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Fever-Detecting Cameras: A Hot Commodity for Essential Business

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

MEGAN CATTEL, HOST: As cities, like New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. begin see signs that the coronavirus outbreak may be hitting a plateau, there is one topic that everyone is talking about.

(((Let’s talk about the reopening of business)))

(((If New York City, and LA, and Chicago are still closed in a month or two or three, is the country open?)))

(((We have to fix what’s happening here, but what are we gonna do to get back online and the economy back on track. What does that look like?)))

CATTEL: As officials begin to debate when it’s safe to open up businesses, some companies are stepping in with technologies to take people’s temperatures quickly and without contact. Identifying employees and customers who have a fever might help contain the spread and flatten the curve. Yet these technologies may have limitations, as Cecily Mauran reports.

CECILY MAURAN, BYLINE: A fever is one of the common symptoms of COVID-19. And so figuring out who has one could be both very useful and good business.

YALE GOLDBERG: Since the pandemic, we've been looking at ways to turn our technology into a solution to help businesses fight against COVID.

MAURAN: Yale Goldberg is the Chief of Staff for PopID. It’s a California-based tech company that makes devices that use facial scanning to do things like process payments and unlock doors.

GOLDBERG: So what we've done is we've sourced a thermal camera to add to our access control device.

MAURAN: The device might be installed at the front door of a business, or a door to a restaurant’s kitchen. When employees walk up to it, the device recognizes them, and uses thermal imaging to take their temperature. If it’s over 100.4, which is what the CDC considers a fever, it won’t let them in and alerts their manager. Goldberg says PopID has gotten lots of inquiries from essential business

GOLDBERG: The response has been unbelievable, really. I think that there's a lot of businesses out there right now that first of all really care about their employees and also care about creating a safe space for their customers to come into.

MAURAN: Since the outbreak, 49 companies have been selling thermal cameras for fever detection. That’s according to IPVM, a trade publication that focuses on video surveillance. Charles Rollet, is one of its reporters.

CHARLES ROLLET: What we've seen now is just a really unprecedented explosion in demand for these devices.

MAURAN: Rollet says thermal cameras used to be kind of a niche technology used for detecting fires in industrial plants or border crossings, so this is a big shift.

ROLLET: In places like China, they're becoming much more ubiquitous, and public transport and in buildings and things like that.

MAURAN: Rollet says independent studies have shown that thermal cameras may be more effective than self-reporting, but they do have limitations.

ROLLET: One, a lot of people with this disease don't have a fever and two, the accuracy is difficult to achieve, and there's a lot of things you need to do in order to get accurate readings that people aren't doing right now.

MAURAN: The World Health Organization says that screening for temperature alone isn’t enough. Which means, as the world wonders when it’s safe to go back to normal, thermal cameras could help, but they w on’t be the definitive answer to the age-old question, ‘are we there yet?’ Cecily Mauran, Columbia Radio News

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