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  • As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, we continue to struggle with how to

  • live with the virus.

  • One of the biggest challenges has been detection.

  • The fastest test can return results in about 15 minutes, but in some

  • cases it can take up to a week.

  • And some parts of the U.S.

  • still lack the necessary testing capacity.

  • I don't think there is a perfect screening mechanism to doing it

  • unless you're actually testing for the virus at these points of

  • entry, which we do not currently as a nation have a resources to do.

  • As stores, restaurants and offices start to reopen, they have turned

  • to infrared technology to help identify one of the viruses primary

  • symptoms. Having a fever is definitely a red flag that you have it.

  • Thermal cameras are nothing new.

  • They actually were used in a similar manner during the outbreaks of

  • SARS, MERS and H1N1.

  • Previous outbreaks impacted Asia-Pacific and so they gravitated

  • towards thermal imaging technologies.

  • Because the reach of Covid-19 was global, now we're seeing adoption

  • in other parts of the globe.

  • For essential companies and workers who continue to operate during

  • the pandemic, i nfrared cameras have been one line of defense in

  • keeping people safe. Imagine you're a mask factory.

  • You're going to get a camera in there.

  • They've got to protect their people.

  • We have to protect our people.

  • We have cameras in our own factory.

  • We have to can continue to consider what it means to die from this

  • virus. But we also have to have a conversation about how are we going

  • to live with it? And we have to figure that out.

  • Demand for infrared technology is at an all time high.

  • The infrared camera market is expected to grow to ten billion dollars

  • by 2026, up from six billion in 2019.

  • We believe in thermal camera technology as a frontline screening tool

  • and the key role they can play in helping us all get back to whatever

  • new normal we're headed towards.

  • Infrared is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Falling within the 700 nanometer to one millimeter range.

  • This sits just outside the visible spectrum.

  • So we can't see it, but we are able to detect it as heat.

  • More than half of the total energy from the sun reaches Earth in the

  • form of infrared and all living things emit varying degrees of

  • infrared radiation. Pretty much everything is giving off a heat

  • signature, anything above absolute zero.

  • The body cools itself down by emitting this heat light, and that's

  • called long wave infrared radiation.

  • While current demand is being driven by contactless thermometers and

  • temperature screening devices, infrared technology has many

  • applications. Aside from allowing you to use your television remote,

  • infrared is prominent in industrial settings.

  • You're looking for hotspots that might indicate fatigue or wear and

  • mechanical or electromechanical applications.

  • It's also popular with the military, firefighters, search and rescue a

  • nd in astronomy. We can actually calibrate cameras up to 3000 C,

  • which is almost 6000 degrees Fahrenheit to measure the temperature of

  • NASA's latest nuclear electric engine.

  • FLIR's thermal cameras used in the military and government spaces

  • where it's used to create situational awareness, you can see with

  • infrared at night or day.

  • Infrared scanners were widely used to try and slow the spread of SARS

  • in China in the early 2000s and curb the Ebola outbreak in West

  • Africa a decade later.

  • If you talk literally to the people in South Africa, in Nigeria and in

  • Sierra Leone and Liberia, they credit the cameras and the thermal

  • imaging systems that we put in the airports there from keeping the

  • virus contained.

  • While it's a useful tool.

  • Medical professionals still generally rely on traditional means to

  • take a patient's temperature.

  • When it comes down to, I really need to know your temperature to make

  • important decisions, I have to get what's called a core temperature.

  • Which those are the uncomfortable temperatures.

  • Right. So that would be the ones that have to go inserted into your

  • body s omehow. The advantage of contactless thermometers is its

  • ability to provide a temperature estimate quickly a nd from a

  • distance. We can measure a very accurate temperature from five feet

  • away, six feet away, even 15 feet away.

  • The biggest advantage of this is that it's really fast, it's a 2D

  • image of temperature that can not be done with any other technology.

  • Contactless thermometers measure the surface temperature of our skin.

  • The best region to scan is around the eyes.

  • We know that the best correlation to core body temperature is really

  • the tear duct and so when we focus our measurement for that area,

  • we're able to get pretty accurate correlation to core body

  • temperature. With the inability to identify coronavirus outside a

  • test febrile screening's have become one of the only methods to

  • quickly spot those who may be exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

  • When you run a fever, your blood vessels dilate and you give off more

  • energy. If you're really warm, it's obvious.

  • I mean, you stick out like a sore thumb.

  • Thermal cameras are already widespread in Asia.

  • China has been using them to help since the early days of the

  • Covid-19 pandemic. If you go to China, they're everywhere.

  • And there's lots of Asian countries where the cameras are mounted all

  • over the airports. We saw a spike in demand in the Asia-Pacific

  • region in early Q1.

  • So January, February timeframe.

  • The U.S. has been slow to adopt the technology, but that is quickly

  • changing. In July, Hawaii added infrared cameras to its airports.

  • LAX and JFK are testing thermal cameras, and Canada has already

  • mandated temperature checks in airports.

  • There's a camera at Payne Airport in Seattle.

  • We installed three cameras at Love Field.

  • We have two cameras at Southwest Airlines headquarters.

  • The TSA is doing testing with multiple systems out there to actually

  • look at deploying this.

  • Companies like Amazon have placed big orders for thermal cameras.

  • It bought $10 million worth from a Chinese firm that's actually on

  • the U.S. blacklist.

  • Ford Motor Company deployed more than 380 infrared thermal scanners

  • to its facilities.

  • Vodafone is deploying cameras made by surveillance tech company

  • Digital Barriers.

  • They also will be used by the Venetian in Las Vegas, the PGA Golf

  • Tour and the Baltimore Ravens training facility, to name a few.

