The New Era

The New Era

Thermal security cameras have become affordable

As video manufacturers have been driven to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, high-end surveillance technologies have become accessible to a much broader customer base. One technology of note is thermal imaging.

Originally developed for military use in the mid-20th century, thermal cameras translate thermal energy, or heat, into visible light, enabling the accurate analysis of a particular object, individual or scene in low-light, no-light or challenging lighting conditions. Thermal images offer immediate situational awareness, and can also integrate with analytics software for improved accuracy and reporting capabilities.

As the cost of thermal security cameras has lowered, there has been a substantial increase in the adoption of thermal cameras by security end users outside of the government and critical infrastructure space. This has heralded a new era of thermal imaging that is already reshaping entire industries.

Law enforcement, for instance, uses thermal imaging for surveillance, locating suspects, search and rescue operations, and protecting borders. Here’s a look at additional uses of thermal cameras to provide ROI in security and other verticals.

General Monitoring in Harsh Environments

Monitoring facilities located in harsh environments requires specific security hardware that is robust enough to endure extreme temperatures, wind and humidity (or the lack of it). Solar farms are one of the industries where thermal cameras are increasingly deployed.

These sites can experience extreme temperatures, so thermal cameras have become the optimal choice to withstand intense sunlight and heat. As solar farms are often unmanned, they are prime targets of theft. Thermal cameras deliver 24-hour video monitoring and immediate detection of intruders. Security forces are able to alert appropriate law enforcement personnel remotely when security is breached, day or night, in fair or foul weather.

Keeping Transportation Moving and Secure

Thermal imaging has become more widely used for safety and security in various critical transportation locations and facilities, from bridges and tunnels, to ports and train depots. More and more, the goal has become to proactively keep these places safe, secure and moving before any major situations arise.

In any case, the information revealed through round-the-clock thermal monitoring identifies safety risks early enough so that security staff can take action before those risks become more extensive. They have also been recently deployed in automated detection of incidents, wrong way driving and wildlife detection.

Detection of Unauthorized Staff in Restricted Areas

In restricted locations where a perimeter fence would be impractical or ineffective, such as mines or rough terrain, thermal cameras have become the go-to security tool to detect and deny entry of unauthorized persons. A particular advantage of thermal imaging is the ability to detect individuals hidden by darkness or foliage.

Long range thermal lenses can also cover large expanses of land. Current thermal technology is so sophisticated that security personnel can easily distinguish between a person crawling on the ground to escape detection and small animals that happen to be in the area. Thermal is also the perfect technology to integrate with radar to better cover wide open area perimeters.

Maritime Security and Nighttime Navigation

In the maritime industry, thermal imaging cameras vastly improve security and nighttime navigation. Obstacles such as buoys, other boats and object avoidance can be easily detected making nighttime boating safer than ever. Law enforcement can easily locate and track suspicious vessels, conduct search and rescue operations, including man overboard in total darkness through light fog or haze.

Today’s advanced thermal imaging systems also enable law enforcement personnel to conduct surveillance at night while remaining completely undetected, improving officer safety.

24-Hour Surveillance for Enterprises that Operate Around the Clock

Correctional facilities offer another environment where thermal imaging has proven of great value. In lowlight interiors, where shadowy areas can mask the activities of inmates, thermal imaging can reveal the heat signatures of people and objects no matter how dark the environment.

Thermal cameras see through smoke so the location of inmates and correctional authorities is always known, even during a fire rescue situation. Outside of prisons, in inclement weather or under the darkness of night, corrections officers can monitor prison gates and perimeters without the use of spotlights.

Thermal Imaging Cameras to Disrupt Shoplifters

Shoplifting has always been an expensive problem for retailers. From two-way mirrors and CCTV cameras to detectives posing as customers, retailers employ an array of tools to combat the practice. However, while these strategies may prove effective in catching thieves in the act of stealing, once a stolen object is hidden inside clothing or a bag, it’s difficult to determine whether a theft has occurred.

While thermal cameras can’t see through clothing, they can reveal temperature differences on the surface of clothing caused by objects hidden in a pocket or jacket. Thermal imaging cameras with visual tracking analytics software can also follow alleged thieves as they roam around a given store. Successful deployments have shown that thermal technology can result in a 60 percent reduction of stolen inventory.

Smoke Screen Reveal All

For years smoke screens have been employed to protect assets and people from unwanted intruders in business like banks, jewelry stores and gas stations. At the first sign of a threat, thick clouds of smoke are released, disorienting intruders by reducing visibility almost to zero.

Because thermal imagers can see through smoke, combining smoke screen techniques with thermal cameras enables responders to more easily take control of the situation. Remote control operators can confirm the status of the intrusion and let police or other responders know exactly what is going on, as well as communicate the exact location of intruders. In short, the addition of thermal imaging cameras enables responders to neutralize the threat.

Thermal Imaging Cameras Mounted on Drones

Mounting thermal imaging cameras on drones has brought new capabilities to a number of industries, including security, law enforcement, firefighting, search and rescue operations and natural resource and wildlife protection.

The ability to position a thermal imaging camera with optimized resolution and optics almost anywhere expands the possibilities of situational awareness for a range of activities, from tracking a suspect from a safe distance, inspecting power lines, cell towers and bridges, to precisely managing agriculture and wildlife. The technology has become so sophisticated that one operator now flies the drone while a separate operator controls the camera to achieve optimal results.

These new applications of thermal imaging technology make accomplishing traditional tasks easier and more efficient, while also solving new challenges. Welcome to the new era of thermal imaging. Where would you like to take the industry next?

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Security Today.

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