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Sunday, February 18, 2007

RH: Solve this SARS problem and win $10m

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: Solve this SARS problem and win $10m
This is the only article in this thread
View: Original Format

Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2003-04-27 06:10:23 PST

Quote: "Singapore's latest weapon to combat the deadly SARS virus is a high-tech thermal-imaging thermometer that automatically checks the
temperature of air travelers as they step off the plane.

"Walking through the sensor generates a heat-sensitive image. A burst
of red dots on a computer screen depicts a fever and nurses stand
ready to whisk passengers away for further tests.

"The system, built by government-backed Singapore Technologies, was
originally designed for military use.

"Since Friday the "Infrared Fever Screening System" has greeted
passengers arriving at Changi airport from southern China and Hong
Kong, two areas hardest hit by SARS.

"Changi plans to install eight more walk-through heat sensors next
week to screen passengers arriving from other SARS-hit regions
including Canada, Taiwan and Vietnam, officials said.

" "It doesn't slow down the process of people stepping off the plane," said Albert Tjoeng, a spokesman at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. "You just walk by it and if you have a fever a red light will be beam." " Unquote.



1. The first problem with this Infrared Fever Screening System is
INACCURACY because (I believe) it is not as accurate as an ordinary
in-ear thermometer costing just S$30 or so. I hope to be proven wrong
by experts or the Singapore authorities but while the ordinary in-ear
thermometer is accurate to at least 0.1 degree Celsius or Fahrenheit,
this Infrared Fever Screening System is probably much less accurate.
Prove me wrong on this inaccuracy challenge, anyone? I wait with bated breath.

Considering that the temperature difference between someone with mild
fever or onset of fever to his/her 'normal' non-fever state, that it
could be as little as half a degree, this inaccuracy is problematical
because it would mean many 'false' readings that would have to result
in the 'suspects' being pulled off the line for a more accurate check
with -- what else? an ordinary in-ear thermometer costing just S$30!

Inaccuracy may also mean that passengers with mild or onset of fever
being 'passed' as OK, thus negating the very objective of the
temperature test, and with possible horrendous result in the spread of SARS. Can anyone tell me what is the failure rate of this much vaunted and proudly boasted Infrared Fever Screening System? By that I mean, what percentage of people with fever are missed and passed as OK and having no fever?

Or, horror of horrors, has such a test never been performed and the
entire gizmo is installed without any regard to its possible
inaccuracy and the horrendous result of such inaccuracy? Is installing a gizmo like that the best way to solve the problem? Is such a seemingly high-tech way the best way or is it simply to seem high-tech and therefore superior to other airport administrations and
governments? Or is it another example of the "American Approach" or
Stupid Approach where, the moment you are faced with a problem, you
immediately throw lots of money into developing an expensive high-tech gadget instead of using your brain to think out a better and much cheaper solution? This 'American' or 'Stupid' Approach is also known as the 'Thomas Edison' Approach, which is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, in other words, the exact opposite of genius. However, it has served America well because by using lots of money to develop expensive gizmos, whole industries benefit, from the patenting lawyers, product engineers, machine tool industries, marketers, to distributors and even banks, financiers and stock traders, whereas a simple idea or set of ideas cannot be patented and therefore, even if it/they solve the problem better, earn its creator no money.

I believe that the Infrared Fever Screening System is highly
inaccurate because it scans a person at a short distance without
contact with any part of his body. Thus, the infrared reading is
probably based on a subcutaneous composite reading of either his face
or face and body. Thus, if the person is wearing thick clothing
causing heat buildup, this will cause a reading significantly higher
than his normal baseline body temperature reading. This means that the Infrared Fever Screening System is probably aimed at the face, since the body reading may be thrown way off by heat buildup due to thick or hot clothing. Again, if the passenger has been lugging a heavy luggage for some distance before coming to the Infrared Fever Screening System, his face may be flushed with exertion and this will give rise to another wrong reading from the gizmo. I know for a fact that if a person blushes at the Infrared Fever Screening System, the gizmo will register a very high temperature! Thus, the gizmo may be too inaccurate to be of any practical use. Except, perhaps, to impress the simple-minded simpletons into thinking, Wow! What an advanced country Singapore is, having such high-tech gizmos which even the advanced countries do not use!