  • What once was a small, niche industry has suddenly been overwhelmed

  • with demand. In places like China, prices for these devices has

  • spiked three to five times.

  • One of the largest thermal device manufacturers is FLIR Systems.

  • FLIR makes cameras all the way from a very low cost, a couple of

  • hundred dollars that plugs into a mobile device all the way up to

  • really expensive solutions that might mount to an aircraft or be in a

  • military use. China's largest infrared tech company, Wuhan Guide

  • Infrared Co., has been working around the clock in the epicenter of

  • the pandemic. It typically only sells about 100 devices a year, but

  • has halted production of everything but temperature scanners to keep

  • up. Texas based Infrared Cameras Inc.

  • is another infrared device manufacturer.

  • Our focus is on trying to develop systems and get the price of the

  • systems down to where we can build something that's really great and

  • really accurate. ICI has provided cameras for companies like Amazon,

  • Southwest and FedEx.

  • If you're like FedEx in Memphis and you're moving 10,000 people in

  • there on a night shift through 10 doors, you're going to stand a

  • system up at every door to measure those thousand people as they come

  • through each door. It also has been setting them up at schools as

  • students begin to return.

  • But the accuracy of contactless thermometers has been called into

  • question. These devices measure the skin surface temperature and are

  • susceptible to inaccurate readings.

  • Environmental factors can play a part in skewing your reading, as

  • well as user error.

  • It always gives me a fairly low temperature.

  • And this is me walking across a hot parking lot in North Carolina

  • before I get my temperature done.

  • The forehead's very susceptible to environmental impact.

  • So if I'm outdoors and I come inside, maybe I was even wearing a hat,

  • I might have a hot forehead and it gives you a false positive.

  • The effectiveness depends on the device.

  • Single point systems and those scanning large crowds are not as

  • accurate. ICI says its devices are accurate within a tenth of a

  • degree. There's a lot of systems that are being sold out there that

  • are single point systems.

  • Not all of these devices are great.

  • Systems that are trying to look out into a crowd of people at varying

  • focus's and distances and maybe looking at forehead's that are less

  • accurate. And we really haven't seen data that shows that they work

  • effectively as a frontline screening tool.

  • But not all contactless thermometers are created equal.

  • There's really a lack of education about the equipment that people are

  • buying out there. The market is flooded with low cost systems that

  • have no FDA clearance that are pouring in here from China.

  • Non-contact temperature devices used in medical environments had to

  • meet FDA certifications.

  • There's only a handful of companies in the United States that actually

  • make infrared medical devices.

  • Well, now it's a huge market.

  • But in April, the administration said it wouldn't block products

  • anymore to increase availability.

  • All these people, people with zero experience in manufacturing any

  • kind of infrared device, they're buying sensors that are putting

  • stuff together. There's pressure federally to get more systems out

  • there. On the other hand, now we need to make sure that people work

  • in compliance with all this stuff.

  • So it's a very precarious and difficult situation.

  • Perhaps the biggest issue with thermal imaging as a screening tool is

  • the variation in symptoms.

  • Not everyone with Covid-19 exhibits of fever and some don't have any

  • symptoms at all. Twenty five to forty five percent of the people who

  • I have a positive covid test in the emergency room were asymptomatic

  • entirely. But experts agree it's better than nothing.

  • It's probably going to miss some people.

  • But on the other hand, again, as a clinician, if it is picking up

  • people going to work or going into places with fevers who otherwise

  • would not have been picked up, it probably has some utility.

  • You don't want false positives, but you certainly don't want false

  • negatives. False negatives means you're letting someone that's

  • febrile or that has a fever into the facility.

  • There are also privacy issues.

  • Civil liberty advocates are concerned about the influx of cameras

  • that will be popping up. FLIR's elevated skin temperature solutions

  • don't record or save any personalized data.

  • Infrared is not only for detecting fevers.

  • It could actually help in the fight against the virus.

  • Researchers have been studying how radiation from red and

  • near-infrared light can affect the body.

  • In the early 2000s, we published a paper and showed that near-infrared

  • and red light combined actually accelerated the healing process of

  • diabetic ulcers that did not respond to any other form of treatment.

  • Near-infrared and red light have been approved for the treatment of

  • arthritis. Researchers in Brazil are investigating the effects of

  • this light in helping heal respiratory infections.

  • Laboratory rats with lung fibrosis or chronic obstructive lung

  • disease, similar to what you find in patients with Covid-19.

  • That when their lungs are irradiated through the skin with red and

  • near-infrared light, particularly near-infrared light, the symptoms

  • are reduced significantly and they actually go away.

  • While still in early stages, t his could prove to be a potentially

  • life saving treatment for covid-19 patients.

  • We need to invest in the research to really demonstrate in

  • patient-care situations.

  • So we are looking at a five to 10 year horizon.

  • Other applications of infrared include things like clothing that could

  • control the amount of infrared radiation insulated or released by the

  • garment. I call it smart textile that can change the radiative heat

  • transfer property on demand.

  • And that can be coupled to, say, your smartphone and you can press a

  • button and that will change your textile from heating to cooling mode

  • and vice-versa. While the applications are still being figured out,

  • experts agree that like with other deadly diseases in the past,

  • infrared can be part of the solution.

  • The world did a phenomenal job of containing Ebola.

  • That could happen again.

  • Look at the lives and the jobs and the impact to the economy and the

  • deaths of loved ones.

  • Let's put systems out there that can catch this stuff early and take

  • the infected people and separate them from the herd.

  • When there's an outbreak like this, it needs to be contained.

As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, we continue to struggle with how to

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B1 US infrared temperature thermal screening covid accurate

Can Infrared Tech Help Stop The Spread Of Covid-19?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/15
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