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Lighting up thermal imaging
April 2018, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Thermal cameras are old school in the commercial environment now, thanks to the dramatic lowering of their costs over the past few years. That’s not to say thermals are cheap, but they are more attainable for security conscious environments.

And while many companies are selling thermals, the old adage of making sure you get the camera that can do the job still applies. In the thermal market, arguably, cheaper can mean an even bigger problem than in optical cameras. This applies specifically to the analytics that take a thermal image and make something of it – an area that is becoming more important as software developers deliver better solutions than ever before.

To find out what is happening in the thermal industry, Hi-Tech Security Solutions put some questions to two companies. The answers are provided by:

* Brendon Cowley, business development director, C3 Shared Services, and

* Laurence Smith, director, Graphic Image Technologies.

Brendon Cowley.
Brendon Cowley.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How have thermal cameras advanced over the past few years?

Cowley: The thermal imaging market has drastically improved.

Thermal camera applications have now become broadly available in the commercial market and not just being used for military and defence organisations anymore.

The following technical aspects have also improved:

* Resolution.

* Better image processing.

* More video and communication protocols.

* Various lens options for the cameras.

Laurence Smith.
Laurence Smith.

Smith: There has been a strong drive for analytics at ‘the edge’. In the past, the thermal image was the most critical aspect and there was a curiosity about the products and the performance, seeing in the dark and in most weather conditions. In recent years there is often a demand for using the thermal camera as a detector with built in analytics, the performance of the analytics has become a focus and FLIR has invested heavily in this area of development. In addition, the ability to work with specialised third-party analytics companies is important.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What further changes can we expect to see in the next two to three years?

Cowley: In the next few years, we will see higher resolution of XGA (Extended Graphics Array) as a standard so we will get a wider FOV (field of view) for the same ranges. The cooled technology is improving to provide lighter solutions and longer MTBF (mean time between failure). We work today on technology that can see through fog.

Smith: The prices of bullet-style thermal cameras seem to have reached their lowest level with current technology, given the acceptable performance level. The cost of components currently available determine the price level. The advancement of technology will see further changes in the price position. But the competitive nature of the volume thermal market at the moment has created a market price more or less for bullet cameras. However, in the future there will be a continued focus on price reduction through technology enhancements and higher volume.

There is also a strong focus on cybersecurity; some customers are considering the security of their cameras and network as being the greatest risk. Many consider who may have access to their network and may provide future risk to the systems.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Can one use video analytics with thermal cameras? If so, what analytics are reliable these days?

Cowley: Besides face recognition, thermal imaging supports all the different video analytics, and yes, there are algorithms that can distinguish between a human and an animal.

Smith: FLIR have products such as the FC-ID and FB-ID which focus on thermal technology with built in analytics. The analytics will discriminate between animals and humans, this is becoming a determining factor in many customers deciding the thermal solution that best suits the needs. In addition, we have standalone analytics products that can be added to existing cameras (both thermal and visual) that add the analytics functions to these cameras. There also is the option of using server-based analytics where the VMS manages the analytics function.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How will thermals fit into the IoT world?

Cowley: They are already in. All kinds of safe city (smart city) projects that are based on IoT already use thermal cameras, today mainly for security, but I believe it will be in use for other applications in the future. All kinds of analytics that can be taken from thermal imaging and can be used for decision making will be considered as part of the IoT. For example, a thermal camera that measures the temperature of the plant and initiates the spraying system automatically from a central command and control centre of a city.

Smith: Thermals have the ability to ‘see in the dark’ - as such they could become an extension of your sensing systems, so if you are looking to turn on lights or other functions using an IoT device, the thermals could be one of the sensing devices that you use.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are your latest offerings in the thermal market?

Cowley: There are many projects we are working on currently:

* Defence.

* Security.

* Aviation.

* Gas leak detection.

* NDT (non-destructive testing).

* Cameras for mobile phones used by physicians, plumbers and electricians.

* And more.

Smith: FLIR launched the FB-Series in Q1 2018 with variants without and with analytics built in. The FB-Series thermals offer the same thermal sensor technology used in FLIR’s existing cameras, but at a reduced cost. We have also introduced the FLIR PT-Series HD which has an advanced dual-sensor security system, combining a cooled or uncooled 640x480 resolution thermal sensor, a 1080p high-definition visible-light imaging sensor, and a high speed, precision pan/tilt system. The PT-HD multi sensor has a variety of thermal options with fixed lens and HD visible camera. We have also released a version with continuous zoom.

FLIR is also planning to introduce a new generation of products to be launched in Q4 which will address new markets and also develop and extend traditional markets.

For more information, contact:

* C3 Shared Services, +27 (11) 312 2040, marketing@c3ss.com, www.c3ss.com.

* Graphic Image Technologies, +27 (0)11 483 0333, laurence@git.co.za, www.git.co.za.


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