2. The second problem with this Infrared Fever Screening System is
that you need to pass the 'suspects' through a line probably one at a
time, SLOWING down the processing of air travellers through the
airport. Not only are bottlenecks formed as the crowd of travellers,
(about 400+ per 747 plane; several 747s every few minutes during peak
hours) wait to form a line, you also need, and use up, a longitudinal
space to accommodate such a line or lines.

3. The third problem is that you need to introduce such additional
LINE or lines into the clearing process of the air travellers through
the airport. Despite the boast of Civil Aviation Authority of
Singapore spokesman, Albert Tjoeng, (see quotation above), anytime you make people form a line, to pass through a detector of any sort, you slow down the entire process, with bottlenecks building at the start of the line.

3. The third problem is COST. The ordinary in-ear thermometer costs
just S$30 at pharmacies, probably much cheaper if bought in larger
numbers. This much vaunted and proudly boasted Infrared Fever
Screening System costs S$150,000 apiece. If it is not even as accurate as an in-ear thermometer and gives many false readings and slows down the processing and passage of air travellers through an airport, then it is not a very intelligent system or solution, is it? I don't know the inaccuracy rate of the gizmo, but if it is high, then the gizmo is not only not worth the money or trouble, but may be dangerous in giving a false sense of accomplishment (to the government who introduced this gizmo) and a false sense of security (to the health authorities as well as people working or visiting the airport, thinking that they are 'safe' when they are not!). The first, giving the Singapore Government a false sense of accomplishment is not serious or deadly, but the second is. If a false sense of security is wrongfully fostered on airport workers and visitors, lulling them into not taking the usual precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, washing hands and moving away from coughers, etc, then this gizmo may indeed be responsible for them catching SARS. If so, can they sue those who introduce the Infrared Fever Screening System and who boasted to everybody that it is effective in safeguarding their health risks?

Robert Ho
23 Apr 03
UK 1538 Singapore 2238
Amended 27 Apr 03
UK 1340 Singapore 2040
P.S. I have an idea that solves all the problems I have listed. But I
would like fellow SCSers to post their suggestions before I post mine, in a few days time. Until then, I will wait to see if 'great minds think alike' or 'fools seldom differ'.


1. To be fair to those who might have good ideas or solutions to deal with this SARS problem (and a good idea can save lives as well as possibly billions of dollars in various industries, why not have
organisations or Governments put up a prize money for anyone who
publishes the best idea or ideas?) There will need to be some simple
rules. Firstly, there must be a legally-binding offer. For example,
Changi Airport or anybody else, corporation or individual, can post in this thread, an offer of say, $10 million for the idea or ideas that solve(s) all the problems enumerated above. That offer need only be a one-sentence offer, and it would be legally binding.

2. Secondly, the offer must be 'all or nothing'. No tiny 'consolation prize' that would be an insult when the idea is shown to be brilliant. If the idea is shown to be brilliant, and the world can judge for itself, the entire prize of S$10 million must be handed over. If not, then nothing, and let the world know that another deception has been perpetrated. An idea is judged to be brilliant or successful when at least one organisation adopts it or puts it into practice, anywhere in the world (the stupidity of the Singapore authorities should not therefore be the basis of whether the idea is successful -- let its adoption by any sizeable organisation in the world be the deciding factor).

3. That offer must be signed off by a person, his/her full name and
title, the name of the organisation, postal and email address,
telephone and fax numbers. Only such a contactable person can make a
legally binding offer. This should be simple enough if the offer is
genuine and not a ruse.

4. Finally, anyone with ideas may fax, snail-mail or email his/her
ideas to this person and that would constitute a completion of the
offer and acceptance. If the sender prefers, he/she may post that idea or ideas onto this thread so that we may all have a look at it. It would indeed be preferable so that the world can judge for itself
whether the idea or ideas solve the problems brilliantly and thus
deserve to win the prize.

5. For those who want further proof that the offer is genuine, he/she can contact the person and ask for an official letter on proper letterhead to be signed and faxed and mailed to the sender as genuine proof of offer.

6. Finally, the cash offer must be deposited in a reputable law firm
in London and any dispute as to whether it is 'deserved' by the
publication of the idea(s) in soc.culture.singapore must be disputed
in a London court of law -- what I call the Pied Piper Clause.

Robert Ho
25 Apr 03
UK 1613 Singapore 2313
Amended 17 Apr 03
UK 1408 Singapore 2108