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Thermal Imagers for Elevated Skin Temperature Screening

Thermal Imagers for Elevated Skin Temperature Screening: FAQ + Buying Guide

Are thermal imagers for screening for an infection or virus available? 

The answer is no, though thermal cameras can be used to find Elevated Body Temperature. For a long time, FLIR thermal imaging cameras are practiced in public places --such as airports, train terminals, companies, factories, and concerts--as an efficient instrument to measure skin temperature and recognize people with Elevated Body Temperature (EBT).

In light of the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which is now officially a pandemic, society is very concerned about the spread of disease and seeking tools to help slow and permanently stop the spread of this virus. However, no thermal cameras can diagnose or detect the coronavirus, FLIR cameras may be applied as a supplement to other body temperature screening devices for detecting elevated skin temperature in high-traffic public areas through fast individual screening.

thermal imagers for screening

FLIR Exx-Series

If the temperature of the skin in main regions (notably the corner of their eye and eyebrow ) is above average temperature, then the patient may be selected for extra screening. Identifying people with EBT, who must be further screened with virus-specific tests, can help slow or reduce the spread of infections and viruses.

Using thermal imagers for screening, officials can be more efficient, discreet, and effective in identifying people that need further screening with virus-specific tests. Many institutions, including transport agencies, companies, factories, and other firms are using thermal imagers for screening as an EBT detection method and as part of Employee Health and Screening (EH&S).

Airports, in particular, are using thermal cameras for flight crews and passengers. The screening processes implemented at airports and in other public areas are simply the first step when it comes to discovering a potential infection: it is a fast way to screen for anybody who might be ill. It should always be followed up with additional screening before authorities opt to quarantine a person.


What are FLIR Cameras used for screening?

While Governments outside the USA may pick from several different cameras, FLIR features a 510(k) filing (K033967) with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for best camera models to use as a supplement to other body temperature screening devices to detect differences in skin temperatures. These cameras include the FLIR A320, FLIR T-Series, FLIR Exx-Series, and Extech IR200.

Frequently Asked Questions

thermal imagers for screening

Q: Can FLIR thermal cameras be used to detect a virus like the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: No, Thermal imaging cameras can’t be used to diagnose or detect an infection. But, FLIR thermal cameras are used today in public spaces such as airports and hospitals and by essential services like manufacturing and transport as an effective instrument for measuring skin temperature. Individuals who are recognized as having an elevated skin temperature can further be screened by medical specialists using additional devices such as an oral thermometer.

Q: How Do Imaging Thermal Technologies Work?

A: FLIR Thermal cameras sense heat radiation and may be used to identify the surface temperature of individuals and objects. With this capacity, thermal imagers for screening are used as non-contact instruments to detect differences in pattern changes and surface temperatures. FLIR is enrolled with the US FDA to provide an assortment of its products to screen for raised skin temperatures in conjunction with additional screening devices.

Q: How to operate thermal imagers for screening skin temperature?

A: Here are several ideas to ensure optimal measurement functionality from a FLIR thermal camera:

  • Camera operators must screen people one at a time to find temperature anomalies.
  • Camera operators must measure temperature in the tear duct (internal canthus) as this section provides the nearest temperature correlation to human core body temperature.
  • A camera operator that finds elevated skin temperature in a person being screened must ask that such person be screened with a device designed specifically for measuring body temperature, like a thermometer.

Q: What devices does FLIR sell for EBT testing?

A: The subsequent FLIR non-contact thermometers and thermal cameras below are enrolled by the US Food and Drug Administration to find differences in skin surface temperatures:

Handheld Cameras

FLIR E53, E85, E95, E75, T540, T530, T620, T840, T640, T1020, T860, T1040

Fixed-Mount Thermal Cameras

FLIR A325, A300, A315, A310, A615, A655, A320 Tempscreen, and A400/A700

IR-Thermometer

Extech IR200

Q: What Is Screening Mode?

A: Certain FLIR cameras incorporate a screening mode that gives an alert when an object or person is discovered to have an elevated temperature matched against a sampled average temperature value. Screening mode isn’t a perfect temperature detection. Turning on the Screening mode will turn on a dimension box and observing data on the camera display that includes:

  • Measured Temperature
  • Alarm Temperature
  • Sampled Average Temperature

In screening mode, the executive records the skin temperature statistics from ten individuals in the screening location to determine the Sampled Average Temperature. An Alarm Temperature is further set by the operator by applying a delta, which is generally between 1°C and 3°C, , leading to an alarm temperature that’s 1°C-3°C higher than the Sampled Average Temperature. Each individual is screened separately, and their temperature is compared against the Alarm Temperature.

The Sampled Average Temperature ought to be updated through the screening operation period. Using this method, the Screening mode helps account for many possible variations during screening throughout the day, such as fluctuations in the average individual temperatures as a result of natural environmental changes, like ambient temperature variations. Screening mode decreases the need for accuracy throughout the day and even self-calibrates to exclude possible errors in absolute accuracy from device to device.

FLIR cameras offering screening mode is exceptionally stable at room temperature, making them well suited to this application. Cameras that Provide Screening mode include:

FLIR E53, E85, e95, E75 T540 T640 T860 T1040 Tempscreen.

Q: How close do you require to be to identify someone with an elevated temperature?

A: Thermal imagers for screening skin temperature should be as close to the projected target as possible, (concerning the camera’s minimum focus distance) according to recommendations. The positioning of the camera may take a different lens. As an example, if the operator wanted to put the camera at a significant distance, a telephoto lens may be recommended by FLIR. Consequently, the distance to the target is an important consideration, as is the focus.

