Taking the heat out of the coronavirus crisis

7th May 2020
Lanna Cooper

In response to the news that Heathrow Airport and other facilities are using thermal detection technologies to limit the spread of coronavirus, Lee Jasper, Head of Product Solutions at Johnson Controls discusses his thoughts on the news.

Johnson Controls is a building management systems and solutions provider, currently working with various public and private facilities to supply and install body thermal detection technologies.

Jasper said: “Body thermal detection technology plays an important part in limiting the spread of the virus and keeps people safe. It’s no silver bullet, but it helps to identify people most likely to infect those around them. It’s one small step in the many it will take to protect the public.

“The technology is non-invasive and doesn’t monitor personal mobile or location data. It acts as an out-of-the-box extension of an existing CCTV system. The cameras use facial recognition to act as a first-line filter, identifying those entering premises who may have an elevated body temperature. This is then flagged to operators to take appropriate measures, such as seeking medical advice.

“Under current circumstances, it plays an important role in enabling continuity at key facilities. But once offices and other venues begin to reopen their doors, we’ll likely see this technology used more widely as an important addition to the roster of protective measures keeping people safe.”

How effective is the technology?

“Body thermal detection technology gives security teams a first-line filter to identify those entering premises who may have an elevated body temperature. It is not a silver bullet. This technology is a useful tool to control the potential spread of the virus in key facilities, but it’s important to emphasise that it cannot prevent the spread of the virus.

"Body thermal detection technologies will serve as an important addition to the roster of protective measures keeping key facilities secure and key workers safe. It’s an important weapon in the armoury.”

Where is it being used now, and where might it next?

“There is no single environment to which body thermal detection systems are best suited. It can play a part in limiting the spread of the virus among key workers on the frontline, but now we can expect to see the technology adopted more widely, particularly once lockdown restrictions are lifted and our daily lives begin to return to normal. 

"It’s likely that we’ll see high street retail stores, entertainment venues like stadiums and cinemas, and potentially ‘high risk’ areas like gyms and swimming pools consider the technology as an additional detection method against any potential spread of the virus. This is to safeguard both the staff working there and their customer base as much as possible.”

Will it pick up other illnesses and natural difference in body temperature?

“Through facial recognition technology, it accurately measures the temperature of a person, and flags to the operator if someone’s temperature is outside normal parameters. It is then up to these teams to determine how that information is used, and the appropriate reaction. If there are concerns around illness, competent medical advice and further checks should be sought. It is not intended to diagnose or monitor any medical condition or illness, but helps to identify the people most likely to infect those around them - one small step in the many it will take to protect the public.

What is the impact on everyday life?

“Body thermal detection systems are a dual technology, an out-of-the-box extension of a standard CCTV camera. They don’t record individuals and store their data – the systems simply measure an individual’s temperature and alert security teams to anyone with potential symptoms, to help them manage who enters their building. The vast majority of businesses will already have CCTV systems in place, with accompanying signs to notify shoppers of their presence.

"The installation of body thermal detection systems is unlikely to cause any disruption, but will require additional signage to notify customers that cameras are measuring their temperature. It’s important to clarify how the technology works - and also explain how it’s helping to keep people safer.”

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