technology profile – thermagraphic imaging
Temperature-Based Screening Systems
Richtech has created thermal imaging devices that are able to automatically take a person’s temperature in under two seconds.
By Douglas Weinstein and and Phil Zheng
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES SUPPORT that certain telethermographic systems, also known as thermal imaging systems, may be used to measure surface skin temperature. These thermal imaging systems and non-contact infrared thermometers use different infrared technology to measure temperature. When used correctly, thermal imaging systems generally have been shown to accurately measure someone’s surface skin temperature without being physically close to the person being evaluated.
Let’s be clear on one point – temperature-based screening is not effective at determining if someone definitively has COVID-19 because, among other things, a person with COVID-19 may not have a fever. A diagnostic test must be performed to determine if someone has COVID-19.
The purpose of this article is to bring greater awareness to the design-build community about thermal imaging, because these systems will become quite commonplace in office and retail environments. As a first-line of defense, establishments will want to deploy these devices for the following reasons:
• No staff member is required to be physically close to the person being evaluated. These systems are fully automated.
• Thermal imaging systems typically measure surface skin temperature faster than forehead or oral thermometers that require a close distance or physical contact with the person being evaluated.
• When used correctly, thermal imaging systems generally measure surface skin temperature very accurately (within ±0.5 °F).
Another factor in our reporting on these devices is that we believe they will also become integrated into luxury MDUs and single family residences where homeowners wish to scan guests before they enter the home – whether it’s during ski season in Aspen when people host dinner parties or when staff or day jobbers need access to the residence.
Imagine how awkward, and time consuming, it would be for the homeowner to stand outside with a hand-held thermometer greeting each guest and having to take individual temperatures. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for guests to simply look into a device (think iPad or iPhone sizes) and have there temperature scanned in one or two seconds? While skin temperature is only a first impression, the procedure does send a powerful message that attention to the coronavirus is taken seriously by the homeowners.
Joining our discussion is Phil Zheng, COO of Richtech Systems, a manufacturer of thermal imaging systems, to discuss some of the specifics of these devices.
Doug: Phil, thanks for weighing in on these new systems and how they should be used to deliver accurate information. To start with, give us a snapshot of Richtech.
Phil: Glad to help out, Doug. Richtech has been committed to providing machine vision solutions on a global scale for more than 16 years. We use patented technologies such as machine vision, motion tracking, multi-touch display systems, VR/AR, and thermal imaging. We serve clients in over 120 countries and territories around the globe.
Doug: Let’s dive in and talk about how easy it is to set up an advanced thermal imaging device and how they offer the least intrusive way to protect customers and employees.
Phil: First of all, the screening is really fast. It takes just two or three seconds, so there’s no waiting around. It’s also extremely intelligent, able to track your face and identify features such as glasses and face masks to avoid measuring temperatures from those areas. Probably the most attractive feature about our systems is that it is fully automated and simple to set up. Just turn it on, hang it up or mount the unit on a stand, and they offer instant notifications if someone is feverish.
From a design perspective, there’s a lot going on with our products. I can’t speak for other imaging devices, but our models include a medical grade thermal sensor, wide-angle dynamic camera, enhanced AI facial recognition, lots of advanced features such as facemask detection, and are IP65 water and dust resistant. So you can set these units up outdoors and they’ll work great.
Doug: Tell us about what counts as a fever and how data is collected and stored.
Phil: The system is set to alert at 99.5 °F by default. This is due to the fact that skin surface temperature is typically lower than body temperature by around one degree.
As far as data, our units only store data on the device itself. Richtech does not handle client data in any way. All data stored is fully encrypted, and we use HTTPS for data transmissions. We’ve made sure we are fully compliant with HIPAA and the ADA, which is a big help for our big commercial and hospital clients. .
Our systems are LAN-based, so information can be accessed by other systems on the LAN. For example, you could relay alerts to a security desk or you could even automate the process and unlock doors remotely if someone passes through successfully. Conversely, if a high temperature triggers an alert, you could deny access through an access control system.
We have a cloud based solution on the way, it should be available starting late August of this year.
Doug: So what actually happens when an alert is triggered?
Phil: You have a few options that are easy to set up. Option one is the simplest – an alarm goes off from the onboard speakers. You could also set it up for text or email notifications, and push those notifications to a security or a secretary’s desk. Our units allow for customization of most parameters such as temperature alert thresholds, automated door access control settings, and facial recognition tolerance levels.
Doug: Okay, so for businesses and offices it’s a pretty straightforward system. Now let’s talk about a homeowner, who isn’t tech savvy, and the limitations they would encounter. What do they need to know in order to be comfortable integrating a thermal sensing system into their home?
Phil: I’d start by going back to our opening discussion. Think of these systems as a triage device – you want to deny entry to someone who is definitely feverish. With that in mind, here are a few variables you need to keep in mind:
• These systems are designed to take one person’s temperature – they should not be used for taking the temperature of multiple people at the same time.
• The system has to be used in the right environment and location. You want to avoid reflective backgrounds (glass, mirrors, etc.) and radiant heat sources (portable heaters, etc.). It should be noted that most thermal imaging devices cannot be used under direct sunlight, but our system has built-in features that allow it to accurately detect temperatures even when sunlight is shining on the person’s face.
• Optimum temperature range is 32-95 °F (0-35 °C) and relative humidity 0-90 percent.
Probably the best advice I could give is to read the instructions that come with the unit and familiarize yourself with best practices. We’ve designed these units to be really simple to set up and use, we also provide setup and installation services for those that want to utilize the system to its full potential.
Additionally, we offer installation services that will take care of all the setup needs for homeowners. Information is available on on the