21-23 Aug 2024
ICC, Sydney

Thermal Technology: Ensuring Effectiveness

As states and territories across the country ease restrictions, we continue to see varied initiatives for mitigating risk. Thermal cameras are becoming a prevalent measure for non-contact temperature screening in public spaces and workplaces - a factor helping to fuel the growth of the thermal camera market, now tipped to increase by a CAGR of 7.29% to reach USD 6.41 Billion by 2025.

The product demand is there, but as an industry we know that with many factors at play, due diligence is required to ensure the full benefit of this thermal technology as our ‘new normal’ begins.

Peter Downy, General Manager – East at Western Advance has seen many changes to the electronic security market but none so disruptive as COVID-19.

“With the rise of the pandemic, we’ve seen our customers from both government and commercial sectors looking to solutions to monitor and manage the impact of COVID-19 on their staff and customers through the integration of technologies such as thermal cameras with their existing electronic security solutions.”

Robert Delauney, Sales Manager at Ryalex Security has also noticed a spike in enquiries for thermal solutions.

“There is an enormous amount of interest in thermal cameras and elevated temperature testing solutions at the moment.”

“I think more than ever there is a greater focus on occupational health and safety following the COVID-19 outbreak. CCTV surveillance plays a major part in keeping people safe, so I would imagine more employers, and even governments, will be looking at implementing or upgrading CCTV and security solutions in the future.”

Traditionally, thermal CCTV cameras are employed to carry out tasks such as perimeter detection or fire prevention, rather than medical applications. Using mid-wavelength infrared radiation emitted from an object or body, they are able to detect minute differences in temperature. This allows objects and events to be detected in conditions of zero light, or against environmental interference, such as dust or smoke.

From a security perspective these cameras have been used for detecting the existence of an intruder or have been calibrated to signal a warning if a certain temperature is exceeded, indicating a potential fire. This of course differs from medical infrared imaging devices, which have an extremely high level of accuracy and have been designed to detect abnormal temperatures in people. A number of recommendations for how to implement thermal screening for medical purposes can be found in the guidelines for ISO 13154.

Peter Downey has been advising his customers to do their due diligence before purchasing thermal technology for screening purposes.

“In our own CCTV integrations, we’re utilising a tried and tested product that conforms to international standards and reads temperature variance to within 0.3 of a degree. In a situation where there is a fast flood of technology to the market, it is important to remember that this technology is being employed to protect staff, customers and community, and effectiveness should not be compromised for cost.”

However, as Arthur Barker, CCTV Technical expert at CCD Alliance (Imaging Specialist) points out, if installed and used correctly, Thermographic systems using the (US) FDA guidelines (https://www.fda.gov/media/137079/download) for initial body temperature assessment released in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic can detect elevated body temperatures with reasonable effectiveness if they also have a blackbody temperature reference source to provide ongoing stability and to minimise drift. This differs from standard thermal cameras that typically cover larger areas and do not have the 0.3 degrees Celsius accuracy.

“It is important to be aware that environmental factors such as coming in from a cold external environment may also affect the temperature reading. As such the initial thermal measurement may need to be completed to allow the bodies temperature to normalise to assist in ensuring the thermal camera is getting an accurate reading, it is essential to use a blackbody temperature reference source to provide ongoing stability which has been set to emit a constant reference temperature (36 degrees for instance).”

“It is also important where on the human body you are taking the temperature reading. The camera must be able to see the forehead or corner of the eye, and it can only get an accurate reading if skin is exposed, so no hats or glasses.”

“Overall, I would suggest buyers exercise caution. Be sure to fully inspect the specs of any thermal camera you are considering purchasing to ensure it is accurate within ±0.3 degrees. Furthermore, make sure you run a proof of concept, set up and test the device over a period time to determine your hit-rate ratios.”

Combined with facial recognition capabilities, thermal camera systems can be used quickly identify anyone who triggers an alert due to an elevated body temperature, Downey believes this has the potential to become an effective means of screening against potential cases, particularly at access points to buildings or large gatherings of people:

“Security moves at a rapid pace. It is important that leading solution providers stay at the edge of such technologies to ensure Australia is able to access the best and most effective technologies in a changing security space. In this changing space, I would suggest the integration of facial recognition with thermal cameras and CCTV into the complete security system could be used to easily identify people who have recorded high temperatures, or who return before their isolation or lockout period is complete.”

However, facial recognition comes with its own set of concerns, Barker again:

“If you are going to use facial recognition with thermal cameras in this way, it is imperative you make sure you are familiar with Operational, Legislative and Privacy requirements, which can vary from state to state.”

From selecting a device with sufficiently high specifications, ensuring it is correctly installed, integrated and operated, to adhering to strict legislative privacy requirements – it’s clear there are several factors to consider when implementing a thermal screening security solution.

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