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INSIGHTS

Not even Omicron seems likely to save the thermal EBT camera ‘dead market’

Not even Omicron seems likely to save the thermal EBT camera ‘dead market’
Remember body temperature cameras? These thermal solutions were hot-selling items during the height of the pandemic. Over time, however, demand has waned, and even the new Omicron strain can’t seem to revive interest in these solutions.
Remember body temperature cameras? These thermal solutions were hot-selling items during the height of the pandemic. Over time, however, demand has waned, and even the new Omicron strain can’t seem to revive interest in these solutions. This note explores some of the possible reasons for this.
 
Body temperature cameras – thermal cameras used for elevated body temperature (EBT) screening – saw their heyday in 2020 when COVID became a global pandemic. Various end user entities, from airports to offices, had some kind of body temperature cameras deployed. At the time, these devices were thought of as pandemic lifesavers, tools that could help stop the spread of the disease.
 
Now, at the end of 2021, the body temperature camera market is fast shrinking, if not dead, as bluntly described by a thermal solutions provider who asked that their name not be mentioned:
 
“To be honest – we’ve entirely existed the world of thermal markets for elevated body temp. The market is dead.”
 
Other solutions providers offered similar views. “The demand for thermal cameras for elevated skin temperature applications has strongly declined in 2021 when compared to 2020. We saw a decline of more than 80 percent in the demand for this application,” said Markus Tarin, President and CEO of MoviTHERM.
 
“We certainly saw demand for this technology peak in the summer of 2020 as customers sought measures to ensure the safety of their employees. Since then, sales have remained consistent as the market settles,” said James Longcroft, Sales Director of Silent Sentinel.
 
Now with Omicron, you’d think the new strain has revived interest in body temperature cameras. The spread of the new variant has become so severe the World Health Organization has declared Omicron a strain of concern. In fact, WHO said recently that Omicron cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission.
 
Yet renewed enthusiasm in EBT screening solutions has not been apparent. “We have seen some interest for thermal screening solutions due to worries about Omicron. However, nowhere near the level when compared to the onset of the COVID outbreak,” Tarin said.
 
 

Some possible reasons

 
So what are some of the reasons for reduced interest in body temperature cameras? These are discussed as below.
 

Not a great way to stop the spread

 
It was initially believed that thermal cameras for EBT detection would help stop the spread of COVID, but that was not really the case. “I think people have figured out that temperature measurement is not an effective method in stopping the spread of a virus which for the most part doesn’t include a fever (at the beginning),” noted the company that asked its name be withheld.
 

Increased vaccination rates

 
Increased rates of vaccination, which is mandated by some end user organizations, have further slowed demand for body temperature cameras. “With vaccines and other treatment options in place and initial data indicating a much less severe disease progression with Omicron, we do not expect much of an uptick on the demand side for this technology,” Tarin said.
 

Stringent regulations

 
Stringent regulations toward the manufacture and usage of body temperature cameras have also played a part. “These applications are considered medical applications in the U.S. by the FDA and technically require a 510k pre-market approval. However, there is still a revocable emergency use authorization in place. The guiding international standard is ISO 80601-2-56 titled ‘Medical electrical equipment - Particular requirements for basic safety and essential performance of clinical thermometers for body temperature measurement.’ We saw hundreds of systems coming to market during 2020 that certainly did not meet these specifications,” Tarin said.
 
Earlier this year, the FDA toughened its stance on body temperature cameras. “Improper use of thermal imaging systems may lead to inaccurate body temperature measurements which can present potentially serious public health risks … to help mitigate these risks, the FDA is providing important recommendations in the safety communication to consumers, health care providers and other users about the proper and improper use of these systems,” the agency said in a PR. “The FDA is also aware that some firms are marketing unapproved, uncleared and unauthorized thermal imaging devices intended to measure human body temperature, including measuring multiple individuals’ temperatures simultaneously, and has issued Warning Letters.” Actions like these have more or less contributed to a changing dynamic in the market.

Longcroft of Silent Sentinel, meanwhile, offered a more optimistic view about body temperature cameras’ prospects. “With the new Omicron strain developing we have seen some increased demand for the thermal camera technology in recent months. I think it’s safe to say that we are going to have to learn to live with COVID for some time yet and some customers are looking to use this technology as part of their ongoing COVID strategy,” he said. “The market has certainly evolved and matured very quickly throughout the pandemic. We will continue to manufacture our range of elevated body temperature cameras and to see continued sales in the coming years as businesses continue to look to use the technology as part of their ongoing measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.”
 

How to select an ideal thermal camera for EBT screening

 
If the user still decides to set up a body temperature cameras, there are certain points to consider during the selection process. According to Tarin, these include the following:
 
  • The spatial (pixel resolution) of the thermal camera: This entails the sensitivity of the detector expressed in NeTD – noise equivalent temperature difference – and the quality and accuracy of the black body.
 
  • The distance between camera and subject to assure the proper pixel resolution projected across the face to help achieve the required 1mm/pixel resolution: For a reasonable system, the spatial resolution should be 640 x 512 pixels. The user can achieve sufficient accuracy with a lower resolution camera; that is, 320 x 240 pixel as well. However, the achievable image size is very limited with lower resolution detectors, thus posing a challenge with placement of the black body in the same image.
 
  • Using cameras with high-quality detectors is recommended. These tend to have a low NeTD value of <45mK @30 degrees C. Using a camera with a low noise detector definitely helps increase the accuracy of the system.
 
  • Select a high-quality black body. The temperature accuracy of the system depends on it. The accuracy of the black body should be equal to or better than +/- 0.3 degrees C.

Longcroft, meanwhile, has this to add. “It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and follow best practice on how the cameras are installed, as well as the environments in which they are used. We still get asked if the cameras can be used outdoors for example, which is not an ideal position for this type of technology due to temperature fluctuations interfering with the black body calibrator,” he said.


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