FLIR turns the heat up on smartphone thermal imaging
January 13, 2014
FLIR Systems, Inc. announced two new products at CES designed to put thermal imaging into the hands of consumers. The first is a new, consumer-level infrared thermal camera sensor, while the second is a slide-on attachment for Apple iPhone 5 or 5s smartphones that makes use of said sensor. Both could be used to locate lost pets in the dark, look for energy leaking from your house, or to watch for wildlife.
Thermal cameras have a wide variety of uses, including by law enforcement to look for criminals at night or when hiding in brush, as a night vision system by the military, and by environmental inspectors looking for heat leaks from faulty insulation. They are also standard equipment on many UAVs.
FLIR says the technology also has many applications at the consumer level, including locating heating or cooling leaks in buildings, finding studs in walls, or locating water damage. Outdoor uses might include night navigation, wildlife observation, determining if your fish is fully cooked, or that a campfire is completely out. Firemen certainly could find many uses for the device, searching for hotspots or victims in smoke.
The company's Lepton Sensor is an OEM module that is the first IR thermal microbolometer that is near the size of the small cameras made to fit into a smartphone or tablet. Unlike some thermal cameras, this small unit does not require an external cooler and has all of its image processing in a single chip. It is also compatible with FLIR's patented Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging Technology, which allows pixels from a visible light camera to be combined with the low resolution thermal image to create an enhanced picture.
The Lepton Sensor will be available to OEMs and developers, along with a software development kit. FLIR sees the low-cost thermal sensor being put to work in other tablets, diagnostic tools, cars, toys, building controls, assembly lines, machine vision, and medical devices, and even gaming devices for human tracking.
Demonstrating the proof of its convictions, the company has also released the FLIR ONE. This is a packaged, consumer version of the Lepton IR sensor that takes the form of a sleeve that attaches to an Apple iPhone 5 or 5s. This could create entirely new uses for thermal cameras, as the FLIR ONE combines the thermal camera with the iPhone's abilities to capture, film, transmit, and share images.
"FLIR ONE represents a dramatic step in our pursuit of 'infrared everywhere.'" says Andy Teich, President and CEO of FLIR. "As the first truly consumer focused thermal imager, FLIR ONE introduces thermal imaging technology to a completely new group of customers."
The unit also includes extra battery power for the IR sensor and to extend the life of the smartphone, with the power pack providing about two hours of IR camera use. The FLIR ONE has two cameras – a thermal camera and a more conventional visible light camera. The special chip in the Lepton core combines the images for enhanced resolution, adding detail to the low resolution thermal image.
A worldwide rollout of the FLIR ONE is planned for the coming months, and the price point is expected to be around US$349. The FLIR ONE case will come in gray, white, or a designer gold color. An Android model is expected later in the year.
The following video demonstrates the FLIR ONE's capabilities.