Businesses begin adding thermal imaging cameras to screen customers for fevers as more states reopen
- As states reopen, some businesses are considering thermal imaging cameras
- Grocery chain in Georgia is already screening customers with the cameras
- Such devices have been used on employees in critical industries
- Infrared cameras estimate body temperature from a distance
- Customers flagged by cameras could be subject to secondary screening
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Businesses across the U.S. are considering using thermal imaging cameras to screen customers for fevers, as more states move to reopen their economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Soon, the devices previously used mostly in airports and transit hubs in Asia could become a common sight at the entrances to grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters across the country.
Using infrared imaging, thermal cameras are able to roughly estimate a person’s body temperature from a distance by checking whether it appears elevated compared to the other people passing through the scanner.
Now, businesses are testing out using thermal imaging cameras on customers. In Georgia, small grocery store chain City Farmers Market has already rolled out the cameras, according to CBS News.
A worker at City Farmers Market in Georgia mans a thermal imaging scanner to check customers as they enter the store. More businesses are considering the technology
A view of a thermal scanner shows how it estimates body temperature from infrared radiation
‘Any person registering a temperature of 100.4 F or higher will be discreetly informed by a trained member of our staff and we will find an alternative for your shopping,’ the store said in a statement on its website.
Thermal scanners are already in use to screen employees in some critical industries, such as at meat packing plants that have remained open to keep the nation’s food supply running.
The Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was using thermal cameras at entrances before it was forced to shutter when some 800 employees tested positive for coronavirus, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘What we’re seeing is there will be a new normal that will involve thermal screening as a frontline tool,’ Chris Bainter, director of global business development at FLIR Systems, told CBS News.
A flight passenger is screened with a thermal imaging camera at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile on April 20
FLIR has been producing thermal imaging cameras since the SARS epidemic in 2003, when the technology gained widespread use in Asia.
FLIR and other companies like Flexible Systems, Thermal Guardian, CrowdRx and more are now manufacturing the cameras for use in airports, healthcare centers and even apartment buildings in New York.
The CDC does not appear to have issued any official guidance for businesses on the use of thermal imaging scanners, but the agency’s report on the Smithfield plant recommended individual screening using forehead, ear or mouth thermometers.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Tuesday morning.
Experts say that thermal imaging scanners are not as precise as tools used to individually measure a person’s temperature.
A thermal imaging camera shows the body temperature of a visitor at Giza Systems company in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on April 8
Thermal cameras monitors are used to check the body temperature of passengers at Fiumicino airport, near Rome, on April 15
‘The key is that application is not about an absolute temperature measurement. It’s more about detecting those individuals with elevated body temperature higher than the last 10 people that had been screened,’ Bainter told CBS.
The use of thermal imaging cameras may also raise privacy concerns for customers, who may not be aware that health data on them is being collected from a distance.
However, Bainter dismissed privacy concerns as unfounded, and said thermal imaging cameras would not be used to collect personal information.
‘If you’ve seen a thermal image… you can’t really detect exactly who that individual is,’ he said. ‘We aren’t really focused on collecting data of any sort, it’s more about as a screening tool.’