Thermal Camera Imaging Brought to Your Daily Life, See Things Like Never Before
It seems that we have reached a time when users are willing to have more and more functionality available for their smartphones, so it is no wonder that we are seeing more and more interesting accessories. That trend could not pass thermal imaging as well, though since the sensors that are used in thermal cameras are still quite expensive some compromise may be required to make a thermal imaging accessory affordable enough. IR-Blue is one such device and it is even an open source project – an affordable thermal imaging accessory compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphone and tablet devices that can increase the functionality of your mobile device. IR-Blue uses a 64 zone non-contact InfraRed sensor array to read the temperature of what you are viewing and the device connects using Bluetooth to your iPhone or Android device to show the temperature readings as colors on the screen.
The only drawback that the IR-Blue has is that the sensor it uses is very low resolution as compared to what even the more affordable thermal cameras do come equipped with, but still when you overlay the thermal information on top of actual image of the same object in the visible light spectrum the results can be quite interesting and useful. The 64 zone infrared temperature sensor used is essentially a 16×4 pixel device, but it still beats using a non-contact infrared thermometer with a single point of measurement and IR-Blue does come with a better price than a mid or high-end non-contact infrared thermometer and still offers better results.
IR-Blue features and specifications:
– 64 Zone Infrared Temperature sensor
– The sensor is factory calibrated for -20 to 300 ˚C (-4 to 572 ˚F)
– The sensor temperature range is -50 to 300 ˚C
– Sensor Field of View (FOV) 60˚ by 16.4˚
– (NETD) 0.25K rms
– Dual mode Bluetooth 2 and 4 wireless connectivity for Android and iPhone iOS devices.
– PC, Mac or anything that supports Bluetooth can be used with your custom application.
– Uses 4x AAA batteries
The IR-Blue works with iPhone 4S, 5 and 5s/5c, the iPad 3 and newer or the 5th gen iPod Touch. Apple devices need iOS 6 or higher. Android devices need Android OS 2.3 or newer to be compatible. You can get a fully assembled IR-Blue device for $195 USD from the creator of the device RHworkshop in the US or for €199 EURO from their European partner FIR Sensors. It can be a fun extra accessory for your smartphone that will allow you to start exploring the world of infrared thermography before deciding if you should get a more serious and thus more expensive solution for thermal imaging.
The thermal imaging camera that we are using for testing with and the thermal images that you will see for the moment are from FLIR i7 – a proven and reliable and most of all quite affordable thermographic camera with decent specifications for our need and not so high budget. We have decided to go for the top model from the FLIR i-series of the i7, because it has the highest resolution thermal sensor from the range and we wanted to have the best resolution. Apart from the higher resolution, the bit wider FOV and the two additional measuring modes the FLIR i7 shares the same set of features and other specifications as the rest of the i-series.
The FLIR i3, i5 and i7 thermal cameras operate in the 7.5 – 13 µm range (7500 – 13000 nanometer range), have an image frequency of 9 Hz, use fixed focus lens and can detect objects within a temperature range of -20°C to +250°C, and the thermal sensitivity is 0.10°C with high accuracy of ±2°C or ±2%. The devices are equipped with a 2.8-inch color LCD display, have a MiniSD card slot for flash cards to store the thermal images on – the files saved are Standard JPEG with 14 bit measurement data included (radiometric JPEG format, containing all temperature data). The FLIR i-series of cameras are very easy to use, compact and lightweight, offer up to 5 hours of usage time with a single full charge and provide very good features for normal use packaged in an affordable for a thermal camera device. The price of a FLIR i3 camera currently goes between $1000-1200 USD, for a FLIR i5 you may have to pay $1500-1600 USD and a FLIR i7 will probably cost you around $2000 USD.
You cannot record thermal videos with the FLIR i7 or any of the two smaller models from that product range, you are able to view thermal imaging information live on the device’s display and also save it in radiometric JPEG files on the SD flash card. The produced JPEG files can be open with a normal JPEG photo viewer as a 240×240 pixel image (for the FLIR i7) containing the thermal image data, along with temperature information and a scale representing the thermal range. You can also open them with the FLIR Tools software that you get along with the thermal camera for a more detailed inspection and to output thermal images along with detailed reports for a more in-depth thermal analysis should you need to do so. Do note that while the thermal imaging sensor of the FLIR i7 camera is 140×140 pixels with some image processing the outputted thermal images can be saved with higher resolution and still loo quite good and detailed. However if you need higher resolution for a more detailed thermal inspection you should get a thermal camera with higher resolution sensor if your budget allows it as going up the resolution does lead to an increase in the price.