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Thermal Cameras: The Good. The Deception. The Reality.


Thermal cameras: The Good. The Deception. The Reality.

How do I prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace? How do we stay safe as our businesses open back up?

In the wake of stay at home orders, business owners have had to make plans to reopen — safely — with no playbook. We’ve seen earnest efforts and investments into new technology in hopes of ensuring the safety of employees and customers. One tech “solution” proposed has been thermal cameras, advertised as “out-of-the-box” fever detectors. As your security experts, we want to step in and clear the air.

The advertisement claims these cameras can be used to get an early detection of someone’s skin temperature within .9 degrees Fahrenheit or better. This should allow for an early response and intervention of someone potentially with a fever at entry points of a business to stop and investigate further, thus helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace . . . right?

It’s just not that simple.

Used and deployed correctly, thermal imaging cameras can fully compliment a security solution. They are able to detect something putting off body heat (skin temperature) from a great distance. If detailed images of a subject is not needed, or detailed images are being picked up from another camera on the system using IR or Pan/Tilt/Zoom technology, thermal cameras can tell those cameras where to point, or alert the business owner that something may be out-of-place.

Here’s the problem . . . To make such a claim about fever detection or to be sold as a medical device, these cameras would require a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance. This requires testing and screening. However, in an effort to not prevent consumers from something potentially helpful during a serious health crisis, the FDA has not enforced or cracked down on these claims, even though testing and screening has not been completed. This has lead to thermal cameras flying off the shelves as desperate business owners strive to do the right thing and protect their employees and customers, all while misinformation continues to spread.

But DOES it work? Let’s expand on the idea of someone entering a building, with the understanding that these cameras read skin temperature.

What is the temperature outside? The sun heats the body starting with the skin. Once someone has traversed the parking lot and stepped inside, how long must they “cool down” before you could even get an accurate read of skin temperature? Could a business practically function if a thermal camera, used by itself, had staff and customers stopped at the door, huddled together, waiting for their body temperature to regulate? Seems like it would make matters worse. Additionally, what activities increase temperatures? Pushing a stroller, jogging through the parking lot, carrying laptop bag and books . . . well, you get the picture.

We aren’t saying thermal cameras are wrong for this application. We just want to remind business owners that expectations should be managed when deploying them for this purpose. There is much to consider and many questions that need to be asked because each business has their own unique environment and security needs.

Technology in our industry changes rapidly, and we believe we will see an increased focus from our trusted manufactures on research and development as it relates to disease spreading, touchless technology, and sanitation.

Our commitment to you is to keep you informed as we discover new technology and trends in our industry and to give you a to-the-point, honest review from security experts.

Erik Andress, Sales Manager, Atronic Alarms, Inc.

Erik Andress
Sales Manager
Atronic Alarms, Inc.

Erik has spent the last decade in the security industry diving into both IT and physical security. He enjoys problem solving and learning about new technology as it becomes available. He enjoys listening to people and their individual needs and then designing a custom security solution. He’s a Kansas City native, married to his wife, Britney, and enjoys exercise, online gaming, and content creation.

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