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The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has presented a huge challenge to national resources and a race to adapt existing technologies and innovate and deploy newer ones. The use of thermal imaging has been in particular focus, with sales of thermal/infrared imaging cameras increasing dramatically.
Drones equipped with thermal cameras were used in Wuhan, China, the original epicentre of the crisis, to monitor movement. Now, a number of portable thermal imaging devices are currently being highlighted for their potential to protect key workers. Each has slightly different capabilities and usage models, but all ultimately aim to measure body temperature and flag possible victims of the virus by using the consequent reading.
As reported in The Telegraph this week, US firm Flir, a specialist in thermal imaging technology, has registered a staggering 700% increase in demand for its infrared cameras. The company claims that its cameras can "detect changes in skin temperature as slight as 0.01 degrees Celsius."
Bytronic Automation has also recently launched a new automated system which uses "thermal cameras for accurate, non-contact skin temperature measurement, looking for anomalies that may indicate a fever and underlying infection". Though Stewart Jackson, Technical Sales Manager at the company, does highlight that to get an accuracy of 0.3 degrees centigrade, users need to use a 'black body' – a "highly accurate temperature emitter that must be visible to the camera… you also need to see the area around the tear ducts”.
The business also explains that while useful in detecting elevated body temperatures, it wouldn't specifically detect coronavirus – just symptoms, while this kind of technology wouldn't be accurate when separating between groups of people.
Meanwhile, Texas firm Athena Security has launched a 'fever detection system' that has, according to NBC News, received 1,000 orders in two weeks. The system connects directly to an existing security camera system for real-time results.