Using Thermal Cameras to Detect COVID-19
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Are thermal cameras the answer to a more efficient, contactless COVID-19 screening?
An Innovative Use For An Existing Technology
Although you may be hearing a lot more about them recently, thermal cameras are not new. Before the pandemic they were used to aid firefighters by detecting safe entry points into burning buildings and by the Department of Defense for a myriad of purposes, spanning from recon and advanced surveillance to fighter jet maintenance. Now, they are being enlisted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through reading individuals temperatures (at an accuracy of around +/- 1.2 F) throughout the world. A few notable organization's with their toes in the thermal camera detection pool include the LA Police Department, the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. These organizations have been using the technology as a way to screen the temperatures of mass numbers of people (up to 30) in a way that reduces human contact. But is it the magic bullet for COVID prevention? This question is especially prevalent as states begin to grow impatient with the social and economic restrictions put in place by COVID. restrictions and as they attempt to slowly reopen.
Although abnormal temperatures, as stated by the CDC, are not an end all be all in terms of COVID detection, (due to asymptomatic carriers, and a moderate percentage of those infected who have symptoms yet do not have a raised temperature) temperature check are certainly the most effective screening apart from physical administering COVID-19 tests. In addition to pinpointing those with higher temperatures, thermal cameras also provide benefits in deterrence (someone who is ill and may have still decided to go to work, staying home because they know they are going to be tested) and data compliance (allowing for a more efficient way to track and analyze cases through computer databases) to help companies and organizations, not only screen individuals, but gather data on patterns (ie surges in #s of abnormal temperatures) to help better understand the virus. They may not be the end all be all, but taking advantage of this relevant technology can help not only private sector companies, but the world at large, in taking steps to reopen its doors in the safest and most effective way possible.