Thermal imaging technology market brightens up

As price points fall, more companies making a push into the market

What was once a technology reserved for use by the military, thermal cameras have carved out a niche in the security market. Initially, due to their high price point and lack of compatibility with other traditional surveillance systems, thermal imaging cameras were only used in high-end applications

However, as competition between vendors in the space has lowered prices of thermal imaging equipment, there has been a subsequent uptick in adoption of the technology across a variety of vertical markets. Vendors, likewise, now see an emerging market opportunity.

Here are some highlights from several thermal camera vendors at the ASIS conference in Orlando.

In joint press conference on Monday, VideoIQ and Flir announced that they have entered into a technology partnership in which Flir will be reselling single-channel video encoders from VideoIQ that have been optimized for the company's thermal imaging cameras.

According to Mark Gally, VideoIQ's vice president of marketing, the combination of the companies' technologies has created a user friendly, all-in-one thermal solution for the industry.

"This deal is great strategically for both companies," he said. "Analytics are ready for the mainstream."

Gally said that the video encoders will require zero calibration by installers and come preloaded with a library of 200,000 analytic algorithms for cars and people.

"We want it to work when you take it out and plug it in," explained Bill Klink, vice president of security & surveillance, commercial vision systems, at Flir.

Klink said that when the company was looking to partner with another firm for analytics, they wanted to have analytics that worked, produced a low number of false alarms and were cost effective for the customer, which were criteria he said VideoIQ was able to meet. Though they are not bundling the devices, the combined cost for the encoder and a lower-end Flir camera would be around $4,500, according to Klink.

Axis Communications
A relative newcomer to the thermal camera market, Axis Communications is featuring its two network thermal cameras, the Q1921 and Q1910, at this year's ASIS show.

James Marcella, director of technical services at Axis, said that the company launched the Q1910 in early 2010. After seeing steady growth in the adoption of the Q1910 and listening to customer feedback, Marcella said they introduced the Q1921 late last year.

Marcella said that bringing the cost of thermal imaging cameras down has made it available to non-traditional surveillance environments. For example, the Little League World Series recently deployed the company's thermal cameras to deal with issues pertaining to light pollution with traditional CCTV cameras. Marcella said he expects Axis to expand on its thermal imaging offering.

"We see this as a growth area for us and there will be more products," he said.

After being purchased by Opgal about a year ago, Vumii has expanded its entire product lineup, which consists of three families of thermal cameras including analog, dual-field of view and some IP.

Vumii President and CEO Randall Foster said that one new feature that the company is rolling at this year's show is true thermal continuous optical zoom. The new feature is available on the company's EyeSec series of uncooled thermal imagers.

Unlike traditional cameras that feature optical zoom, the feature is a rarity among thermal cameras due to the complexity of their lenses. "We're now getting towards a visible spectrum performance," Foster said of the new feature.

The company has also created an analytic algorithm for spotting flames that Foster said he believes could help the company enter the fire safety market as well.

DRS Technologies
Though it's not new to thermal imaging, DRS Technologies is a relatively new player in the commercial security market.

According to Todd Brown, the company's director of strategic product planning, DRS Technologies, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, established its roots in the defense sector and is now trying to build brand awareness in the security industry.

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