The application must be installed so that all intended targets are in focus during the screening process, thereby creating a fantastic image. Along with focus, a fantastic image depends on several additional functions and settings, with specific parameters and functions affecting the picture more than others. Features and settings which the operator needs to set and/or adjust include the following:

  • Adjust the infrared camera focus
  • Set the infrared image (manually or automatically)
  • Choose a proper temperature range
  • Choose a suitable color palette
  • Adjust the measurement parameters
  • Play a non-uniformity correction (NUC)

For the FLIR Non-contact thermometer, the best measurement distance of 5 cm to 15 cm (1.9 in to 5.9 in)

Q: How accurate are thermal imagers for screening temperature?

A: FLIR thermal cameras “see” or find the temperature differences with temperature measurements between -20°C and 2,000°C (-4°F--3,632°F). The standard FLIR product precision specification of ±2°C or 2% of the temperature measurement at 30°C (86°F) ambient environment holds true for all temperature ranges it measures and for the multiple applications for which it may be used.

FLIR thermal Camera with screening mode can obtain accuracies of ±0.5°C (0.9°F) in 37°C (98.6°F). This may be accomplished by using the camera in a stable ambient environment, just looking at humans, and updating the reference samples by the population being screened.

It’s important to note there are lots of factors that can impact the accuracy of thermal cameras, such as distance, focus, the emissivity* of the target, the ambient environment, and the speed at which the temperatures are obtained.

Q: Do I have to use a black body for EST screening?

A: There are disadvantages and advantages when screening for skin temperatures using a black body. Introducing a black body in the camera’s field of view can enhance the system’s functionality in this application. FLIR thermal imaging cameras support this configuration.

However, FLIR provides cameras with temperature screening modes that don’t need to use a body. The handheld versions of those products are all-inclusive, maximizing freedom and flexibility, and minimizing points of failure. Screening mode helps account for possible variations, such as fluctuations in the individual’s temperature due to natural environmental changes. Screening mode lessens variations in perfect accuracy during the day and also records any possible variation in absolute accuracy from the camera to the camera.

In contrast, using a black body for high skin temperature screenings can create difficulties. The first is the price and complexity of adding an extra piece of hardware in the solution. Black body integration into a system powering, mounting, and ultimately maintaining it more complicated. Such an addition introduces another potential point of failure into the overall solution.

Proper focus on the body is vital to getting accurate measurements. For a black body to work, it has to be mounted in the same plane as the individual being tested. A black body that is significantly farther or closer than the individual being screened will be out of focus and not work as an accurate reference source.

If finally, the screening solution involves the use of a black body, FLIR suggests following these requirements, as outlined in ISO/TR 13154:2017:

  • The camera of the screening thermograph ought to be positioned perpendicular, vertically and horizontally, to the face of the person being screened. So the inner corner of both eyes can be imaged together.
  • The person being screened and the outside temperature reference source must be in the proper position and orientation relative to the camera for appropriate depth of field, focal distance, and image capture. There should be a way of ensuring that the person being screened is in this proper position, e.g., a stool, signs on the ground. Consideration ought to be given to people in wheelchairs.
  • The background behind the person being screened and, when used, side screens should be thermally uniform, higher emissivity (non-reflective in the IR spectrum), and light in color (visible spectrum).
  • The operator ought to be positioned in a clear visual field of the person being screened and display of this screening thermograph. The operator might have to intervene to correct the position of the individual. The operator needs to be positioned in a way as to divert people to the secondary screening area when required.
  • Operators should be examined as to their ability to identify the colors of the rainbow scale of the screening thermograph.

Q: Do People using your camera’s have to be certified/trained to learn how to interpret information and the images?

A: FLIR suggests that thermal camera executives get at a minimum Level 1 thermal imaging certification with certified thermography courses such as the Infrared Training Center. This isn’t a medical certification or medical training, but it gives a baseline knowledge in thermography. The Infrared Training Center provides a more advanced training course. For more information, you can visit www.infraredtraining.com.

Q: Can you name some organizations, companies, and airports that have bought your products?

A: While we can’t name specific clients or comment on current earnings, we can say that our thermal cameras are used by clients at ports of entries and high-traffic locations in many countries. Including Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and the US.

Q: How long has FLIR been selling non-contact thermometers and thermal cameras for elevated skin temperature screening?

A: FLIR saw an increase in the application of thermal imagers for screening of elevated skin temperatures in 2003 during the time of the SARS crisis.

Q: How do operators use non-contact thermometers for EST screening?

A: FLIR offers an IR non-contact thermometer under the Extech. Non-contact thermometers are mainly used in a handheld style to screen a person’s forehead. The operator faces the non-contact handheld device at the target from a given distance of 5 cm to 15 cm (1.9 into 5.9 in); the thermometer can estimate temperatures from 32°C to 42.5°C (89.6°F to 108.5°F)

Q: What are the minimum specs for the non-contact thermometer?

A: Prerequisites for a non-contact thermometer include:

  • Non-contact infrared thermometer/gun kind - human body dimension
  • Merchandise must be USFDA 510k or CE marked.
  • Merchandise must be produced according to ISO 13485 or equal.
  • Production must be following EU standards, ISO 9001, or equivalent.

For FLIR non-contact thermometers, an adjustable alarm signals the user--either audibly or visually--if the temperature surpasses the programmed limit. The non-contact thermometer has a large backlit LCD screen to display temperatures.

The FLIR non-contact thermometer has been calibrated to accuracy to an 0.3°C (0.5°F) with 0.1°C/°F resolution.

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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