We have come a long way from measuring body temperature with thermometers to no-contact temperature scanning, which popularized further during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous technologies are being used to scan temperature today, some of them providing better and more accurate results than others. However, there is one thing in common between them. All these technologies and devices tend to measure the temperature of an object through visual information.
Two of the most popular technologies for measuring temperature surfacing in recent months are infrared scanning and thermal imaging. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably by the people, they are different and uniquely so. Before we delve into the differences between the two technologies, let us get an idea about the background of no-contact fever scanning.
The history of no-contact fever scanning
The no-contact fever scanning technology is nothing new. It was popularized in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak. The idea was to measure body temperature from a distance, especially in public places. Handheld devices that detected the infrared rays emanating from the body to detect fever were used extensively in all Asian and African countries, where Ebola spread like crazy. The devices were considered effective in separating infected people from healthy ones to stop the virus from spreading.
Any elevations from the average normal body temperature, i.e., 98.6F or 37 C, should be considered a sign of fever. Even if the device does not touch the body surface, various technologies are used to detect temperature accurately. For Ebola, a temperature measurement of 101.5F was enough to consider a sign of the infection. However, not all fevers can be related to viral infections, but screening is required to separate healthy individuals from the infected population.
The technology erupted further during the COVID-19 pandemic because of its massive, global scale. Further, the physical distancing requirements, which seemed to be the only way to prevent getting the infection, made it mandatory to scan fever from a distance. As a result, healthcare and tech companies came up with several no-touch thermometers and handheld devices to help keep the spreading in check. Among them, the infrared scanner became more popular because of its accuracy and ease of handling.
What is infrared scanning, and how it helps detect fever?
The infrared scanning technology was commonly used in detecting grave issues in electrical equipment before their large-scale fever-scanning benefits came to the surface. They were effective in detecting heat from damaged equipment, as it is one of the initial signs of trouble.
Overheated electrical circuits, faults in the fuse, loose connections, and even material damages could be detected using infrared scanners. IR scanners were attached to cameras to show the heat tones that emanated from the faulty equipment. It helped the professional detect problem areas faster and take appropriate actions. It not only prevented unfortunate accidents but also increased the longevity of the electrical devices.
In the event of the Ebola epidemic, experts suggested using the same technology to detect fever in an individual from a distance. It is needless to say that the initiative became quite popular because of its inherent safety and accuracy, not to mention the benefit of taking temperature readings without touching.
What are NCITs, and how effective they are?
NCITs or No-contact Infrared Thermometers are considered to be the most effective in detecting fever. These devices are held at about 3-15 cm from the body, and most of them aim at the middle of the person’s forehead. Their operational advantage over other thermometers is their accuracy, no-touch facility, lower cost, and ease-of-training. Some of these devices are FDA-regulated and approved, thus safe for use in hospitals and healthcare centers.
However, the forehead scanning measure has been pointed out by experts as less effective due to many factors, for one, sweating. The forehead tends to sweat more than other exposed parts of the body. And if a person has a fever, sweating is a common symptom after taking fever-reduction pills. In such cases, the sweat droplets can alter the readings, giving wrong measurements. Other factors that affect the measurements are makeup on the face, hair, and head shields that people have been wearing during the pandemic. Hence, other areas of the body, like the wrist, are deemed more effective in giving the right readings. Some of the advanced infrared fever-scanning devices thus detect temperature from the wrist instead of the forehead to prevent inconsistencies.
What is thermal imaging?
The entire concept of thermal imaging arises from the fact that heat images can be created by measuring the infrared radiation emitted by any living object. This image gives out more information about the temperature of the living thing. Initially developed for military purposes, thermal imaging cameras can detect movements in the dark, thus busting enemy hideouts without any hassle.
The infrared radiation is invisible to the eye, unlike other forms of light. They can only be detected by these special devices that make the object visible through electric signals. If it appears warmer than usual, the heat energy can be converted into thermal images.
The concept is used in the no-contact fever scanning devices of today that detect infrared rays to get an idea about someone's body temperature. As an elevated temperature level is one of the primary symptoms of the viral infection, people are using it extensively to prevent an infected person from entering public premises.
The difference between infrared scanning and thermal imaging
Although the two technologies may seem similar, they are different in terms of application. Infrared scanning is predominantly a way to scan the infrared radiation emitting from an object to get an idea about its temperature. And thermal imaging is the creation of thermal images by converting the scans into electric signals. Most no-contact thermometers being circulated in the market today detect elevations of temperature by measuring the infrared rays emitted by someone. However, there is no need to create thermal images of that person, as the readings are enough to detect fever.
Additional thermal imaging may be required in places where a person is hiding from sight. As these devices are used at the entrance of public places, like retail stores, factories, educational institutes, shopping malls, and offices, there is no question of hiding. Also, thermal imaging cameras are more expensive than infrared thermometers. The latter ones are available at quite feasible rates in the market.
How to overcome challenges of no-contact thermometers
In the initial days of the pandemic, the infrared fever-scanning devices detected temperature elevations mainly from the forehead. There were limitations of the same, due to the reasons mentioned above. Sweat droplets, hair strands, head wears, and makeup often altered temperature readings, thus affecting the entire concept of no-touch fever scanning. After realizing the same, some companies came up with the practice of detecting temperature from the fist or wrist, as it was more effective and gave nearly accurate readings.
As the fist has low perspiration levels from other exposed parts of the body, modern fever scanners prefer to take temperature readings from the fist or wrist. These places also have reduced hair growth and less covering as the forehead, thus enabling accuracy. Last but not least, these advanced temperature scanners are self-servicing, thus exposing no professional to the infection.
How FeverWarn can help propel this trend
FeverWarn is an infrared temperature-scanning device developed by Machine Sense, a tech company in the US. It helps detect fever from the fist by putting it forward under the scanner and holding it for a few seconds. By keeping it at a distance of 1-4 inches away from the scanner, the individual can prevent infecting the scanner itself by touching it. It is an FDA-compliant device that measures the temperature accurately with little or no deviations. On top of that, it offers a considerable amount of storage to store data for future references and protect one from legal implications. Both in-built USB storage and cloud storage are available on the purchase of the device.
The device has an accuracy of +/- 0.9 F and offers auxiliary outputs for doors and entrance gates. It is reasonably-priced and meant for use in crowded places, like schools, hospitals, healthcare centers, retail stores, shopping malls, factories, and offices.