Understanding how to screen for people in an efficient and accurate manner
A thermal imaging camera can be an effective screening device for detecting individuals with an elevated skin temperature. This type of monitoring can provide useful information when used as a screening tool in high-traffic areas to help identify people with an elevated temperature compared to the general population. That individual can then be further screened using other body temperature measuring tools.
Although thermal imaging cameras are primarily designed for industrial and night vision uses, public health organizations have used FLIR cameras around the world at airports, seaports, office buildings and other mass gathering areas to provide rapid, efficient screening in high traffic areas. FLIR thermal cameras are particularly well suited to this because they can provide a temperature reading of a person’s face in a matter of seconds.
How thermal imaging works
A thermal imaging camera produces infrared images or heat pictures that display small temperature differences. This allows thermal cameras to create and continually update a visual heat map of skin temperatures. In addition, FLIR thermal imaging cameras are sensitive devices capable of measuring small temperature differences.
Many of the FLIR thermal cameras that are appropriate for measuring skin temperatures also offer built-in functions like visual and sound alarms that can be set to go off when a certain temperature threshold is exceeded. The operator can then instantly decide whether the subject needs to be referred for further screening with additional temperature measurement tools.
As the thermal imaging camera produces images in near-realtime, the total evaluation process takes mere moments, making thermal imaging technology very useful for rapidly screening large numbers of people.
Measuring the temperature of the human body
It’s true that a person’s general skin temperature is typically not equal to the person’s core temperature. That doesn’t detract from the use of thermal cameras to detect elevated skin temperatures, however. Thermal cameras are useful in this role because the goal is not to measure absolute skin temperature, but to differentiate people who have an elevated skin temperature compared to others while also considering the environmental conditions of the location.
Some FLIR camera models offer an elevated skin temperature screening mode that is helpful in comparing the person being screened against the temperature of other people previously screened. When in Screening mode, the operator can save ten thermal images of faces that the camera automatically averages as a reference.
Recommended cameras that are specified for elevated skin temperature screening include the FLIR Elara™ FR-345-EST, Axxx-EST series, T5xx-EST series, and Exx-EST series which are designed to simplify and speed the screening process.
Sound and color alarms
All areas on the subject’s face that are hotter than a predefined temperature value can be displayed as a designated color on the thermal image. This built-in alarm allows users to make an immediate decision regarding whether the subject may need further screening with additional screening tools. In addition, some FLIR cameras are equipped with an audible alarm that can be activated to sound if the detected temperature exceeds a predefined value.
A small investment to enable high-traffic screening
Airports all over the world are using FLIR cameras and have applied this methodology to screen people entering and leaving the country. It is a quick, non-contact method that is safe for both the camera operator and the people being screened.
For more information on this application, please see our page of Frequently Asked Questions: Thermal Imaging for Elevated Skin Temperature Screening.
Although thermal imaging cameras are generally accurate temperature measurement devices, they have not been tested or qualified as diagnostics medical equipment and should not be used to diagnose any medical conditions. The images displayed are for illustrative purposes only.
Disclaimer for Products Sold Under FDA Enforcement Guidance
- Product is not FDA cleared or approved. Product is for triage body temperature measurements only during the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Thermal measurements should not be solely or primarily relied upon to diagnose or exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19, or any other disease.
- Elevated body temperature should be confirmed with secondary evaluation methods.
- May only measure one temperature at a time.
- Visible thermal patterns are only intended for locating points from which to extract thermal measurement.