Price of thermal scanners could come down due to increased demand
Published by : Industrial Automation
Kiran Unni, Vice President, Industrial Practice, Frost and Sullivan.
Are thermal scanners for reliable detection in public spaces available?
As mentioned in the Frost & Sullivan perspective titled ‘Mass Screening for Covid-19 Related Fever: How the Instrumentation World Can Help’ (please see reference below), Thermal IR (infrared) scanners have been around for a long time now and used sporadically for security and screening in airports and by different militaries around the world. Currently, companies like Flir, Omnisense Systems, Infrared Systems Inc., Wuhan Guide Infrared all have thermal IR scanners that are commercially deployed. Some of the Flir cameras/scanners are also FDA approved for use in the US.
The cost appears to be a constraining factor for mass deployment. Will the prices come down?
The price of these cameras and scanners range from US $5000 - $30,000 depending on features and add-ons. For enterprises, governments, and municipal customers, these are not cost- prohibitive as they may be looking for multi-order contracts. In the future, the price could come down due to increased demand and usage of advanced technologies like 3D printed materials, etc.
What other roles can technology play in case of those advised self-quarantine?
All Industry 4.0 technologies (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, wireless sensing, 3D printing) can come in handy during such a crisis. Also, all technologies that are vital in the digital transformation of our homes, offices, and public buildings will impact how we live through the quarantine. Another major aspect will be the impact of telehealth technologies that allow people to connect with their doctors remotely. The strength and bandwidth of internet services available in a particular region will be crucial in determining the success of IoT.
Are there ethical issues involved in such monitoring?
On the topic of mass screening for fever (whether using thermal IR or any other technology), there are ethical questions that need to be addressed. One argument is that these measures increase the danger of ‘Big Brother’ type involvement by governments. In addition, the question of how and where the data obtained is used also arises. If private data collectors are involved, will such data be sold for profit and what is the impact on the privacy and security of the individual? All these questions need addressing before these technologies are deployed on a regular basis. Some of the mass screening in public spaces may be justified currently due to Covid. But once the situation is resolved, do we continue to deploy such personally invasive measures? One must also consider that some questioned the use of CCTV cameras not too long ago. Currently, the benefits of continued surveillance of public seem to outweigh the intrusion of privacy as we need the obtained information for the greater good. However, in the future, there needs to be strict regulations put in place when it comes to the data obtained from the use of such technologies.
Kiran Unni is Vice President of Industrial Americas: 17+ years of strategy, analysis, and consulting expertise in the measurement & instrumentation, industrial automation and process control spaces.