Thermal Imaging Systems: A Brief Overview

Science has demonstrated the validity of measuring skin temperature using tele thermographic systems. A temperature reference source and thermal cameras can be used in these systems. Thermal imaging systems are discussed in this document.

Infrared thermometers (NCIT) and thermal imaging cameras are thermometric instruments using infrared technology. A non-contact infrared thermometer measures body temperature infrared.

Imagery based on thermography

  • Using a temperature measurement system correctly can be a good way to measure a person’s surface skin temperature, without having to be physically in close range. Temperature can be measured with thermography without any contact (unlike an infrared thermometer or an oral thermometer).
  • Thermal imaging cannot be used as a definitive method for detecting COVID-19. A possible explanation could be that COVID-19 patients don’t have a fever. It is an infectious disease that is diagnosed through a diagnostic test.
  • It has not been proven that a Thermal Detection system that simultaneously takes the temperature of several people is reliable. It is necessary to set up the system properly, to operate it correctly, and to prepare the evaluation subject for the observation.
  • Although thermography has been used in a number of countries to detect epidemics, its effectiveness continues to be questioned.
  • FDA published a guideline aimed at increasing the use of thermal imaging systems and reducing thermometer shortages in response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). As part of the package, the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration recommends labeling and implementing thermal imaging systems according to standards.

In Figure 1, an example of how individuals in a public area can be tracked using thermal imaging is depicted.

Thermal Imaging Systems: Benefits

  • Physical proximity to the person being evaluated is not necessary when using a thermal imaging system. There is a possibility that people handling thermal imaging systems live elsewhere.
  • Thermal imaging systems can measure skin temperature more quickly than forehead thermometers and oral (mouth) thermometers, which have to be held close to the skin.
  • When thermal imaging systems are used properly, they can precisely measure the surface temperature of the skin.

There are limitations to thermography

  • In high-volume environments (such as airports, organizations, and sporting events), these thermometers aren’t effective, even as simultaneous readings are taken. “Mass temperature screening” shouldn’t be performed on them.
  • In these systems, temperatures are measured at lower levels than those that can be measured by mouth. This mismatch must be compensated for by properly setting up the thermal imaging system.
  • The system must meet the following conditions in order to operate efficiently:
    • Depending on the environment and the time, systems can be used.
    • Setup and operation of the system are correct.
    • Prepare for your assessment by following the instructions.
    • Thermal imaging systems can be handled by personnel who have received appropriate training.

Imaging temperature: the right way to use it

For accurate measurement of skin temperature, it’s important to follow all manufacturer instructions.

Before utilizing the system, the person handling it must prep the site and the individual to be evaluated properly. Here are links to papers and standards that you can consult for more information.

  • For optimum humidity, the room needs to be between 68°F and 76°F (20°C to 24°C).
  • Control other factors that may impact your temperature measurements, such as:
    • Reflective surfaces (such as glass, mirrors, metal surfaces) that reflect infrared radiation should be avoided.
    • Neither drafts (air movement), sunlight, nor radiant sources of heat (such as portable heaters) are allowed in the room.
    • Be sure there is not enough lighting (such as incandescent lamps, halogen lamps, quartz tungsten lamps).

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