Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Yole Forecasts Gold Rush in Thermal Cameras

i-Micronews: "The Covid-19 pandemic has induced a gold rush in the thermal imaging and sensing industry. All over the world, various media outlets, smaller or larger – even media behemoths – have written pieces about this technology.

We thought that it wouldn’t be too outrageous for people to measure their body temperature frequently using a smartphone that happens to be constantly in their hands. At other times, this would sound like a niche smartphone feature. But in the new era during and after the pandemic, it could prove as a helpful tool to have.

Therefore, at the beginning of June 2020, Huawei subsidiary Honor announced the Honor Play 4 smartphone, which integrates an infrared temperature sensor. According to Honor, the infra-red (IR) detector has a measurement range of -20°C to 100°C, which is more than enough to cover the human body’s range of potential temperatures. It promises an accuracy of 0.2°C, considered to be well within fever detection requirements. This looks like a medical-grade sensor. From the photo shown here in Figure 2, we believe that there is a possibility that the detector might be the newest Melexis thermopile sensor MLX90632. The specifications also fit with the product sheet. Or at least, it could be a sensor from another manufacturer that has very similar specs with the Melexis one.

The question however, remains: Is consumerization of thermal imaging/sensing technology imminent? We would dare to answer yes, but only when it’s a simple sensing function, if only temperature is read, for example from the forehead, using a cheap, robust and qualified IR detector. Thermopile technology could work just fine. This wouldn’t differ much from usual forehead thermometers. It’s just that the measurement guidelines are slightly changed by using a smartphone. On the other hand, thermal imaging would take some time. It’s a matter of educating properly consumers on how to interpret and read a thermal image. People might not be ready yet, and costs for this technology to reach the masses for daily use might still be high. Nevertheless, thermal imaging and sensing technology can surely continue to be, among others, one line of defense against Covid-19, regardless of implementation.

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