The popularity of thermal cameras has increased due to their declining cost. And, although they were mainly used for security in the past, their range of applications has broadened – to the point where they are now being used to help detect the Ebola virus.
Thermal imaging cameras are gaining in popularity in South Africa, because the cost of these kinds of cameras are coming down, whilst the number of usage applications for these devices are going up.
Thermal imaging cameras record images of the infra-red radiation (heat) being emitted by the skin to determine threats. The image produced by these cameras consists of a range of colours, with hotter areas represented in red, cooler areas appearing in blue and lukewarm areas in orange or yellow for instance.
These cameras have a number of advantages over conventional CCTV security cameras including being able to detect threats in extremely low light (or even complete darkness), and during unfavourable weather conditions like heavy fog, dust, excessive glare from the sun, or thick vegetation in the area being surveyed. In addition, thermal cameras provide a much clearer image compared to conventional imaging solutions and have a considerably longer threat detection range when compared to lower resolution surveillance cameras that make use of conventional optics.
This makes thermal imaging cameras particularly appealing within the property security sector such as within housing- and golf estates, as well as businesses such as a car park or train station for instance where long perimeter fences are used.
Despite an entry-level thermal imaging camera costing in the region of R30 000, the overall return on investment comes across in the total cost of a company’s security solutions. This, as low cost thermal cameras can cover long distances of between 300 and 400 meters, whereas a company would need up to eight conventional surveillance cameras to cover the same area at an inferior image quality with devices that are more susceptible to a range of environmental factors and conditions,” says Roy Alves, Regional Business Development Manager for Axis Communications.
Looking at additional applications beyond surveillance
Just like CCTV cameras are now being used for more functions that go beyond crime prevention such as queue management within retail stores for example, thermal solutions are now also being employed for a range of additional functions.
Game rangers are using thermal imaging camera solutions to assist them in their attempts to catch rhino poachers, whilst thermal imaging can also be used as a safer method for screening patients for breast cancer instead of less comfortable methods that expose patients to radiation such as mammography.
A more pertinent usage case within Africa involves using thermal camera solutions to detect fevers within airport passengers for instance, which might be an indication that the person is infected with Ebola.
Since thermal cameras look at people’s heat signatures, they are able to detect whether someone has a fever. This can be used to alert the authorities to someone who may have been infected with the Ebola virus at crucial junctures like airports, bus stations, and border crossings,” says Alves.
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