FLIR rolls out a bevy of new thermal imaging solutions for ASIS

To kick off ASIS 2009, FLIR, a manufacturer of passive thermal imaging solutions, introduced 21 new products at an event the company held Sunday night in Orange County, California. 

Sitting atop a hill overlooking Anaheim, the company had one of its mobile training units on hand to provide demonstrations of a wide range of thermal imaging solutions, from cameras that capture heat signatures from miles away to its new hand-held H-Series cameras, designed for use by law enforcement officers.

In the past, FLIR's hallmark has been making high-end cameras for the government and homeland security markets, but more recently, the company has focused on developing solutions for the commercial sector. The company reported seeing growth close to 40 percent just a couple of years ago and even during the current recession, FLIR is still seeing growth at nearly 15 percent, proving that the market for thermal imaging solutions has generally outpaced market growth.

One notable change for FLIR has been that 2009 has marked the introduction of IP technology  for the company. Previously, the company's products had communicated via analog channels or serial communicators; but now the company has made a very strong push in to the IP space, not only launching IP feeds off the camera, but also embedding software into all of its new camera models.

Part of the company's introduction of IP technology, besides the cameras themselves,  includes the company's new sensors manager software package for taking full advantage of FLIR cameras. The sensors manager is essentially a FLIR-specific video management software that also has advanced features like video analytics, geo-mapping and radar cueing.

Another new product from FLIR is its PT-Series camera model,  which is a network-enabled pan/tilt camera that features a thermal imager, as well as a visible light camera, side-by-side on the same mount. These are uncooled thermal imaging cameras with a variety image resolution options.

In addition, FLIR was also showcasing its new F-Series of cameras designed for perimeter security applications. Like all of the company's new camera lines, the F-Series is network enabled, but the unique thing about this solution is that there is an exchangeable camera cassette, which allows for field upgrades or rapid replacement in the event of a maintenance issue. The company has also unveiled its D-Series of outdoor dome cameras, which like the PT- Series feature a thermal camera coupled with a standard visible light camera.

Also on the forefront from FLIR for ASIS 2009, was the unveiling of its EMCCD technology, which it acquired from Salvador Imaging, a Colorado company purchased by FLIR earlier this year.According to David Frost formally with Salvador Imaging and now an account manager with FLIR's Commercial Visions Systems, said the EMCCD technology that Salvador Imaging produced is basically an improvement on visible light cameras. It's essentially a second layer of core image processing that allows the camera to process more light, resulting in full color images in extremely low lighting conditions that previously would have required night vision type technology.

The EMCCD technology, according to Frost, isn't designed to take over and replace FLIR's thermal imaging. In a side-by-side comparison, company executives demonstrated that each technology has its advantages. While EMCCD may be able to capture color in low lighting conditions, it doesn't have the thermal capabilities to spot someone hiding in the bushes

Finally, another noteworthy trend in the thermal imaging world is that camera prices have started to drop. There has been a shift in the development and sale of thermal imaging products from high-end, government/military only applications to mass market applications, such as cameras in select BMW vehicles. The proliferation of the technology has also affected the company's commercial visions systems. For example, one of the company's camera prices dropped from $10,000 in 2005 to just a few thousand dollars today.

According to Andy Teich, president of FLIR's Commercial Visions Systems division, the company went from seeing a lot of "sticker shock" in 2005 and 2006 to being able to show off a variety of affordable thermal imaging solutions that won't necessarily break the budget for corporate security directors.