few million lower, it was the company's ninth-straight profitable quarter.
Though earnings were a touch lower than expected, adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.86, where expected had been $1.67, and a year ago was 76 cents per share.
An accomplishment for Tesla this quarter was delivering more than 241,300 vehicles worldwide from its California factory—almost half of what the company delivered throughout all of 2020.
This Q3 update comes on the heels of Tesla's announcement that it would move its headquarters to the capital city. Additionally, the new Gigafactory in southeast Travis County is looking more complete by the day. While full-scale production isn't slated to start until 2022, the factory has already begun testing its robotic assembly line.
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Radhia Gleis never meant to join a cult—in fact, she didn't even know she was part of one until decades after she had joined—and she's still picking up the pieces that her departure left behind.
Although it was Buddhafield, a movement that has been called a cult by a host of ex-followers, that brought Gleis to the Hill Country, the group's Austin presence has diminished to almost nothing. After over two decades in the group, Gleis revealed it all in her first-place PenCraft award-winning book, "The Followers, 'Holy Hell' and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders" in which she talks about the dangers of groupthink and the impact that spending years in the Buddhafield cult had on her.
Gleis now works as a clinical nutritionist and is working on healing through her art. (radiagleis.com)
From a "well-to-do" family in California, Gleis was learning how to make cocktails for wealthy dinner guests shortly after she learned how to walk. She grew up emotionally distant from her parents and only brother; Gleis vividly remembered being called "dopey" by her father, consistently forgotten by her mother and held at knifepoint by her brother.
Needless to say, Gleis grew up without secure connections. On top of that, she grew up in the 1960s and '70s during mass cultural upheaval, the free love movement and obsession with Eastern religions.
"There were these desires to expand your thinking, expand your consciousness as opposed to the 'Leave it to Beaver' kind of paradigm," Gleis told Austonia. "There was a rebellion, a schism in the culture."
She had become interested in the idea of nirvana when she was in high school, so when a friend told her about spirituality sessions with a beautiful woman named Malila who claimed to have experienced God directly, her interest was piqued.
Her experiences with Malila threw her into the spiritual realm. Gleis met Jaime Gomez, the would-be leader of the Buddhafield cult who went by many names, in the early 1980s through a friend of Malila's in California. Gomez, a native of Venezuela, was known to often wear only eyeliner and a speedo in his prime and when Gleis met him, he was clad only in a golden tan, skin-tight jeans and a small vest.
The Shakti scam
Gomez originally began guiding members through an independent spiritual journey but flags were raised when he began to see himself as a godlike figure. (WRA Productions LLC)
Her initiation was subtle—it started as just a group of friends who followed Gomez, a young yogi with a small but growing following, to learn techniques of "The Knowing" that he possessed. Members were initiated via "shakti," a godly transfer of power that opened your third eye. Members would "pranam," or deeply bow to show respect, to God during the first four years of Gleis' time with Gomez.
The initiation started as a relationship between the individual and their "divine birthright" through God.
"Generations were trying to get Shakti from him, they were trying to get his energy," Gleis said. "He was like, 'Whatever you experience in your initiation is between you and God, it has nothing to do with me.'"
Things started to change at the next initiation when Gomez had new members pranam to him and connect to his love, not the divine love they had come seeking.
"He would say, 'Well, Radhia, some people, not you, need a living person they can touch and see and talk to, I am just being that for them,'" Gleis said. "So he considered himself now a living deity like Jesus or Krishna or Buddha."
Although she did not support the pranam to Gomez, the shift was harrowing. While Gomez was a "skilled sociopath," Gleis said, he was also her friend and she was his close adviser; he knew all of her' hopes, dreams, fears and how to keep her around.
"If you go to Disneyland, it's a fantasy, but you're willing to forgo your disbelief for the fun, for the ride," Gleis said. "But what if you don't know it's fake? What if all your friends and all your family are in on it? And the one person that you revere the most is creating the illusion?"
It would take years for Gleis to learn Gomez was secretly taking advantage of members in the group.
The domino effect
The Buddhafield waltzed into Austin from West Hollywood in the late '90s after accusations against Gomez came out, Gleis would later learn. She found out that later that multiple members alleged that Gomez sexually abused them, and it was a pattern of his to jump ship and change his name once people started speaking out.
There were a few reasons the group chose Austin: their new home had to be in a warm climate, near a body of water, full of rich culture and jobs.
Having been in the cult for over a decade, the Austin move had triggered a need to build a life outside Buddhafield for Gleis. The connections she made outside the "family" she had made for herself led her to visit the home of an injured member of Buddhafield, where she says she was greeted by two men who told her tales of Gomez's transgressions.
Tales of Gomez attempting to hypnotize male members of the group into removing their clothes, which Gomez would deny, and his penchant for using the AIDS crisis to scare members into silence came to light. It was a feat in and of itself to tell a single soul about the things the victims had experienced, let alone make formal charges.
Among the victims was Will Allen, who released the documentary "Holy Hell," made from hours of his own original footage, in 2016 to detail his experiences.
The women in the group were untouched to Gleis' knowledge and some of the victims took years to gain the courage to speak out.
"Now it was like dominoes, it was like this was our #MeToo movement. When this guy came out, now all of a sudden, I'm getting phone calls because the rumors spread," Gleis said. "It was very heartbreaking—I started hearing all these stories of what (Gomez) had done and all the secrets that all of these men had been holding, these traumas that they had been holding in for years."
That was her line in the sand—so, at 55 years old, Gleis left Buddhafield, "alone and forsaken." And she has learned a good deal about herself since then—she works as a clinical nutritionist but left all of her friends behind, with no one to fall on but herself.
It has been 15 years since her departure—15 years to ponder how she was manipulated into that place. Gleis often compares those two decades of her life to Trumpism, where Gomez had tapped into her preconceived notions and led her to believe what she wanted to believe.
As someone who grew up not knowing love, it made sense to jump headfirst into the sense of community and protection that Buddhafield offered.
"We have to be careful when we use words like 'brainwashed.' We went willingly. Jaime didn't torture us. He didn't brainwash us," Gleis said. "All he did as a narcissist—he figured out what we were all thinking about and he became that for us. When you pranam to him, which we did, then he becomes bolder. That's what a sociopath does."
Gleis details her story of what led her in and out of Buddhafield in her book, "The Followers." Gomez and certain members who are still connected to Buddhafield have moved on to Hawai'i, but Gleis remains in Austin and is currently working on a children's novella.
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