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Things to Consider When Using Thermal Imaging for Temperature Screening

Q&A for IFSEC Global


By Gambi Chiang, Global Business Strategy Manager, Chubb Fire & Security


What are the specific requirements customers should be aware of when implementing thermal imaging devices?


To get started, customers should be aware that there are different types of thermal cameras for different applications. For example, some thermal cameras are used outdoors to detect trespassing in a restricted area and some thermal cameras can be used for non-destructive testing of building structures. However, with the arrival of COVID-19, the current demand for thermal imaging cameras is focussed on using thermal cameras to detect elevated body temperature. 


When implementing any kind of technology, customers first need to be clear on the kind of application. There are different types of thermal cameras that can detect elevated body temperatures, and there is a difference in their price tags. In general, the differentiators include accuracy, speed of detection and other features like crowd detection. It should be noted that thermal cameras are designed to give an indication of elevated temperature, and are not a method of medical diagnosis.


To check body temperature at the access control point, customers will only need a product that can detect the temperature of one person standing steadily in front of the checkpoint. 


However, to monitor people’s temperature at the building entrance or lobby, customers will need a camera with crowd detection capability and faster detection speed for a moving crowd. Also, the alarm function is needed to alert on-site staff to take corresponding actions when high temperature is detected.


There are also new products coming to the market that combine body temperature detection and facial recognition. Apart from checking body temperature, the system can check the credential of the person as well as if he or she is wearing a mask.


What are the common issues associated with using this technology?


It is important to be aware of the environment where the body temperature camera is installed, because the thermal camera is highly sensitive to ambient conditions. For example, consider a case where the thermal camera is pointing at the building entrance where there is direct sunlight coming from outside. In this instance, the sensitivity of the temperature detection is reduced.


Another issue the end user should consider is local privacy regulations. In some countries, there are tighter privacy laws, so measurement of employees’ temperature and the use of facial recognition technology may be prohibited. We also highly recommend to customers that they provide clear communications to their employees on why such a solution has been deployed, how it is instituted and allow employees to provide feedback if they have any concerns. If a great solution is installed with good intention but without clear communication and transparency, then people may respond negatively.


What tips would Chubb suggest for installing and setting up this technology? 


Because of the sudden demand for this kind of solution, Chubb is seeing many new products coming into the market. Some manufacturers may be rushing to launch their products to gain market share. With a 200-year history of trusted safety and security solutions and as a responsible service provider, Chubb has been very careful in its product selection. Our solution engineers review the product specifications and conduct in-house product testing. We are ensuring confidence in the products and the manufacturers before we recommend them to our clients.


  • Should customers be considering a more holistic approach to their “return to office” solution rather than just installing thermal imaging in isolation?
  • Are there other systems that should be used alongside thermal imaging and how does this work in practice?
  • What are the benefits of this?


Absolutely. Body temperature detection is only a part of the “return to work” protocol. Since the arrival of COVID-19, buildings are now critical tools in the fight against disease spread as well as drivers of societal health, wellbeing and even economic health, so we need to look at using technology to create solutions that help protect what’s most important about a building – the health and safety of the people inside.


So, businesses should consider “return to work” solutions from two aspects: firstly, measures to reduce or manage risk and create an indoor environment that supports the health and wellbeing of the employees, and secondly there is a need to make people feel safe in their working environment. 


In reducing or managing risk, many businesses have implemented new policies for their workforce, such as dividing employees into A and B teams, using track and trace for employees and visitors, revising policies on desk share and meeting room use, etc. 


These policies are reflected in adjustments to the existing access control, visitor management and facilities booking systems as well as implementing new applications. This could include using your phone as an access control credential and removing the requirement for a physical access control ID badge or token, assisting with touchless policies.


From a Facilities Management perspective, businesses should reduce touch points in buildings and apply smart systems to ensure shared facilities and meeting rooms are cleaned shortly after use. 


There are many touchless solutions available, so businesses should engage with a security solutions expert, like Chubb, for a more holistic evaluation of their workplace and policies.


In terms of the second aspect, often the need to make people feel safe in a building has been overlooked. However COVID-19 has highlighted the importance for employees and visitors to feel safe – to know if a building is touchless access, whether the building is crowded or not, when the meeting room was last cleaned and even the indoor air quality of the building. Including a digital screen to display real-time information and status of the building will surely make occupants feel safer in their indoor environment. This sense of security and peace of mind cannot be underestimated. 


At Chubb, we continue to deliver solutions and services to help ensure a healthier indoor environment through advanced solutions, touchless solutions, remote solutions and more productive solutions that support the safety, security, comfort and peace of mind of employers, employees and the public in general.