Thermal Camera Imaging Brought to Your Daily Life, See Things Like Never Before
FLIR is one of the most popular names of a company that is into the business with thermal imagers, although up until recently they were focused more on the professional side of things. Lately however the company is also seeing the big market potential that affordable consumer level thermal cameras in the form of accessories for mobile devices open up. The result is the FLIR ONE thermal imaging accessory designed especially for owners of Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S smartphones. We are talking about thermal imaging accessory and not just for a thermal camera as the FLIR ONE comes with two cameras, one for visual light and one for thermography. FLIR has decided not to go using the built-in visual light camera into the iPhone 5/5S which is much better than the one they have included, but maybe their choice was based on design limitation or who knows. You should be aware of the fact that FLIR ONE comes in the form of a case for the iPhone 5/5S using the Apple Lightning interface and is not compatible with other iOS-based devices. While this design idea is fine if you own an iPhone 5 or 5S, but Apple has already released iPhone 6, so if you want to be able to continue using the FLIR ONE you would need to have a spare iPhone 5 or 5S even if you go and buy the new iPhone model.
We have already mentioned the fact that FLIR ONE comes with two cameras, one for visible light images and one thermal camera. FLIR uses the image data from both devices blending both images using MSX Technology and thus providing physical detail to the raw thermal reading. Normally thermal images do not reveal a lot of detail of the physical objects that you are checking as they contain thermal information, but when you take a visible light image as well and take the outlines of objects from it and blend that data with the thermal image the results are great. Even with lower resolution thermal image this method makes it possible to get a much better looking thermal images that are easier to read and understand, especially from people that are not too experienced with thermal imaging.
The FLIR ONE thermal imaging accessory is based on the small and affordable Lepton micro thermal imager. This small sensor is what makes possible to have a lower resolution FLIR thermal cameras available at very affordable prices. Even though the available 80×60 pixels thermal array from the Lepton sensor is not too much it is still quite useable, especially when you blend the thermal image with a visual one to provide more visual details to the user. It is interesting to note that when displaying real-time images or recording video, FLIR ONE employs an image enhancement that produces a 160×120 thermal image according to the manufacturer of the device.
FLIR ONE thermal imaging accessory specifications:
– Scene range temperature: 0°C to 100°C (32°F to 212°F)
– Weight: 3.9 ounces, 110 grams
– Dimensions: 140 x 61 x 22 mm (L x W x H)
– Battery capacity: 1400 mA/h (maximum thermal imager battery life is approximately four hours continuous use. FLIR ONE does not consume power from the iPhone battery, nor does it charge the iPhone battery)
– Core: FLIR Lepton thermal camera core (80×60 pixels)
– Visible camera: 640×480 VGA (used for FLIR MSX blending)
– Sensitivity: ability to detect temperature differences as small as 0.18°F (0.1°C)
– Charging method: micro USB and 1A wall charger (charges FLIR ONE only)
– iPhone compatibility: iPhone 5, iPhone 5S running iOS 7 or above
The FLIR ONE accessory for iPhone 5/5S is available at a price of $349.99 USD and we have already ordered one to use as a part fo our testing equipment, so soon you will be able to see actual thermal images as well as read our personal feedback from using the device. The only thing that we are not overly happy in the specifications of the device is the temperature range that it operates in, it would’ve been much better if it was a little bit wider than what it is. Other than that we hope to be satisfied with what FLIR ONE will provide us with in terms of resulting thermal images, though we are also looking at other alternatives as well as FLIR is already facing a bit of competition in the field of affordable consumer oriented thermal cameras. There are alternatives that are supposed to offer better specifications at least on paper, but FLIR has the advantage of years of expertise in thermal imaging.
The Seek thermal camera is another affordable accessory designed to bring thermal imaging to mobile devices such as smartphones. The Seek thermal camera has two versions – one of Android-based smartphones equipped with micro USB and a different one designed for Apple smartphones or other iOS-based devices that use the newer Apple Lightning connector. The device is already available and is shipping to customers, though for the moment only the Android version is on sale and shipped as apparently the Apple model needs to go through some more approval from Apple to be sold as an official accessory. You can already order the Android-based Seek thermal camera for $199 USD, though it is only being shipped to customers in USA and Canada for the moment.
Other than the difference in the interface and the device the two camera models offer essentially the same specifications and these are actually quite attractive for the price you are asked to pay for the thermal camera module.
Seek Thermal Camera Specifications:
– Android micro USB or Apple Lightning connector
– Vanadium Oxide Microbolometer
– Thermal sensor resolution: 206×156 Array
– 32136 Thermal Pixels
– 12µ Pixel Pitch
– Chalcogenide Lens
– 36º Field of View
– Magnesium Housing
– Long Wave Infrared 7.2 – 13 Microns
– Temperature range: -40C to 330C Detection
– < 9Hz rate
We are already waiting to see the release of the Apple model of the camera and the company to start shipping to Europe as well in order to be able to get one of these Seek Thermal Camera accessories to try it out. We have already mentioned that the price is really good for what specifications the device seems to offer and if the hardware is well matched with good software functionality, then this could be a great product to get and use as your first thermal camera.
Hema Imager from Hema Imaging is another affordable thermal camera accessory for smartphones and tablets that had launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign a few months ago. Unfortunately even though there were quite a lot of supporters the goal of the campaign has not been reached, but the project is not dead and the people being it are still working on improving things and promise to launch a new crowd-funding campaign soon. Hema-Imager uses a thermal imaging sensor with resolution of 64×62 pixels and connects to mobile devices over a Bluetooth interface, users will have access to three primary image modes – thermal overlay on color camera, thermal overlay on wireframe camera, and raw thermal image. The idea of the device is to be paired with a mobile gadget that already has a visible light camera, so that visible and thermal images can be overlayed, but you should be able to use the thermal images with a computer over WiFi as well if you are Ok with just the thermal images.
The most interesting thing about the HemaImager is that the device does not use an uncooled microbolometer as a thermal sensor (like many thermal cameras do, especially in the more affordable range), but instead is relying on a thermopile array as a thermal sensor. This allows the HemaImager to work without the need to recalibrate from time to time in order to avoid the device to start reporting false thermal information. As most thermal imaging devices rely on microbolometer arrays for sensors they need to recalibrate the sensor array from time to time in order to continue reporting accurate temperature data and this means that every few seconds you get a pause in the measuring that the device performs until it recalibrates and is available for use again.
Hema Imager Specifications:
– 64×62 thermopile array with integrated optics
– Best sensor resolution at this price at 0.61 degree angular resolution
– No non-uniformity correction needed with thermopile technology
– Frame rate up to the ITAR-TASS regulations limit of 9 frames per second to any fully Bluetooth or WiFi-capable device.
– Low power consumption and 850 mAhr battery provides up to 8 hours of continuous use without charging, or over a month if just using for 10 minutes daily.
– Android application for smartphone or tablet
– iOS application for iPhone and iPad
– Python & OpenCV application for windows & linux desktop
– App or button-driven laser pointer and online temperature display aligned to center of field of view with 2 deg C accuracy
– Thermal measurement range: -20 degrees Celsius to 232 degrees Celisus
The projected price for the end product should be $250 USD which will make the Hema Imager a really affordable thermal camera accessory for module devices with good features and specifications if/when it becomes available. Since the Kickstarter project did not get funded completely and the people behind the project plan to relaunch a new campaign the device may not see the light of day before sometime in 2015, maybe the second half, you may want to look at some other alternatives that may not be so good and affordable or flexible, but are already available on the market.