FLIR turns the heat up on smartphone thermal imaging


January 13, 2014

The FLIR ONE is a slide-on attachment that gives iPhones thermal imaging capabilities

The FLIR ONE is a slide-on attachment that gives iPhones thermal imaging capabilities

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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.

Source: FLIR

About the Author
Francis X Govers III Francis Govers is the designer of over 20 land, sea, air and space vehicles and teaches robotics and the design of self-driving cars. He spent 10 years at NASA, helped design the International Space Station, participated in the DARPA Grand Challenge, and managed the only Zeppelin operating in the US. As a commercial pilot, writer, artist, musician, engineer, race car nut and designer, Francis has a serious addiction to building things that frequently gets him into trouble. All articles by Francis X Govers III

Wht would anyone invest in an expensive non-standard accessory when YEARS of model history pretty much guarantees the main device WILL be intentionally made obsolete within a year or two??

Wait for a standalone lens that transmits via bluetooth.

Two Replies

Iz cool.

We also need a line-of-sight/short range reflection pulsed messaging/voice application/capability.

Photon-based pulse coded messages, when the radio frequencies have been jammed.

Someone's going to make serious money from that. You're welcome.

Dan Lewis

There is no stand alone lens that can superimpose IR and visual light the way FLIR's patented technology does it. IR radiation is blocked by glass lenses and visual light is blocked by the visually opaque IR lenses. Lens technology has not changed in decades, so don't hold your breath waiting for it.

Having said that, other aspects of the technology have obsoleted themselves over time. 15 years ago this tech would have cost $60,000 and would have weighed 5 pounds. Features will be added with improved phone hardware, and the external gizmos will shrink in size. Perhaps FLIR will break into the smart phone biz some day.

Cost has severely limited the application of this tech. Once it gets into the hands of a few hundred thousand plumbers, appliance repairmen, policemen, doctors, home inspectors, shop owners, etc., and their creative teenaged children, I think the application for this will explode making this one of the most exciting add-ons you can get for a phone.


A diabetic can use it to check for hot spots in areas they have lost the sense of feeling giving the several days to a week waring on infection. The same is true for bed sores that would read cold. It might possibly give enough warning to prevent them from developing.

A thermal camera will also spot restrictions in blood flow in time to correct it if the camera is sensitive enough.

For any price under $500 dollars anyone that works with machinery can't afford to be without one. Comparing a picture of the the bearings and other moving parts after they have been running a few hours will show up problems in time to repair them before costly breakdowns. I can think of several time it would have paid for itself in one use.

For example; one afternoon we were harvesting cotton when I heard a bearing start to make noise on the main drive shaft off a cotton stripper. The bearing cost $75 dollars and took 8 hours to change. The stripper were making $500 dollars an hour. If we ran the stripper 10 more hours the repairs would cost $800 dollars and still only take 8 hours. Needless to say I worked all night and spent $800 on parts. Had I had a camera like this I would have worked all night the night before and spent $75 dollars for parts.



Well the same res stand alone unit from FLIR retails for about 2-3k. So to be able to get it for under 400 is good value.

As for long term usage and the notion that it will become obsolete, at the end of the day I have my old 3Gs from the early years and it still works just fine. If a business invests in getting a phone to power this thing and a couple of years down the track the phone is no longer current then so what, just shelve it and use it only as required. The 5 and 5s are very capable devices, and unlikely to become computationally obsolete in the next 3-4 yrs if it is used purely for these applications.


I can't see this as being a replacement at this time for energy auditors or those looking for crucial data. Flir has some amazing products that are truly professional grade. However to be able to have what appears to be a "pro-sumer" level product like this for $350 has great potential. At Indow Windows, we manufacturer custom interior thermal inserts for energy efficiency, typically in older homes. While many of our dealers are home performance specialists and have high end equipment, some are not and being able to use this type of equipment at a reasonable cost to show people where they are losing energy around their home without having to be super precise is of great value.

Russ Eisenberg

Very useful for debugging lots of things - circuit boards with faulty components, wires carrying too much current in walls, machine tools to see how hot the bit is getting, 3D extrusion prints and printers to see if they are hot in the right places and cooling well enough elsewhere...


Used to work on FLIR night and the day sight on the TOW missile system on ITVs, later on AH -64 Apache and AH -1 Super Cobra. Good thing the technology is moving to the civilian sector. R&D on military hardware always pays off in the end!


check out the MU iphone thermal camera on kick start now almost ready to ship, 100 less and double the resolution a far better deal as this low res model is already obsolete

science ninja

The consumer-level priced sensor is a pivotal development, and has great potential.

But they are shooting themselves in the leg by putting this breakthrough tech into an attachment for a niche product that only has a minority share of the market and that will be obsolesced in six months.

Yes, I know all this trendy marketing talk about standalone cameras giving way to smartphones, and all that. But in this case, a standalone camera would make much better sense, and avoid making FLIR Inc. into a hostage of another company's planned obsolescence cycle. Not to mention that a standalone could have better tech specs for the same price, and would be snapped up by various kinds of professionals (engineers, outdoor workers, medical personnel) as well as geeks, not just a handful of iPhone airheads on the hunt for another glitzy $500 attachment.

I predict that FLIR Inc. will not be able to keep pace with Apple and all the new iPhone versions, never mind the various Android smartphones out there. They will sell a couple hundred attachments, and fold the moment iPhone6 comes out. A pity, for such a revolutionary product.


This device is not yet available outside the US, even though it has been more than 3 months since the CES announcement. I don't understand why it's taking so long when you have similar devices, like Therm-App ( that are offered for less than a $1000, work on Android and are ready to ship worldwide.

Brian Murphy

As usually every cool gimmick is made for Iphones and not for smartphones. This is just unfair, and it pisses me off. The manufacturers always print their "Made for IPhone" Logo on it. As Apple is intentionally engineering systems that are not compatible with anything that is not made especially for Apple, it will NEVER be an Option to me to purchase anything from them. Their monopolitary tactic is exactly the thing, we all fear in science fiction films, nevertheless people are dumb enough not to boycott Apple.

Benjamin Vetter

So when will this be on sale for an Android Note-2,3&4 Phones?

William Roehling
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