Personal thermal imaging technology has seen rapid growth in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This technology exhibits a wide array of use cases, of which three have been detailed below. These use cases were defined as some of the top uses because of their mention across multiple sources, including some from the FDA and other government sources. Each use case is also growing in popularity around the world and can be used by an average person, not necessarily a skilled professional. For each use case identified, an overview of what it is, how it works, and industries to which it is applied have been detailed.
In addition to this, we have identified two notable trends that are currently impacting the market for personal thermal imaging technology. Each of these trends were identified by analyzing historical uses of this tech and comparing it against how the tech has developed through to today. Supporting data points to prove the relevance of each trend have been provided, as well. Finally, we located an additional six data points to help visualize the market for personal thermal imaging products. These data points correlate to the size of the market, relevance of the technology, and concerns by consumers. This data was sourced from government publications, industry reports, and experts written by technology experts.
Personal Thermal Imaging Products: Top Use Cases
- Personal thermal imaging products are most known for their use in temperature screening, as they are capable of differentiating surface temperatures compared to a calibrated value.
- During COVID-19, this technology has been implemented in physical cameras, hand-held thermometers, and other devices to screen body temperatures of individuals prior to entering establishments.
- Many warehouse companies use thermal imaging cameras to screen employees for fevers and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Healthcare companies, hospitals, and nursing homes are additional facilities making use of hand-held thermal imagers to assess patient infections and determine who needs care first.
- In smartphones and smartphone accessories, thermal imaging technology is being built into the devices to capture information not only about the user, but also of nearby persons.
- Smart glasses have thermal imaging built into them to identify passers-by and record their temperatures.
- Thermal imaging technology is capable of facial recognition because the imaging using infrared (IR) scanning to identify facial patterns, which are unique to every individual based on their vein and tissue structures, making it possible to identify a person based on their thermal face image.
- A variety of venues are making use of this technology to identify persons and scan them for symptoms of COVID-19 at the same time, including casinos, hospitality businesses, and industrial organizations among many others. The tech can be paired with photo ID systems to provide security services that are safer and more efficient than manual checks.
- Government organizations in Asia have implemented control kiosks that can use facial recognition software to grant entry to employees, but then also prompt them to comply with hand sanitization protocols and face mask policies.
Heating, Cooling, & Insulation
- Thermal imaging products can be used by consumers and professionals alike to detect leaks in insulation, water heaters and pipes, and even gas leaks in their own homes. This preventative maintenance is a huge buying point for consumers for peace of mind in their own homes.
- Smart phone attachments and cameras are capable of using thermal cameras to detect how much heat is being given off by HVACs to determine if they are operating correctly. This technology can also scan walls in the home to see if insulation is working, pipes are leaking, or electrical units are overheating.
- Thermal imaging technology is widely used in this industry because of its ability to detect differences in temperature from baseline calibrations in a variety of settings.
- Home buyers and renovators can make use of personal thermal imaging devices to identify where heat and energy is leaking the most, allowing them the opportunity to fix those leaks and reduce bills.
- Industry-wise, electricians, plumbers, and HVAC professionals can benefit significantly from using thermal imaging technology to do their jobs and increase client trust.
Personal Thermal Imaging Products: Trends
Personal thermal imaging products are more and more often being used as a thermometer-type device, as a means to screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering public establishments, especially restaurants and retail stores.
- In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, thermal imaging devices are an attractive product for temperature screening, similar to thermometers, because they do not require the person using the device to be in close vicinity to the individual whose body surface temperature is being measured.
- Thermal imaging devices that act as thermometers are also able to measure temperature more accurately and faster than traditional thermometers that measure orally.
- In this use case, there is an opportunity for a better version of this technology that could be formatted to scan temperatures of large masses of people, such as in airports and sporting venues.
- The U.S. Department of Defense is using thermal technology to screen new entrants into the military.
- The FDA released COVID-19 Thermography Devices Guidance in April 2020 that provides information on recommended devices for measuring temperatures with thermal imaging products, how to handle these devices, the information that they can provide, and how to use the data produced by this technology to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- In 2019, prior to COVID-19, restaurants and retail stores were using thermal imaging technology to detect moisture leaks to reduce the need for inspections and verification for insurance purposes. In recent months, however, this technology is now being used in the front-of-house to monitor employee and customer temperatures to prevent COVID-19.
Thermal imagers are being built into drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by both the military and public service to scan mass areas for a variety of reasons, including public health, security, and industrial purposes.
- When thermal imaging technology first came out, it was primarily used by militaries to detect and identify targets that may have been hidden.
- UAVs equipped with thermal cameras are often used by the military to survey areas, enforce protections, and distinguish between heat signatures from humans in the natural environment.
- In recent years and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this use case has transformed into a means to scan populations to ensure that communities are safe, practicing social distancing, and tracking symptoms of COVID-19.
- Pandemic drones, or drones that have built-in thermal imaging sensors, are starting to be used to detect sneezes, fevers, and coughs amongst groups of people to measure the spread of COVID-19 and identify at-risk populations.
- Drones and UAVs with thermal imaging technology is starting to be used more by first responders and law enforcement to track public health. This presents a large business opportunity to any manufacturers of the technology that can offer compatibility with drones.
- In the near future, a potential use case for thermal drones is to monitor oil drilling as a means to prevent spills and track the presence of oils at different points in the drilling/shipping processes.
Personal Thermal Imaging Products: Market Insights
- On average, personal thermal imaging products can cost anywhere from $400-$600 for handheld devices and smartphone attachments. More advanced cameras, though, can cost upwards of $1,000-$2,000, and sometimes more depending on the manufacturer and product capabilities.
- The market for handheld and portable thermal imaging technology is expected to grow at a minimum CAGR of 10% between 2020 and 2026. This growth is expected to be triggered by the technology’s capability to see through fog and smoke to detect threats and rescue victims of natural disasters.
- The varieties of personal thermal imaging technology that constitute a majority of the market include fixed/mounted devices, handheld/portable cameras, and scopes/vision goggles. These devices are typically further divided based on whether they are built to detect in cooled versus uncooled environments.
- The size of thermal imaging cameras is reducing in size on a regular basis. For handheld and personal devices, thermal cameras have been reduced to the size of a pencil eraser, which also helps minimize the cost of the product for consumers. This minimization is expected to continue as the technology becomes more common for everyday use.
- In the light of COVID-19, thermal imaging products are being marketed to businesses as a way to reopen the economy after being shutdown for months on end. The messaging depicts that this technology is “critical” to preventing the spread of COVID-19, which is the only thing keeping businesses alive and open right now.
- Consumers are raising concerns regarding their data privacy rights with the use of thermal imaging technology. Some are worried that the inability of the technology to distinguish a fever from COVID-19 or other illness can cause one to lose job opportunities or be discriminated against. As the Americans with Disabilities Act allows employers to revoke job offers if a potential employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, many fear that there is not enough guidance surrounding this technology.