To the average man on the street, infrared (IR) imaging technology seems like something straight out of science fiction. But today, IR actually has numerous everyday applications, especially concerning health and safety. Here are some examples:
General Safety Applications
One of the most common applications of infrared imaging is in the military. Night vision equipment make use of thermal imaging, helping soldiers to detect threats even in the dark.
Yet the use of infrared is not limited to the battlefield. Some surveillance cameras make use of IR technology to let them work even in low light. That way, while these cameras may not be able to film regular video of a restricted area, it can still detect if there are people trying to break in.
Firefighters also use infrared imaging extensively. They use handheld thermal cameras to survey a burning structure, helping them find the portions where the fire is hottest. This also helps them find the source of the fire.
That said, there’s no need to wait for a building to burn down to make use of thermal imaging. Infrared cameras are also used in preventative maintenance, such as locating overheating portions of an electrical, mechanical, or HVAC setup. IR technology is also used to detect heat leaks in thermal insulation.
Aside from all these, infrared imaging is also used to detect bigger threats, such as volcanic eruptions. Scientists make use of this technology to observe and analyze the heat patterns of active volcanos. This allows them to predict which ones are at risk of erupting violently. With this information, timely evacuations of the communities living near the volcano can be made, saving lives in the process.
Of course, health and safety go hand-in-hand, which means that there are many applications for infrared imaging in the realm of healthcare. First are the infrared thermometers used at airports to detect if any disembarking travelers are suffering from a fever. These gun-shaped thermometers, which even have micro brushless DCmotors that allow them to zoom in and improve accuracy, played a vital role in minimizing the effects of outbreaks. After all, a fever is one of the main symptoms of highly contagious diseases such as SARS, AH1N1, and swine flu.
Other screening methods also make use of infrared imaging. A new form of brain imaging called functional near-infrared spectroscopy makes use of IR technology as its name suggests. Other ailments, such as thyroid gland abnormalities and vascular diseases, can be also spotted through infrared imaging.
The applications for IR imaging goes beyond human healthcare as well. Infrared thermometers are also used for veterinary thermal imaging—in layman’s terms, to check the temperature of livestock. Like its application for humans, this is helpful in stemming outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu and avian flu.
As these examples show, there are numerous applications of infrared imaging that help improve health and safety. With this technology, experts are not only limited by what they can see; with the additional knowledge from infrared, they can spot threats way in advance.