Pandemic used to be a word one looked up in the dictionary (or the encyclopedia, in another era) as a purely academic exercise. Recent weeks and COVID-19 have shown us how it is now a clear and present danger on global, regional, state-wide and individual levels. Change in culture, lifestyle, and economics over the past 50 years unearth the inescapable fact that this is not the last pandemic we will witness in our lifetimes. Demographic studies are clear indications of this inevitability.
While the medical world is racing against time to develop and deploy tests and vaccines for these novel viruses, the instrumentation world cannot be far behind in efforts to monitor and contain the spread of potential viruses. One of the consistent indicators of infection from such viruses is high fever. However, several people seem asymptomatic until tested for that particular virus.
Large-area detection and screening for fever will soon be a reality for the safety of all and containment of not only the current COVID-19 that is impacting us today but also as a prescriptive measure of preparedness so we are not caught unaware the next time around. Here is where Industry 4.0 technologies, whether it is robotics or novel uses of thermal infrared cameras, can come into play.
An infrared body temperature monitoring system that is intelligent enough for large area monitoring and detection will play a big role in not only improving awareness but also controlling the spread of an epidemic. Such a system should have an effective alarm using a temperature range feature, ability to track and raise alarms at multiple points, miss no targets, identify between human/animal/organic target and other high-temperature objects, and use video/photographic images for monitoring and analysis – all in real-time.
Is that a lot to ask from an instrumentation system? If the rapid response to the COVID-19 situation is any indication, then several vendors are stepping up to meet this challenge. FLIR has been a go-to vendor for such technology. In an article for Vision Spectra, Jim Cannon, FLIR CEO, said, “For years, going back to the SARS outbreak and others, FLIR technology has been incorporated into ports and borders and airports and other places to look for elevated body temperatures. We have seen a significant increase in those orders in the past month. Right now, we’re working really hard to ensure that we have the supply chain to meet all of that demand.”
Others at the epicenter of this crisis, like Wuhan Guide Infrared Co., have stepped up to meet the demand for fever detection systems and are working overtime to get these systems into airports and hospitals. However, these types of systems can also be of use in stadiums, theaters, cruise ships and other large areas where people congregate.
Apart from the heavyweights like FLIR, there are others, including Infrared Cameras, Inc., STELOP, and Omnisense Systems, that are stepping up to the increasing demand for their thermal IR technologies to be used for mass public body temperature screening.
Just as CC TVs and cameras have become ubiquitous the world over, are thermal imaging cameras in all public places a reality we have to reckon with? In times such as these, one can only assume.