The many ways to use thermal cameras
Thermal cameras can be used for various applications where accurate detection is crucial. From perimeter protection and patient monitoring to ensuring equipment is operating safely and many more.
Thermal cameras are continuing to grow in popularity due to their ability to detect the nature of a threat and reduce false alarms, saving both time and money, which reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO). In this post, I take a look at how thermal cameras are improving security systems, and give some examples of how they are being used in practice.
Identifying the hidden
Thermal cameras capture images based solely on the heat radiating from people and objects. This means they are able to see a clear outline of a potential threat, no matter how poor the visibility – they’re as accurate in no light, fog and camouflage as they are on a bright sunny day. This is particularly important in hazardous, remote areas where there may be no light at night.
When combined with analytics technology, thermal cameras can examine a potential threat that has been detected, automatically dismiss non-threatening ones, and immediately notify security of potentially critical situations. For example, a thermal camera may spot an object moving towards a perimeter or restricted area. It can then tell whether this is a non-threatening situation, such as an animal passing by, or something that needs attention, like a car or person. If it is the latter, a guard can be deployed to investigate further, while non-threatening situations are not progressed, saving considerable time, resources and overall costs associated with investigating false alarms.
A closer look: Castello d’Argile Solar Plant
As well as being able to see in all light conditions, due to their ability to integrate with analytics software to reduce false alarms, thermal cameras are ideal for covering large areas where it is impractical or even impossible for the area to be manned by guards.
In the case of a new photovoltaic solar park at Castello d’Argile (Bologna), it was located in the remote, open countryside with practically no lighting. The plant has an overall power output of two megawatts and produces electricity that is then fed into the national electricity grid, so preventing intrusions is vital. Furthermore, the critical nature of the plant meant that the system needs to ensure precise and effective control of the entire perimeter, both day and night.
By using Thermal Network Cameras for monitoring along the perimeter of the site, which is equipped with video analytics software installed, the plant is able to detect people, animals and objects with the utmost precision, both in lit conditions and in complete darkness, limiting so-called “false positives”, even at long distances. in addition to raising the alarm, the camera also shows the photo that triggered it. This enables the security guard to quickly get an overview of the situation and react accordingly, even from a remote location. Read more about the case study.
Another benefit of thermal cameras in today’s privacy-conscious society is that they don’t deliver images that allow reliable personal identification, such as specific facial features. This is especially useful regarding privacy regulations, as it ensures an organization will remain safely in compliance, without missing potential threats.
The below video shows how hospitals can use thermal imaging to detect patient incidents – such as falls – that need attention, without invading their privacy by recording their image 24/7. In this example, hospital workers can verify whether an incident has taken place from the camera station and if it is a high-risk situation , deploy help. This not only reduces the rates of false alarms, but minimizes interruptions to the patient – something that is vital during recuperation periods.
Remote temperature monitoring
As the name suggests, thermal cameras are particularly useful for sensing heat and monitoring temperature-critical areas. They can add thermal information to the image, making it possible to monitor processes and detect abnormal behavior when temperatures change, for example, to find heat leaks in buildings or determine whether a car has been driven within a recent period.
An example of a business-critical use of this would be in a server room for ensuring all equipment is running at optimum temperatures and not overheating. Again, with analytics, an overheating server can be identified and an alert sent to the IT department to fix the issue before it escalates, potentially preventing system downtime and the associated losses from the company experiencing IT issues. You can read more about remote temperature monitoring in our whitepaper.
A wealth of use cases
I have highlighted a few examples of how thermal cameras can be used in practice, but there are a wide range of security applications, from perimeter protection around industrial sites, airports and power plants through to detecting a person during search and rescue operations.
In specific circumstances, when compared to visual cameras, thermal cameras can provide more reliable detection and shape recognition to increase effective monitoring by combining high image contrast with motion detection to reduce false alarms and avoid unnecessary responses.
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