Last week, Seek Thermal released a very cool add-on for your Android phone—an affordable (at $199 it’s practically a steal) infrared camera.
And diehard iPhone fans aren’t exactly being left in the dust in this realm. The FLIR One is a $349 iphone-compatible infrared camera, if you’re so inclined.
While it’s more or less guaranteed that most people will use these mobile thermal Imaging cameras to re-enact scenes from Predator, these cameras actually have some practical applications beyond just looking really cool.
An article on Android Community points out a few of the potential uses:
“What will you use it for? Well, safety primarily. You can scan a dark parking lot before going on to your car. Or you can take it when going boating and scan the dark waters for heat-emitting objects.”
Infrared cameras for smartphone are still a pretty novel concept, but thanks to the huge applications for Infrared Imaging, the Global Infrared Imaging Market as a whole is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.53 percent from 2013-2018.
What is Infrared Imaging?
Infrared imaging systems are used to sense infrared radiation that is reflected or emitted by an object. An infrared camera detects this radiation, converts it into an electric signal and processes it into an image.
Types of Infrared Imaging Systems
Cooled Infrared (IR) Imaging Cameras
The detectors of Cooled Infrared Imaging cameras are precisely placed in a vacuum case and are cryogenically cooled. The detector is made of semiconductor materials such as mercury cadmium telluride and indium antimonide. The electrical properties of the detector change when the IR energy from an object comes into contact with the detector, which increases the sensitivity of the temperature detection.
Uncooled Infrared Imaging Cameras
The detectors of uncooled Infrared Imaging Cameras operate at room temperature and are priced lower than cooled infrared imaging cameras. The working principle is the same as that of the cooled infrared imaging camera except for the absence of cryogenic coolers.
Who’s Using Thermal Imaging?
It seems like everyone is using IR cameras nowadays. The versatility and declining prices of thermal imaging, as well as development of HD cameras are some of the main reasons for increased uptake of this technology across sectors.
Infrared imaging is used in the field of healthcare to diagnose diseases and treat patients accordingly. Infrared radiation penetrates the patient's skin to identify varicose veins or venous blood spot, for example. Some of the major applications of infrared imaging in the Healthcare sector are given below.
Researchers are now even able to detect tumors using infrared technology.
The Defense sector is one of the major end-users of infrared imaging, with IR cameras primarily used for security, night vision, and target acquisitions in the field.
Plants absorb most red, blue, and green light, and emit infrared light, so i nfrared photography is widely used to identify and monitor the health of plants. Imagery of healthy plants produces a white image, while plants with infections or diseases won’t reflect infrared rays as well. IR imaging can be used on a large scale for crop inspections in order to detect disease and insect infestation.
Infrared photography helps police prevent crimes by identifying weapons carried by individuals. It also plays a significant role in surveillance and security.
Infrared photography helps forensic investigators evaluate crime scenes, as the images enable them to see things, such as traces of body fluids like blood, that are not always visible to the naked eye. The image can also show traces of water for up to 22 hours.
In the field of astronomy, infrared imaging is used to find and locate new sources of light that are not visible to normal cameras. It can be used in the discovery of celestial objects such as star clusters and clouds of particles around other objects.
Infrared imaging systems are used to detect previous paintings that lie beneath a final painted version. They can also be used to determine the authenticity of paintings.