An introduction to thermal cameras: how your business can improve safety and monitor the health of employees

thermal camera hikvision

Thermal imaging cameras have been thrown into the spotlight following the outbreak of coronavirus. Companies such as Amazon are operating during the pandemic and using thermal cameras within its warehouses to effectively detect a fever by comparing a person’s body heat with their surroundings.

In fact, thermal technology has been widely used ever since airports around the world adopted it during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

Although a seemingly new concept, thermal imaging has been around for a while. Thermal imaging goes all the way back to 1800 when infrared was discovered as a form of radiation beyond red light. In 1929, Hungarian physicist Kálmán Tihanyi invented the first infrared-sensitive electronic television camera for anti-aircraft defence in Britain. Fast forward to today and the plummeting cost of cutting-edge technologies like smart sensors, micro circuitry and WiFi connectivity make thermal video cameras a popular addition to many professional and household engineering, repair, design, creative and even hobbyist toolkits.

Current thermal cameras can detect heat across the length of a football field, which is astounding! We will probably see them strapped onto the bottoms of drones in the near future and as technology rapidly advances, who knows what they could be used for. The possibilities are endless.

How do thermal cameras actually work?

A thermal imaging camera works by detecting and measuring the infrared radiation emanating from objects – in other words, their temperature.

In order to do so, the camera must first be fitted with a lens that allows IR frequencies to pass through, focusing them on to a special sensor array which can, in turn, detect and read them.

The sensor array is constructed as a grid of pixels, each of which reacts to the infrared wavelengths hitting it by converting them into an electronic signal. Those signals are then sent to a processor within the main body of the camera, which converts them using algorithms into a colour map of different temperature values. It’s this map which is sent on to be rendered by the display screen.

Many types of thermal imaging camera will also include a standard shooting mode that works with the visible light spectrum, much like any other point-and-click digital camera. This allows for easy comparison of two identical shots – one in IR and one in normal mode – to help quickly identify specific problem areas once the user steps out from behind the lens.

Ok, great! But what can I do with a thermal camera?

There are a huge variety of uses for thermal heat detection cameras, notably in the health industry. These are just some of the many industries that thermal heat cameras are frequently used in.

Medical facilities

Spot viruses and feverous conditions in both human and animals. This is also useful if you are running a warehouse or company which requires a large task force on site, detecting any high temperatures, so you can protect your staff and business.

Home and building inspections

Spot moisture damage, detect poor insulation and more.


Used by both military and commercial vessels to aid with detection of icebergs, enemy ships and warm bodies in the water

Electrical inspections

Find overheating components and take remedial action before they become a problem

Law enforcement

Police use these cameras to track criminal body heat on foot, in vehicles and from the air.


CCTV thermal installations can see through darkness and create 360-degree surveillance networks.

How do I know which thermal camera to buy?

Depending on what you need thermal heat detection cameras for, the answer will slightly vary. However, our recommendation is to invest in thermal cameras from Hikvision.

With advanced detectors and algorithms, Hikvision’s Temperature Screening Thermographic Cameras are designed to detect elevated skin-surface temperatures, and can thus be used for rapid and preliminary temperature screening in office buildings, factories, stations, airports and other public places, with accuracy up to 0.3°C.

Hikvision cameras also contain Embedded Audio, which triggers the cameras to immediately notify operators when it detects a high temperature.

Another great feature that the Hikvision range of cameras have are AI Human Body detection, which fix measurement areas to human bodies, thus reducing any false alarms.

You can also be rest assured that the Smart Temperature Measurement Algorithm means that there is an incredibly high accuracy rate, and would not be dissimilar to using a thermometer. Less contact, High Accuracy.

Frequently asked questions

How close do you need to be to detect someone with an elevated temperature?

For an optimal reading the camera needs to be anywhere between 5-15cm, making this ideal near doors and entry points.

Are thermal and infrared cameras the same?

Active IR systems use short wavelength infrared light to illuminate an area of interest. Some of the infrared energy is reflected back to a camera and interpreted to generate an image. Thermal imaging systems use mid- or long wavelength IR energy. Thermal imagers are passive, and only sense differences in heat. These heat signatures (usually black (cold) and white (hot)) are then displayed on a monitor. Because thermal imagers operate in longer infrared wavelength regions than active IR, they do not see reflected light, and are therefore not affected by oncoming headlights, smoke, haze, dust, etc.

Can thermal imaging cameras work underwater?

Thermal Imaging Cameras do work underwater but just not as well as you would hope, Water blocks a lot of infrared wavelengths, much as an opaque barrier blocks visible light wavelengths.

In the same way that we can’t see through paint, infrared sensors can’t ‘see’ through any significant depth of water, because the waves it detects don’t pass through water easily.

Can thermal imaging work through glass or walls?

No, Thermal Imaging does not work through glass. A sheet of glass allows visible light through but acts a bit like a mirror for infrared wavelengths, If you were to point a thermal detection camera at a window, what you’d see onscreen wouldn’t be a clear thermal rendering of what’s on the other side, but most likely a blurry mess – and possibly a vague reflection of yourself holding the camera!

Thermal cameras do not work through walls either, Most buildings are engineered and insulated to trap heat, exterior thermographic imaging seldom reveals much about what’s going on inside

Can I detect ghosts?

To our knowledge – No! Unlike what is shown in many popular ghost busting programs, thermal heat detection will not be able to pick up on any ghosts or paranormal figures


Thermal cameras can offer business plenty of practical ways to improve safety as well their operations. We have seen an increase in interest in thermal cameras during the outbreak of COVID-19. However, hopefully what has been discussed here will provide food for thought on how thermal cameras can be implemented within your business post-pandemic business life.

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