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Cleveland Heights to Install Security System That Recognizes Faces, Voices

The former Coventry School will serve as a demonstration site for the technology

Soon Cleveland Heights will have buildings outfitted with security systems that work by recognizing faces and voices.

The city is working with FST21, a company based in Israel that developed a product that it says can act like a security guard or doorman.

The machine, SafeRise, is programmed to read people’s faces, listen to their voices and even have a conversation and identify mannerisms. Instead of using keys or identification cards, the machine scans who is coming in and opens the door if it recognizes someone. If not, it will ask guests what their purpose is for stopping by or who they are visiting. 

The system will either call the monitoring station if it thinks the person is an intruder, or call the person who the guests say they are meeting with. If a person inside the building grants permission, the door will open.

And the information can be recorded in a log to track visits to the building. The system can also build a database of criminals.

Maj. Gen Aharon Farkash and Avi Lupo, both CEOs of FST21, visited Cleveland Heights Monday and Tuesday to tell people about their product that they envision being used in government buildings, schools, luxury high rises and senior living communities, among other facilities.

“We developed the closest thing to the human brain that is able, in real time, to relay information,” Lupo said during a presentation Tuesday at the former Coventry School, where the company will have offices.

They met with Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson and chiefs from other communities including Shaker Heights, Rocky River and University Heights, said Howard Thompson, economic development director for Cleveland Heights. The plan is to install the security system at Coventry School, which will be a demonstration site for people interested in implementing the technology.

Thompson said the goal is to have Cleveland Heights be the hub of this and other technology for the entire region.

“The system is in no way just for the Cleveland Heights Community,” Thompson said. “We want to create the hub and build the energy around the hub.”

This would include other technology businesses, and Thompson said he hopes to attract companies such as those that install the SafeRise system.

Thompson said the system should be ready at Coventry within a month and a half, and it will cost the city $5,000.

The city then plans to install the machines at the police department in entryways, he said, but could not provide the cost yet.

Farkash, who founded the company, said the systems, on average, cost about $40,000 to $50,000, with a yearly maintenance and update fee of about $3,000. But he said this is flexible and also can vary.

SGI Global Business Advisors, a Cleveland-based company that helps government entities with international economic development, was hired by Cleveland Heights earlier this year to help attract companies like FST21 to the city.

FST21 visited Cleveland about a year ago during a conference, and liked Cleveland Heights because of its proximity to a variety of places it could implement the technology such as hospitals and schools, said Howard Gudell, founding partner of SGI.

“We picked Cleveland Heights because … of the diversity, because of the openness, because you have so many different attributes, and the size. We thought this would be the perfect laboratory,” Gudell said.

The Cleveland Heights Planning Commission still has to approve a for FST21 to use Coventry School, which should happen in the next two months, Thompson said.

The company would then open an office in the former elementary school with one to five employees, he said.

Farkash said he has systems in Florida, Texas, Los Angeles and in other areas of the U.S., and he hopes that the technology makes security more convenient, faster and safer. 

He said he appreciates the support Mayor Ed Kelley and others in the city have given him.

“It’s a huge difference to sell for every developer or integrator a system, (then) to have a partner, (such) as a mayor of the city, and announcing I want to be a part of it, and then to encourage a lot of customers to buy the system … I believe in one city to have seven, eight or 10 systems, this will make a difference,” Farkash said. “To say Cleveland Heights is the leading hub for smart cities, and you have an example and a model to imitate.”

Farkash was worked in the Israel Defense Forces for several years before founding FST21, and said he wanted to build a system that could effectively reduce crime and terrorism threats without violating innocent people. 

"It’s very nice to build something from the beginning, to create something new. It’s a real challenge." 

To watch a video of how the system works, visit the FST21 site

Donald R. Thompson August 24, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Is this really a must have?, tax money being spent on something like this should raise an eyebrow or 10,000.
linda jenkins August 25, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Since Coventry School is being used for the blind and visually impared this is a good thing.I agree for any other building the monies can be used for much more needed projects and services.Have a great day!
Adele Eisner August 25, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Farkash said that "he wanted to build a system that could effectively reduce crime and terrorism threats without violating innocent people."? What about the violations of privacy - especially since the systems can also listen to voices, thus apparently to conversations. Are clear understandable "warning" signs mandated for the entire zone within the system's reaches - especially for all public buildings such as schools and government buildings - that within "this zone" you and your conversations are being listened to/monitored, and can be logged? Our U.S. rights of Privacy cannot and must not be lightly given away or handed over to or by any company or governmental agency/lightly traded out of fear or grasps for some idea of increased security, and without our consent and knowledge. While I'm glad that security measures are being considered, they must always be carefully weighed against everyone's Constitutional rights, with the public fully informed and deeply engaged in such prior considerations before instituting. Further, while I'm glad this company is so thrilled to have such a wonderful "hub" to boost their future sales, and such a wonderful "laboratory" for testing and demonstrating their capabilities. I'm wondering though, what the city and its residents and taxpayers are equalling reaping from hosting and paying for the company's laboratory status, that mostly seem to benefit only the company's current and future commercial ventures.
Allan M. Olbur October 03, 2011 at 07:21 PM
OLAM Development Group recently piloted the FST21 system in Chicago. The pilot was removed due to complete system failure. SafeRise software erroneously identified an African American woman as a Caucasian male. The voice recognition system was defeated by mimicking an authorized user's voice. A digital photo was blown up to human face size. The mask fooled the system. Farkash and Lupo continue to grossly misrepresent the effectiveness of the system and allude to the fact that 40,000 Palestinians are authenticated daily when crossing the frontier with Israel. This system has never been purchased or installed by the Israeli Army of National Police. There are only two units installed in Israel; one at FST21's office and the other at the high rise residence of Farkash. The system was also represented to have automated enrollment. This proved to be patently untrue. The system failed; it took one hour to re-enroll 4 previously authenticated employees. Contact olamdevgroup@gmail.com or 224-377-9660 re six month experience. Full documentation with the FST21 development validates our experience. The SafeRise system is not recommended for commerical or governmental installations. FST21 refused to indemnify OLAM against intrusions that defeated the system. FST21 enjoyed a no cost laboratory in Chicago at our time and expense. This will repeat in Cleveland Heights. Avi Lupo was demoted by Farkash from CEO to Vice President, certainly one step from being shown the door. Caveat emptor.
Michael Lawrence October 03, 2011 at 09:09 PM
last thing i want to see in cleveland heights or anywhere for that matter.

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