Markus Tarin, president & CEO of US-based MoviTHERM – Advanced Thermography Solutions, delivers a sage lesson of ‘buyer beware’ after a flood of thermal imaging products came to market in the battle to detect Covid-19.
By now everybody is suffering from Covid-19 fatigue. There are new rules being put in place almost every week to prevent the spread of the disease. Some more confusing than others, and some seemingly contradicting common sense. As more and more companies are resuming operations, risk mitigation plans are being developed by HR and Legal Departments in the corporate world.
The biggest fear? A Covid-19 outbreak amongst the work force, the resulting loss of productivity and of course, the possibility of legal actions. A typical reopening plan consists of workplace modification to allow for better social distancing, rigorous disinfection and cleaning routines, mask wearing, daily health surveys and temperature checks. Alone, none of these measures are particularly effective, but as a whole, they will no doubt have an impact.
The need to contain and fight outbreaks has ruined countless businesses, but it also has created a lot of opportunity for others. This is especially true for the thermal imaging world. An unprecedented level of new innovations for “fever screening solutions” have entered the marketplace.
For some companies, this was the solution that kept them afloat as their standard product line came to a standstill. The need for temperature measurements skyrocketed, depleting the market of standard thermometers in a very short period.
However, not all temperature measurement solutions are created equal. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (‘FDA’), that typically governs medical applications like these, relaxed its grip on the market temporarily. This was to alleviate the bottleneck the high demand had created for human temperature measurement solutions.
Unfortunately, this also brought out the dark side of technology, driven by greed. Praying on the needy, and counting on the technically uneducated customer, solutions flooded the market that did not even meet the minimum criteria for this application. Looking at the offered technologies with the eyes of machine vision, it became apparent not all solutions were up to the job. However, the non-technical decision maker is left with fewer metrics to compare.
The old saying: “You get what you pay for” loses its punch when technology is being purchased as a necessity, rather than a voluntary investment for improving the bottom line. Why would anyone purchase a more expensive solution, if a more affordable one claims to be equally as accurate? Some of the more blatant cases of this technology fraud included systems that seemingly report randomised temperatures, with a strong bias towards “normal” temperatures. One case was uncovered when a camera with artificial intelligence was presented with a picture of a person glued to a piece of cardboard. The system happily announced a normal temperature. Checking the temperature of the picture revealed that the software added about 12 degrees Celsius to the actual reading, thus revealing the fraudulent algorithm.
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