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Body thermal detection systems

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to everyday life. Social distancing and government lockdowns have seen the closure of all but essential organisations to limit the spread of the virus. For many businesses, the virus has accelerated the pace at which they are embracing remote working, which will likely remain the norm for the foreseeable future. But for those working on the front lines of the fight – in hospitals, care homes, supermarkets and power stations, to name just a few – remote work isn’t an option, writes Tim Raynor, pictured, Video Product Manager at Johnson Controls.

An outbreak in any critical facility is likely to have major consequences. Strict social distancing policies and rigorous cleaning routines are already going a long way to flattening the curve. But with the risk so huge – and the potential effects of a shutdown in some facilities catastrophic – what else can we do to limit the impact on key workers? One key solution has emerged: body thermal detection technologies. While this technology cannot prevent the virus’ spread, it could play a part in efforts to limit it.

How does it work?

Body thermal detection technology was created for this very reason. Its first iteration was designed for a laboratory investigating flu viruses, which wanted to monitor the health of its staff and ensure the viruses they tested weren’t infecting people. The technology enabled their team to pick up on individuals in large spaces, such as entrances to the building and laboratories.

In practice, body thermal detection technology gives security teams a first-line filter to identify those entering premises who may have an elevated body temperature. Through facial recognition technology, it accurately measures temperature of a person, and flags to the operator if someone’s temperature is outside normal parameters. It is then up to these teams to determine how that information is used, and the appropriate reaction.

While the technology is designed for large areas, and is able to measure up to 40 individuals at once, the current need is for organisations who have dramatically reduced the flow of people in compliance with social distancing measures, like our hospitals and care homes. In this example, a queueing system could be implemented at building entrances, where cameras scan visitors to measure their temperature, and action can be taken by security teams. If there are concerns around illness, competent medical advice and further checks should be sought.

Whether it’s factories, warehouses, hospitals or police stations, in buildings where key workers are doing critical work, the technology can help to identify individuals with high temperatures and take the necessary action. It has one simple goal: to play a part in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.

Body thermal detection, however, is not a silver bullet. While this technology is a useful tool to control the potential spread of the virus in key facilities, it’s important to emphasise that it cannot prevent the spread of the virus. It is not intended to diagnose or monitor any medical condition or illness, and should not be used as such. Rather, the technology helps to identify the people most likely to infect those around them – one small step in the many it will take to protect the public.

An extension of CCTV

Body thermal detection systems are a dual technology, an out-of-the-box extension of a standard CCTV camera. They don’t record individuals and store their data – the systems simply measure an individual’s temperature and alert security teams to anyone with potential symptoms, to help them manage who enters their building.

The vast majority of businesses will already have CCTV systems in place, with accompanying signs to notify shoppers of their presence. The installation of body thermal detection systems is unlikely to cause any disruption, but will require additional signage to notify customers that cameras are measuring their temperature. With the population much more savvy about their data and the way it’s used these days, it’s important to clarify how the technology works – and also explain how it’s helping to keep them safer.

Body thermal detection systems will become much more familiar to us as they’re adopted more widely. In COVID-19’s early stages, we can expect to see the technology being used where it matters most – but it is unlikely to stop there.

A weapon in the armoury

There is no single environment to which body thermal detection systems are best suited. Now, it plays an important role in enabling continuity in facilities requiring a minimum level of employees to remain operational, like hospitals, supermarkets and power stations. Here, it can play a part in limiting the spread of the virus among key workers on the frontline.

Next, we can expect to see the technology adopted more widely, particularly once lockdown restrictions are lifted and our daily lives begin to return to normal. It’s likely that we’ll see high street retail stores, entertainment venues like stadiums and cinemas, and potentially ‘high-risk’ areas like gyms and swimming pools consider the technology as an additional detection method against any potential spread of the virus. This is to safeguard both the staff working there and their customer base as much as possible.

Body thermal detection technologies won’t stop the virus spreading by themselves. What they will do is serve as an important addition to the roster of protective measures keeping key facilities secure and key workers safe. In times like these, business leaders should be considering what role body thermal detection technology could play in their wider implementation of safety measures. While it is no silver bullet, it’s certainly an important weapon in the armoury.


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